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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, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


**Security


Good Afternoon.


As you’re aware, two small explosive devices were detonated outside the British Consulate in Manhattan early this morning.  There were no injuries, and damage is reportedly minimal.  The United Nations is liaising closely with the New York City authorities to ascertain any additional details.  Although there is no known specific concern, as a precautionary measure, we will be increasing security around the United Nations building and annexes today.  All canine teams have been called out to duty and will be deployed to patrol United Nations buildings until further notice.  And there will also be a security presence at entry points to the United Nations Headquarters and building annexes.


**General Assembly


Also today, the General Assembly confirmed this morning by consensus two appointments recently recommended by the Secretary-General.  The first is Mr. Kemal Derviş of Turkey as the new Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the second is Inga-Britt Ahlenius of Sweden, who is to serve as the Head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services for a five-year term.


**Security Council


Turning to the Security Council, there are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today.


To recap, yesterday afternoon, the Security Council decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, and of the French forces that are supporting that mission, for one month, until 4 June 2005.


Then following a private meeting and consultations on Georgia, Council President Ambassador Løj of Denmark read out a press statement, in which Council members welcomed the recent commitments by both the Georgia and Abkhazia sides to intensify the search for a settlement of the conflict by peaceful means only.


And finally, in a presidential statement, the Council welcomed the fact that the parties concerned in Lebanon have made significant progress towards implementing some of the provisions contained in its resolution 1559.  The Council also expressed concern that the requirements of that resolution had not yet been met.


**Sierra Leone


Turning to Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General’s latest report on that mission is out today.  That’s, of course, a report to the Security Council.  In it, he notes the generally calm political activity situation in Sierra Leone, which has allowed for further progress to be made towards consolidating peace.


He also notes that the work of the Special Court has proceeded satisfactorily.  And with regard to the judicial process set in motion by the indictments of the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, and the former AFRC leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, and subsequent Court decisions relating to the indictments, the Secretary-General says the law should be allowed to take its course.  He also recommends that the Council extend the mandate for a final period of six months, until the end of 2005.  The Council will take up that report on 17 May.


Also on Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General has appointed Desmond da Silva as the new Prosecutor for the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.  Da Silva will replace David Crane, who completes his three-year contract in July.  Da Silva is from the United Kingdom, and he was nominated by the Government of Sierra Leone to the post of Deputy Prosecutor in 2002.  We have more information on that upstairs.


**Statement on the Middle East


I now have a statement on the Middle East.


“The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the killings of two teenage boys in the West Bankvillage of Beit Lakiya yesterday.  He took note of the suspension of the senior IDF officer involved, and welcomes the Government of Israel’s announcement of a full investigation of the incident.  The Secretary-General sends his condolences to the families of the victims.


“The Secretary-General is concerned about the increase in violence witnessed in recent days.  He hopes such incidents will not be allowed to undermine the positive developments of the past months.  The Secretary-General emphasizes again the violence cannot provide a solution to the conflict, and that only through negotiations can peace be achieved.”


The statement is available upstairs.


**Statement on Iraq


Also, a statement on Iraq.


“The Secretary-General is following with concern the situation of the three Romanian journalists and their guides taken hostage in Iraq last March.  He expresses the hope that they will be released quickly and safely and reiterates his condemnation of all hostage-takings and killings of innocent civilians, which no cause can ever justify.”


**Afghanistan


From the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, the Mission today called on the Afghan authorities to spare no effort to swiftly bring to justice the murderers of three women who were killed in the province of Baghlan.


The seriousness of the crime, the Mission said, is compounded by the fact that a note was left at the scene, implying that the killing of the three women was linked to their work for a non-governmental organization (NGO).  There is no confirmation that that was the motive for the killing, but the United Nations Mission strongly condemns any threat to women working for NGOs.  We have more details in the briefing notes from Afghanistan.


**Afghan Refugees


Also on Afghanistan, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie saw off a convoy of trucks carrying Afghan refugees home from Pakistan today.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tells us that the total number of repatriated refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan in the 2005 season has now passed the 50,000 mark.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expects up to 400,000 Afghans to be repatriated this year, following the 2.3 million who have already come back under the programme in the last three years.


Angelina Jolie has been a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador for nearly four years, and she has undertaken missions to meet refugees around the world -- including each of the last three Christmas seasons.


***World Chronicle Programme on Nuclear Weapons


Finally, the World Chronicle programme, no. 974, hosted by Mary Alice Williams, will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channel 3 or 31.  The guest is Ambassador Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, President, NPT Review Conference.  The topic is “Fighting the Spread of Nuclear Weapons”.


That is it for me.  Any questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On the security issue, has the United Nations received any sort of threat, or is the United Nations have any sort of involvement with what has happened with the British Consulate?


Associate Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware that we’ve received any specific threat, but I think any of these types of attacks against an international target in New York would obviously concern us and force us to raise our security.


