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The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  I am going to have to be quick today, because I have to end promptly before 12:30 to give Gail enough time for a quick briefing on General Assembly affairs.

Then, at 12:30 sharp, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, who is the Security Council President for the month of December, will be here to give you a half-hour briefing on the Council’s work during this month.

**Sexual Exploitation

The Secretary-General this morning spoke at a High-Level Conference on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and NGO Personnel, telling participants that it is “tragic and intolerable” that the courageous work of UN staff and uniformed personnel is being undermined by a small number of individuals who commit such abuses.

He reiterated the “zero tolerance” policy we have on such abuses and also emphasized the need to create an environment in which people feel able to report abuses without fear of retribution and retaliation.

Adding that “no one in the United Nations is above the law”, the Secretary-General noted that a group of legal experts that he established have issued a report that proposes an international convention on strengthening the accountability of UN staff and related personnel.  We have the full text of his speech upstairs.

At 2 p.m. today in this room, you’ll have a briefing on today’s conference by Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Kathleen Cravero, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of Crisis at the UN Development Programme; and Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of Save the Children -- United Kingdom, will also be here to brief you to give you a bit more information on what happened across the street today.

** Sudan

Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the Sudan reports that fewer security incidents have been reported over the last week compared to previous weeks in November, but the situation in Darfur remains volatile.

In North Darfur, Government forces and militias reportedly attacked one village twice on Friday and Saturday and burned it down.  There are also reports on civilian casualties and reports indicate that all livestock of the villagers was looted.  Meanwhile, humanitarian efforts continue to face difficulties, notably in terms of access.

In Khartoum, upon his return from Abuja where he attended the Summit of the African Union Peace and Security Council on Darfur, the Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, met over the weekend with Salim Ahmed Salim, the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

And also, Zerihoun met on Sunday Sudan’s Foreign Minister Lam Akol on cooperation and working relations between the UN Mission and the Government of the Sudan including the implementation of the light support package to the AU Mission in Darfur, which has already been agreed to.

**Security Council

Back here, in terms of the Security Council, the Ambassadors met this morning in consultations and adopted its programme of work for December.  And you will of course be briefed on that at 12:30.

Meanwhile, Council members also received a briefing by Dimitry Titov, Director of the Africa Division of the Division for Peacekeeping Operations, on developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Council has since begun a formal meeting to hear from the departing Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  He said that there has been a steady decline in the number of conflicts in recent years, yet violent attacks against non-combatants have been growing.  And we have his full statement available upstairs.

**Lord’s Resistance Army

And a document I want to flag for you -- in light of the regional dimension of the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which over the past 20 years, have caused death and displacement in Uganda, disrupted humanitarian operations in the Sudan and posed security threats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General has decided to appoint former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano as his Special Envoy for LRA-affected areas.

You can read more about that in a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, which is out on the racks.

** Haiti

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) expressed its satisfaction with the conduct the municipal and local elections and several legislative run-offs were held yesterday.  But MINUSTAH said it nevertheless regretted the isolated incidents of violence which upset the balloting, even if these affected only a small percentage of the electorate.

The Mission was also tasked with providing security and logistic support throughout the country, including distributing election material to the polling stations and securing the transport of the ballots to counting centres.

**Press Conferences

At 11:00 tomorrow, the Global Alliance for ICT and Development will hold a press conference in this room to launch the report, “Global Audit of Web Accessibility”.

At 1:00, the United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) will brief on a research project entitled, “Global Distribution of Wealth”.

And that is it for me.  So, before we turn to Gail.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Any reaction from Mr. Annan on the news from Bolton’s resignation?

Spokesman:  No.  There is no comment from this podium.  The Secretary-General, I think took a few questions earlier today, across the street.  We’ll put that transcript out, but there is no comment from here. 

Question:  We were wondering if the OIOS procurement task force would be looking into a story reported by Fox News this morning, about Mr. Guido Bertucci’s violation of procedures in the hiring of consultants.  This involves the case where Ms. Catherine Gazzoli had five current contracts running at the same time.  So the question is it appropriate for someone to have 5 contracts overlapping at once and can we find out how much money Bertucci’s division actually paid Ms. Catherine Gazzoli?

