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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric de la Riviere, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


Starting off with the Secretary-General’s activities.


**Secretary-General in Rome


The Secretary-General was in Vatican City today, where he joined hundreds of thousands of people gathered in reflection and prayer at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.


“The Pope was one of the greatest spiritual figures of our time”, the Secretary-General said today, speaking to reporters upon departure from Rome at the airport.  He said “he was a man of faith, of action, capable of uniting the most diverse people”.  And the United Nations flag is flying at half mast today, also in observance of the Pontiff’s funeral.


The Secretary-General is now on his way to Geneva.  In fact, he’s probably already landed.  And this evening, he will open a retreat in Switzerland of his Chief Executives Board, which comprises the heads of the United Nations system organizations.  And the Board, known as the CEB, meets twice a year.


**Sudan


He will then be travelling to Oslo on Monday to address the opening of a donor’s conference for Sudan, organized by the Norwegian Government.  The Secretary-General’s statement that he will deliver at that conference is available upstairs under embargo.


Also on Sudan, the World Food Programme says that, for the first time since WFP’s major emergency operation in Darfur, a drastic shortage of funds will force it to cut rations for more than 1 million people living in Darfur.  Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that it was seeking $60 million for its return and reintegration programme in south Sudan, but so far less than $5 million have been received.  Also according to UNHCR, some 550,000 refugees and an estimated 4 million internally displaced people from south Sudan remained uprooted.


And UNICEF points out that the next 18 months were likely to be very difficult.  Due to the security situation, UNICEF only has access to 5 to 10 per cent of the territories and one third of the 6 million inhabitants of the three Darfur provinces.


Finally, while most of the inhabitants of the many camps in Darfur had received basic necessities, not enough had been achieved to ensure their protection.  Given the security situation, it would be difficult to have an impact in that area.


**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Myanmar


And I have a statement attributable to the Spokesman on Myanmar.


“Noting their recent decision to adjourn the National Convention, the Secretary-General urges the Myanmar authorities, in light of their public commitments, to clarify their position with respect to the road map process and its timetable so as to dispel the continuing uncertainty surrounding this process.


“The Secretary-General also urges the Myanmar authorities to use this occasion to enhance inter-ethnic harmony and political stability by engaging the representatives of all ethnic nationality groups and political leaders in a substantive political dialogue aimed at national reconciliation.


“Furthermore, the Secretary-General reiterates the need for the remaining constraints on all political leaders to be lifted, offices of the National League for Democracy (NLD) to be allowed to reopen and for political prisoners, including elected officials, to be released.


“The Secretary-General also calls on the Myanmar authorities to allow his Special Envoy Razali Ismail to return to the country as soon as possible so that he can facilitate efforts for resuming political dialogue among all the parties concerned.  He further encourages the Myanmar authorities to heed the friendly advice of its fellow ASEAN members to expedite its reform process.”


And his statement is available upstairs.


**Humanitarian Appeals


Also on humanitarian appeals, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is drawing attention to the fact that the United Nations has received just above 0 per cent of the funding for the 2005 humanitarian appeal for Côte d’Ivoire, which requires $39.3 million.  So far, only $181,000 has been contributed via a pledge from the Netherlands Government in support of coordination and that equals less than 0.05 per cent of the total.


OCHA also says that the aid community has received only about 9 per cent of what is needed for all emergencies, excluding the Indian Ocean and Sudan appeals.  Only $168 million of the $1.7 billion requested for all the other emergencies has been received.  The following countries have received less than 5 per cent of the funding needed:  Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Russian Federation for Chechnya, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Guinea, the Republic of Congo, Somalia and West Africa.  And more upstairs is available in an OCHA press release.


**Security Council


Security Council has no meetings or consultations scheduled for today.


**World Food Programme


Also a note from the World Food Programme (WFP).  The arrival of the last shipment of WFP food aid to China, which took place recently, marks a significant watershed in the campaign to end global hunger, the Agency said today.  And you can read more about it in a press release upstairs.


**The Week Ahead


Today being the last day of the week we have the week ahead for you, and a couple of events next week I wanted to flag.


**Secretary-General - Clinton Meeting


Former President Bill Clinton, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami-affected Countries, will meet the Secretary-General next Wednesday.  President Clinton and the Secretary-General will then speak to the press here in 226 at noon on Wednesday.


**Commission on Sustainable Development


Monday, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo will be here at 11:15 a.m. to brief you on the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  The two-week session, which begins Monday, on the opening of the session, will focus on the themes of water, sanitation and human settlements.