Question:  I have an oil-for-food-related question.  I understand that
Mr. Parton has actually provided documents about the Secretary-General and questions about how much he knew and the activities of Cotecna, and that Cotecna gave him the contract, and what not.  And those documents have now gone to the International Relations Committee of Congress, and apparently they may have some information in them that would prove that the Secretary-General had mislead Volcker investigators, as they were trying to get to the truth.  Can we get some sort of reaction to that?


Associate Spokesman:  I think, on the handing over of documents, the issue of confidentiality of work of the investigators and Mr. Volcker’s staff is really a question that’s being dealt with between Volcker and Congressional members.


Could you turn off that phone, please?  You’ve lost your right to ask a question. 


Question:  Again, if you could address, first of all, the handing over of the documents.  Mr. Volcker said that he didn’t want to see this happen -- well, not necessarily the documents going over, but that his people would be subpoenaed.  Your reaction to the handing over of the documents issue and also the sense that there is incriminating information in there or some information that the Secretary-General had misled investigators.


Associate Spokesman:  I don’t know what Mr. Parton has handed over, but it’s clear that the Secretary-General has been extremely open with the Volcker investigation.  They’ve had access to him a number of times, they’ve had access to all his files.  He’s given them everything.  So I don’t know what Mr. Parton has, but on our part, the Secretary-General has been extremely open and completely cooperative with the investigation.  On the actual handing over of documents and possible breaching of confidentiality, that’s an issue that’s being addressed by Mr. Volcker directly with members of Congress.


Question:  Are we hearing anything about Kofi Annan having misled anybody at all in terms of the investigation?


Associate Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has been more than open with all the committee members.  It’s all in the previous Volcker report, and, as I said, they’ve had access to him, and he’s answered all their questions. 


Question:  On Lebanon, could you give us an update on the activities of the United Nations team?


Associate Spokesman:  As far as I know, they’re continuing their work.  I know there were intensive contacts yesterday, at the field level, between the team and Lebanese authorities to make sure the incident of yesterday does not happen again.  But otherwise, they have not reported to us any new developments.


Question:  Could you clarify their mandate a little bit?  They’ve gone to an area that’s disputed -- that some say belongs to Syria and others consider to be Lebanese territory.  Where does the United Nations stand on this?


Associate Spokesman:  I don’t know the exact location of the site they visited.  It is clear that their mandate is to have free and unfettered access throughout the Lebanese territory, to verify that Syria has withdrawn all its army, its assets, as well as intelligence officers.


Question:  (inaudible)... need to have an opinion on this...


Associate Spokesman:  I take your word for it, but I need to check exactly what area you’re talking about.  On the question of their mandate, and the Secretary-General reminded Lebanese authorities of that yesterday, is that they need to have open, unfettered access throughout the Lebanese territory to check on the Syrian withdrawal.


Question:  The electoral team that was sent to Lebanon yesterday, headed by Carina Perelli.  What exactly does this team hope to achieve and does Ms. Perelli have the authority, credibility and integrity needed now to head a team such as this, at a time when she’s being investigated for very serious allegations?


Associate Spokesman:  They’re there to help and assist the Lebanese authorities in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.  So we’re there at their disposal, to see what they need.  They will also work on the coordination of international observers.


And as far as her credibility goes, she is a top, top electoral expert in her field, and the matter I think that we discussed yesterday that was being looked into has no effect on her substantive work.


Question:  Do you have further information regarding who was responsible for the shooting at the United Nations investigation team?


Associate Spokesman:  What we knew yesterday was that they had approached a camp that was apparently run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.  They were warning shots and that’s all we know.


Question:  You said you’d look into some of the questions that were left open yesterday.  Do you have any answers on those?


Associate Spokesman:  Which ones?


Question:  One essentially was on the appointment for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ...


Associate Spokesman:  No, on that I think I answered clearly that Mr. Surichai Panitchpakdi remains the Secretary-General’s candidate.


Question:  But there is a problem with the G77 and so forth, and his appointment is not coming up for confirmation.


Associate Spokesman:  That’s an appointment for the General Assembly to confirm, and as I think I did say when I answered the question yesterday, I would encourage you to talk to General Assembly members.  As far as we’re concerned, he continues to be our candidate.


Question:  Regarding the killing of the women in Afghanistan, is there anything other than expressing outrage and calling for an investigation that the United Nations can do to further that?


Associate Spokesman:  I don’t have more information on the attacks.  If you want, afterwards I can, with you, see what else came out of Kabul.


Question:  The appointment of Mr. Derviş.  What does that mean for Mark Malloch Brown in terms of his ...


Associate Spokesman:  It means he has one job to focus on now, and that’s Chef de Cabinet.


Question:  Does that start immediately, or is there a transition period?


Associate Spokesman:  I think he comes into office on 15 August, but I’ll see if Mr. Malloch Brown’s second hat holds off until then, or if he’s already given it up.  [The Associate Spokesman later announced that Mark Malloch Brown would remain in charge of UNDP until Mr. Derviş arrives in August.]


Question:  Were the United Nations investigators able to get into the Palestinian camp finally?


Associate Spokesman:  No, they have not been able to, as far as I can tell.


Thank you.


* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.