Spokesman:  I’m not familiar with the story, but we can find out if there is some sort of audit going on into this issue.

Question:  Mr. Pellegrini is here in New York.  Why is he here?

Spokesman:  He is here as part of an annual meeting of the heads of the force commanders of all the peacekeeping missions for the UN.  They come in on, at least, a yearly basis for a joint meeting of all the force commanders and officials here at DPKO.  And that’s why he’s here. 

Question:  Will he be coming to speak with us?

Spokesman:  No, there is no press briefing planned by General Pellegrini while he’s here. 

Question:  Can you discuss with him that should things deteriorate in Lebanon that the collapse of the Government, (inaudible) if anything develops as a result of the violence that’s taking place there after the demonstrations?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously each force commander is going to have discussions on his mission.  As far as the situation in Lebanon is concerned, I think we don’t want to jump to any conclusions.  The Secretary-General is of course following the situation currently in Beirut very closely and with concern.  His Special Representative, Mr. Geir Pedersen, has been meeting with all the parties, engaging both the Government and the opposition.  And his message to all of them has been the same -- an early return to the negotiating table and to make sure that any demonstrations remain peaceful and to try to help them find a political way out of the current situation.

Question:  I understand that UNIFIL will be taking over, or has taken over, Ghajar, the northern part.  Does that mean that the Lebanese army will have access to that northern part? 

Spokesman:  The discussions between UNIFIL, the Israeli army and the Lebanese armed forcesare trying to find a solution to the situation on Ghajar.  It’s continuing, so I can’t really go into the details.  Obviously, UNIFIL is very hopeful that an agreement can be reached very soon, which would lead to a full Israeli withdrawal of Lebanon.

Question:  What did Mr. Fatmir Sejdiu the President of the Assembly of Kosovo tell the Secretary-General of the current situation in Kosovo?

Spokesman:  I don’t have a readout at hand, but I’ll see if I can get one for you.  [The correspondent was later informed that, during the brief meeting last week, the Secretary-General briefed Mr. Sejdiu on the timeline of the status process and urged all sides to be open, flexible and constructive.]

Question:  The Secretary-General a few days ago said the situation in Iran is almost a civil war.  Then, in the interview in the BBC today, he said it’s more than a civil war.  What accounts for the change?

Spokesman:  I think you meant to say the situation in Iraq?

Question:  Yes, Iraq.

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General was clear in both his statements on the situation in Iraq when he was with you at the stakeout.  And I would urge you to look at the full transcript of the BBC interview.  I think his quotes speak for themselves, and he of course stands by them.  And that transcript is, of course, available upstairs. 

Question:  You mentioned Mr. Pedersen and his various efforts.  Is he, by any chance, any time soon, headed our way and might he come and speak to us?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware that he is heading our way.  I’m not aware of any of his travel plans to come around here.  If he does, of course,  we would ask him to stop and talk to you.

Question:  Another Kosovo question.  The Russian Ambassador to Belgrade has said that Russia will use its veto to block any decision for independence of Kosovo and has criticized Mr. Ahtisaari for saying a negotiated decision is not possible.  So I don’t know if Mr. Ahtisaari, the Secretariat, has any response to this? 

Spokesman:  Well, I think obviously on the Council members, we’re not going to comment on their votes, or predictions of their votes.  The Secretariat, the Secretary-General and Martti Ahtisaari continue to work on trying to find a settlement on the issue of a final status for Kosovo.  It’s been made clear that this will probably not happen until early next year now, after the elections, but we continue to work on that issue. 

Question:  A Deputy Secretary-General question.  There’s a book that’s come out that thanks Mark Malloch Brown for having hired the persons to write it and providing a good salary and travel budget.  And it’s extreme in its praise of him.  So I guess, I’ve asked you and the UNDP, how much money was paid and how the writer was selected, things like that.  Let me just finish my question.  Having not gotten an answer, I asked the Deputy Secretary-General in the hall today and, if I heard right, was called a jerk.  So, I’m now asking you, how much was the author paid to write the book.  And where does one direct questions for, they may be UNDP-related but things that happen to UNDP under Mr. Malloch Brown’s watch. 

Spokesman:  Who is the author of the book?

Question:  Craig M. Murphy.

Spokesman:  I will try to get you some answers on that.