**Spokesmen’s Round-Table Event


And finally on Thursday, Fred Eckhard, the Spokesman, will be hosting a Spokesmen’s Round-Table event at United Nations Headquarters.  The event will chronicle the role of the Spokesman’s Office and its relationship with the press from 1945 until the present.


The Secretary-General will open the event at 9 a.m.  All staff and in-house journalists are invited to observe the event in Conference Room 5, where television screens will be set up.  And I understand the event will also be broadcast on United Nations television.  The event will bring together quite a large number of people who formally served as press officers or spokesmen or who had been journalists here covering the United Nations from the late 1940s to the present.


Brian Urquhart will be the luncheon speaker on Thursday.  Journalists who would like to attend the luncheon at their own expense should reserve a place with Cathy in our office.


And I think that is it for me.  Any questions?


Questions and Answers


Question:  Wondering if the Secretary-General has any response so far, whether he’s disappointed with what he’s been hearing at the General Assembly –- initial reactions from countries on his reforms.  Aside from the European Union, speeches so far have been pretty overwhelmingly negative, including several members of the P-5 saying they don’t want to recognize any artificial deadlines on Security Council and other types of reform.  It’s been pretty harsh on that.


Associate Spokesperson:  I think “initial” is the operative word in your question.  This is the beginning of a long negotiating, discussion process among the 191 Member States who will have to make decisions on this.  So, let’s let the process run.  It’s just begun.  And like the beginning of any negotiation process, it often seems difficult at the beginning.  So that’s where we stand.


Question:  Just to follow up on that question, although it has just begun -- obviously nations are posturing and so forth -– the thing is that the response, so far, has been so overwhelmingly negative.  I mean, the development countries, they have their own concerns and the developed countries have their own concerns.  The Secretary-General has had no in-put as yet as to what is happening?


Associate Spokesperson:  Again, this is the beginning of a process.  I think yesterday you were briefed extensively by Mark Malloch Brown and two of the four Special Envoys the Secretary-General has named.  The Special Envoys will be fanning out, going to capitals, discussing the issues, discussing the reform package.  Give us a bit of time and let’s let this process run its course.  Yes?


Question:  Who are going to be fanning out? Who are going to be travelling out?


Associate Spokesperson:  We introduced two of the four Special Envoys yesterday, which includes the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern and the former Indonesian Foreign Minister Atalas.


Question:  When do they start travelling?


Associate Spokesperson:  Fairly soon.  After the briefing we can give you the schedule of travels.


Question:  On peacekeeping, the C-34, is there any read-out there, an assessment of how those talks have been going?  I’m hearing that there have been several proposals that would significantly dilute some of the recommendations laid out in the Prince Zeid report and that this, too, appears to be something that’s getting hijacked by competing national interests.


Associate Spokesperson:  We are desperately trying to get Prince Zeid and senior officials from DPKO to come down and brief you on his proposal and on the process so far.  As soon as we can, they’ll be able to give you a better read-out than I can.


Question:  I just wanted to ask you:  this meeting scheduled for Wednesday, the round table, you said journalists would be observers, meaning we can’t ask questions and so forth?


Associate Spokesman:  No, no, it’s not to be part of the round table.  If you want to participate, check with Fred.  He’ll be back on Monday.


Question:  Okay.  And Mr. Qazi is here?


Associate Spokesman:  He is here.  I understand he’s briefing the Council on Monday afternoon, and he’ll be taking questions from the press afterwards at the stakeout.


Question:  “Oil-for-food” question.  One of the things that hasn’t attracted much attention in the oil-for-food report is the report that the Secretary-General forwarded a letter from Cotecna to the Ghanaian ambassador and then asked the Director of Africa Affairs to acknowledge Mr. Massey’s letter –- the head of Cotecna.  Is that standard practice at the United Nations, that if a head of a company writes to the Secretary-General asking him to intercede on the company’s behalf, he’ll forward the letter to the ambassador?


Associate Spokesperson:  You know, we’ve commented extensively on Mr. Volker’s last report.  I don’t think we’re going to reopen the –- we’re going to restart investigating this investigation.  Whether or not it’s standard procedure, I don’t know if I can get you an answer.  I will, but we’re not going to comment further on the Volker report at this point.


Question:  If you can get me an answer if that’s standard procedure, that would be interesting.


Associate Spokesperson:  Thank you all, and have a great weekend.


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For information media. Not an official record.