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Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Guest at Noon

Mark Malloch Brown, the Chief of Staff, will be joining us today, actually at 12:15, to introduce two of the Secretary-General’s Envoys for the September Summit.  Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern of Ireland and former Foreign Minister Ali Alatas of Indonesia.  Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, will also be here.

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General on Iraq

We have now three statements attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.  The first is on Iraq.

“The Secretary-General congratulates Mr. Jalal Talabani, as well as Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar and Mr. Adil Abdul Mahdi, on their election today by the Transitional National Assembly of Iraq as President and Vice-Presidents of Iraq.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the commitment of Iraq’s new leadership to working towards national unity through peaceful democratic means.  He hopes that the formation of Iraq’s Transitional Government will be completed quickly.

“In accordance with its mandate pursuant to Security Council resolution 1546, the United Nations stands ready to support the reconstruction of Iraq, including by providing any needed assistance to its constitution-making process.  To that end, the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, Mr. Ashraf Qazi, look forward to working with Iraq’s newly-elected leaders and other representatives, with a view to further promoting dialogue and national reconciliation.”

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

  on India-Pakistan

The second statement is on India-Pakistan.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attack that took place on a complex, housing passengers for tomorrow’s inaugural bus service between Muzzafarabad and Srinagar across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The introduction of this land-mark bus service is a tangible achievement of the composite agreement between India and Pakistan.  Its beneficiaries will be the people of Kashmir, who have been divided for decades and traumatized by violence.

“The Secretary-General commends the spirit of compromise demonstrated by both India and Pakistan in the course of negotiating this important confidence-building measure.  He hopes the bus service will begin as planned, and that it can help pave the way for additional confidence-building arrangements followed by substantive agreements on all outstanding issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.”

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman on Meeting of Ivorian Parties

  in Pretoria

The third statement is on the meeting of Ivorian parties in Pretoria.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the successful outcome of the meeting of the Ivorian parties in Pretoria from 3 to 6 April convened by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa on behalf of the African Union.  The Secretary-General welcomes the decision taken to end all hostilities and start the disarmament process, as well as the immediate dismantling of militias, and looks forward to progress in the many areas covered in Pretoria pursuant to the Linas-Marcoussis and Accra Agreements.  He urges the parties to implement their respective commitments promptly and in good faith.

“While the United Nations is studying the best ways to assist the implementation of the agreement, which provides a road map for the restoration of peace and stability in Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General reminds the parties that they must bear the primary responsibility in this regard.”


Turning to Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for resolution 1559, concluded his visit to Beirut today.

In speaking to the press, he noted that all his meetings in Beirut had been conducted in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation.

He said he had been encouraged by what he had heard and was now going to brief the Secretary-General in-depth about his mission, in preparation for his report to the Security Council.

Roed-Larsen also said that the Secretary-General believes strongly that the implementation of resolution 1559 should proceed in such a way that would best ensure and safeguard the unity and stability of Lebanon, of Syria, and of the wider region.

**Security Council

The Security Council here at United Nations Headquarters has scheduled consultations today at 4 p.m. on the Middle East to discuss a draft resolution on an investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  That draft was introduced earlier this week in Security Council consultations.

**General Assembly

Turning to the General Assembly, the General Assembly is holding informal consultations of the plenary this week, Wednesday through Friday, on the reform proposals presented by the Secretary-General in his report "In Larger Freedom:  Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All".  These plenary meetings are open to the press.

This morning, the General Assembly began its work by paying tribute to Pope John Paul II and observing a minute of silence in his memory.

The Assembly will resume its session this afternoon at 3:00 with tributes to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

General Assembly President Jean Ping’s tribute to the Pope this morning, as well as his remarks on the work before the Assembly, is available in the Spokesman’s Office.

Also available is a list of the first 64 speakers.

Later this month, beginning on 19 April, the General Assembly will hold closed informal consultations on the reform proposals.  The consultations will be organized around four clusters, each focusing on one of the four major elements of the reform package:  Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom to Live in Dignity, and Strengthening the United Nations.

A schedule of these closed consultations is also available upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.

**Secretary-General in Geneva

The Secretary-General is in Geneva today, where he is holding internal meetings with staff.  Tomorrow, he will speak at the Commission on Human Rights.

In addition to introducing two of the envoys for the September summit, Robert Orr and Mark Malloch Brown are planning to talk to you after this briefing about the Secretary-General’s speech at the Commission on Human Rights, and embargoed copies of that speech will be available upstairs after that briefing takes place.


And on Sudan, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Jan Pronk is today wrapping up a trip to South and West Darfur.

His message to rebel and community leaders was clear, the UN mission in Sudan reports, that it is time for both sides to commit to a peace settlement.

The mission also reports some positive developments in terms of planning for the provision of some basic services for internally displaced persons in and around Khartoum in squatter camps.

We have more about this and other developments in an update from Sudan upstairs.


And on the racks today is a letter from the Security Council to the Secretary-General, outlining the terms of reference for a Security Council mission that will travel next week to Haiti.

The mission will be led by Ambassador Ronaldo Sardenberg of Brazil, and will travel to Haiti from 13 to 16 April.  The mission is being organized in conjunction with the ad hoc advisory group of the Economic and Social Council.

Among other things, the mission will express its full support for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, assess the Mission’s level of coordination in each aspect of its mandate, evaluate the country’s needs and requirements, and review the progress achieved so far.