Question:  Has OIOS finished its investigation into Bertuccui’s division on the Thessaloniki centre?

Spokesman:  That audit, as far as I know, is still not yet finalized.

Question:  Do we know when that may be finalized?

Spokesman:  No, we do not. 

Question:  I just wanted to ask whether there were any updates on the contracts between Mr. Annan and the Sudanese Government concerning the formation of the force in Darfur.  Any progress on this issue?

Spokesman:  No.  We’ve seen one of the results of the AU’s meeting in Abuja was to extend the mandate of AMIS, which we very much welcome.  I think the Abuja meeting was clearly a step forward in the regional and the international community’s engagement with the Sudan in trying to resolve the current crisis in Darfur.  In the days ahead, we’re going to be studying the communiqué and exactly the discussions that took place in Abuja and we’ll see what next steps we need to take with the African Union and also with the AU’s partners in the international community.

Question:  Has a date been set for the Secretary-General-designate’s press conference?

Spokesman:  If I am correct, I understand that he will be speaking to the press following his swearing-in, which if my memory serves me right is on a Monday, the 14th.

Question:  The 19th?

Spokesman:  No, the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, will speak on the 19th at a press conference.  Ban Ki-moon, who is being sworn in on the 14th, will hold a press briefing after his swearing-in. 

Question:  Here?

Spokesman:  It’ll be in the building.  Whether it’s here or a larger venue we haven’t decided yet.

Question:  Mr. Igor Ivanov is meeting the SG also.  I can only assume that they’re going to tackle the issue of Kosovo, as well.  Do you know whether they are and can we of course get a reading of that meeting, as well?

Spokesman:  Assumptions are dangerous.  But we will get you a read-out afterwards.  [The correspondent was later informed that the Secretary-General and Mr. Ivanov had a conversation that touched upon a wide range of international topics, including Africa and the Middle East.  Kosovo came up very briefly.]

Question:  Is there any possibility of the United Nations being involved in resolving the problems in Iraq?

Spokesman:  The United Nations is deeply involved in Iraq.  We have a mission there.  Our mandate is clear and has been given to us by the Security Council.  We continue to work with the Iraqis on specific areas where we have some added value to bring to the table, notably in the issue of development and human rights.  And the Secretary-General continues to be committed to helping Iraq and working with the international community to try to bring some stability to that country.

Question:  I apologize if I missed it in your opening, but in eastern Chad what is the status of UN agencies continuing to provide services?  Or have they in fact left, as is being reported?

Spokesman:  I will have to check for you on that.  My understanding is that there has been some regrouping because of the security situation, but we are not at a stage where we are no longer providing services.

Question:  To check into this ongoing story, we understand that the (inaudible) documents were removed from the (inaudible) section of DESA’s website over the weekend.  Is that true -- can you find out if that’s true and can you tell us what documents were actually removed?

Spokesman:  I will make a point of reading up on the story and see what I can tell you. 

Question:  Does the Secretary-General planning to take any vacation following the 19 December press conference?

Spokesman:  He plans to take a vacation starting at 12:01 on 1 January 2007. 

Question:  Is he, at present, at Headquarters.

Spokesman:  He will be in New York and remain in office.  He’s not going away until his mandate ends.  On that note, thank you all.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President

The General Assembly this morning discussed the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict, and adopted a resolution affirming its strong and continuing support for the Kimberley Process, a tripartite partnership between Governments, NGOs and the diamond industry, aimed at regulating the international trade in rough diamonds to exclude conflict diamonds.  The resolution, in addition, calls for the full implementation of existing Security Council measures targeting the illicit trade in rough diamonds, particularly conflict diamonds, which play a role in fuelling conflict.  And I know that many of you were at the press conference given by the President of Botswana on this issue. 

The Assembly is also considering some 14 reports of the Sixth Committee, as well as resolutions on cooperation between the UN and a number of regional organizations, a draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property and a draft decision on the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, part of the follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-sixth special session.

On news of the Committees -- all the Committees, with the exception of the Second and the Fifth Committee, have now completed their work.  The Second Committee is continuing to hold what we call “informal informals” on many of the items on its agenda, including eradication of poverty and other development issues, among them the role of microcredit, industrial cooperation, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  Discussions will also focus on implementation of Agenda 21, including the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States. 