**Tsunami Flash Appeal

And today marks the half-way point for the six-month tsunami flash appeal, which was launched by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs exactly three months ago.

Briefing journalists in Geneva today on the appeal’s mid-term review, Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland noted that such generosity had never been recorded in the history of the United Nations, with 92 governments having pledged a total of $5.8 billion for the relief effort.

He added that close to 2 million people in tsunami-hit areas had received emergency medical help with an equal number having received food aid.

We have more information upstairs and the transcript of the summary of his press briefing in Geneva.

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

  on death of Prince Rainier of Monaco

And we also have a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the death of Prince Rainier of Monaco.

“The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the death of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, one of the world’s longest-serving monarchs and heads of State.  He expresses his deepest condolences to Prince Albert, Princess Caroline, Princess Stephanie and their families, as well as to all the people of Monaco.  Throughout his 55-year reign, and all the changes the country underwent during that time, Prince Rainier remained dearly loved by his people, and deeply respected by his peers, as well as the world community.  The Secretary-General wishes Prince Albert every courage and fortitude as he succeeds his father at the helm of the principality.”

**Press Conferences

A couple of announcements.  Tomorrow the guest here at the noon briefing will be Dr. Ian Smith, Advisor to the Director-General of the World Health Organization, who will present the World Health Report 2005.  The theme of this report is, “make every mother and child count”.

And for press conferences.  Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Hania Zlotnik, Director of the United Nations Population Division, will hold a press conference in this room together with two of the keynote speakers of the 38th session of the Commission on Population and Development.  And that’s here at noon, and we have more information on that upstairs, as well.

It’s 12:15.  This is when we’re expecting the next briefing, but if you have any questions from me?  OK.  Massoud?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The United States Senate has voted to cut United Nations peacekeeping funds ... [inaudible].  Do you have a reaction to that?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything on that as of now.  I think I saw that in the press reports, as well.  I’ll look into that for you after the briefing.  [She later told the correspondent that we would not have an official reaction while the legislative process is ongoing.]

Question:  Yesterday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released the Arab Human Development Report in Amman.  I understand there was a forward written by Mark Malloch Brown –- and maybe this question should be addressed to him -- saying that the views in this UNDP report are not shared by the United Nations.  Can you elaborate and explain that?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, you should really direct that question to UNDP.  I mean, UNDP has said the following, and as you said, Mark Malloch Brown is still the Head of UNDP, and he will be here momentarily.

But, according to UNDP, it says the United States Government did not make specific comments on or request any specific changes to the report prior to its publication, either publicly or in any private communications with UNDP.  And the statements made by Mark Malloch Brown when these allegations first surfaced last year still stand.

[The Associate Spokesperson later said it is the standard introduction to all Human Development Reports over the past 15 years, including two previous Arab Human Development Reports, which makes clear that these reports are the work of independent intellectuals and do not represent the official views of UNDP or the United Nations.]

I can give you a little more on that, but as I said, it’s really UNDP that ought to be commenting on this.

Question:  What is the difference between this report released in Amman and previous reports released here?

Associate Spokesperson:  I think that you’re referring to the official launch of the report that took place in Amman.

Question:  Previously, they had been released in New York.

Associate Spokesperson:  On that you would have to ask UNDP.

Question:  The head of UNDP is coming.  Can we have a chance to ask him that question?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned, the briefing today is primarily on the introduction of the envoys on the reform.  I did mention that there will be a brief mention of the Secretary-General’s statement tomorrow in Geneva.  But let’s see if he has time to take other questions.  You can ask him.

Question:  Yesterday, Fred gave us a list of the one dollar-a-year employees, but I’ve been told James Baker, for example, who had a one-dollar-a year arrangement when he was the Envoy to Western Sahara had actually cost the Organization $900,000 a year, when you factor in travel and his entourage, etc.  I know Fred has been very cooperative on this, people putting it together, would you be able to look and see if that’s true and generally how much these one-dollar-a year contracts really do cost the Organization?

Associate Spokesperson:  I can look into that, we can ask.  But your question is for every individual listed on that list?

Question: ... too much to ask, but at least to confirm about Baker and if that’s kind of a ball park figure of what it really costs the United Nations.

Associate Spokesperson:  OK.  We’ll look into that for you.

Question:  I wanted to ask about the global gag rule or the abortion aid policy which was rejected yesterday by the United States Senate, and this is going to affect a lot of United Nations development programmes in terms of funding around the world.  Does the Secretary-General have any comments on that?

Associate Spokesperson:  I have nothing on that right now.  I’ll look into that for you after the briefing.  [The correspondent was later told that the restrictions did not apply to any United Nations development agency as the United Nations does not support or promote abortion.  The Secretary-General welcomes any measure or policy change that would expand and improve access to family planning, which should be given the highest priority in order to eliminate the need for abortion.  Greater access to sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, and the closing of funding gaps for supplies have been identified by the Millennium Project as priority investments that would bring quick results to save lives and reduce poverty in the developing world.]

Question:  I just had a question on Sudan and the ICC.  The SLWA came out in support of the ICC.  Do you fear that it’s going to impede the peace process in the South?  [inaudible] another faction between SLWA and the Government again?

Associate Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen the reports that you’re referring to.  So I can’t comment on that.

If there are no other questions for me, let me see if the guests are ready for the next briefing.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.