On Friday, the Second Committee approved six draft resolutions, among them one on international trade and development, which calls on the Assembly to express serious concern over the suspension of the Doha Round of trade negotiations.  It would also ask the Assembly to call upon the developed countries to demonstrate the flexibility and political will to resume the talks.  Approved by a recorded vote of 107 in favour to 1 against [the United States], with 52 abstentions, the draft would also ask the Assembly to stress the need for the World Trade Organization to live up to its development imperatives in negotiating non-agricultural market access.  It also calls on developed countries that have not yet done so, as well as developing countries in a position to do so, to provide duty-free and quota-free market access “on a lasting basis” to all products originating from least developed countries.

As mentioned on Friday, the President of the Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, is in Dubai attending the fourth Arab Strategic Forum -- a meeting which deals with the MDGS focusing particularly on the role of women and education in the Arab world.

[Please note we have deleted the statement read by the Spokeswoman of the President of the General Assembly attributable to the President of the Assembly as we were informed that the address was not in fact delivered today.  The Spokeswoman will include it, if and when it is delivered.]

That’s my report for today.  I’ll take any questions you have.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Concerning the eradication of poverty, there are so many organizations, I wonder if they are going on the same channel, the Director, I forget his name, or there are different channels to really eliminate the poverty in Africa or elsewhere.

Spokeswoman:  The eradication of poverty is a [major] goal, as you know, so that any effort, at any level, particularly at the regional levels to eradicate poverty, is tremendously important.  And I think you’re referring to the fact that, at the recent meeting, the thematic debate held by the President, the IslamicDevelopment Bank did promise $10 billion in assistance.  But that’s just one effort; many [such] efforts are needed.  I understand your concern -- whether all these efforts are all [targeted] in the same direction in order to make sure that poverty is eradicated.  Well we would hope so, that they are all going in the same direction -- at least in the case of the Arab/African world, [which is where the Islamic Development Bank is targeting its assistance] I think they definitely are because they are also being done in the context of implementing the MDGs.  [In particular girls’ education, health and HIV/AIDS]

Question:  There is no single person that could be responsible for the whole matter from the United Nations?

Spokeswoman:  This is a global initiative and it is being undertaken…

Question:  Through the United Nations are they doing this?  I wonder, is it the same department or different departments?

Spokeswoman:  Well, don’t forget these strategies need to be implemented at the national level, so Governments have to take ownership of this process.

Question:  I apologize, if you have answered this question.  What is the status of the Declaration and the resolution on the Indigenous Peoples?

Spokeswoman:  Last week, we had a vote in the Third Committee.  And what has happened is that it will now go to the General Assembly for further consideration.  As you know, the hope was that this resolution would have been passed as it was initially [drafted].  There were amendments made to it [to make it more acceptable to States which had expressed particularly regarding the principle of self-determination of peoples and respect for national sovereignty] and then there were other amendments suggested by Namibia and others in the group of African countries, [who voiced concerns that the amended draft ran counter to the national constitutions of a number of African countries]. 

The vote that was taken will now send the resolution to the Assembly for a decision; and at that point, the expectation is in a sense, it will reopen the discussion, because the concerns expressed are not just in the African Group.  So it will be re-discussed [there will be further consultations] and the hope is the Assembly will be able to conclude consideration of this item before we end this session of the General Assembly.  This was one of the tacit agreements within the resolution.  [The resolution asks the General Assembly to defer consideration and action on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with the aim of concluding consideration of the Declaration before the end of its current sixty-first session.]

Question:  I wanted to follow up on the questions about the Millennium Development Goals.  This thing called the UN Millennium Project, do you know what the status of it is?  I’ve heard that it’s come to an end to some degree, that particular project.  It’s called The UN Millennium Project?

Spokeswoman:  I know the Millennium Project.

Question:  If you could find out the status and if any and how many of the staffers are becoming UNDP staffers.  That would be very helpful. 

Spokeswoman:  I will do that.  The other thing I wanted to mention in regards to your request for the ECOSOC President to give a briefing.  The President is interested and we are looking at next week some time.  So I will let you know as soon as that is set up and whether that will be an informal or formal briefing; but you will have a briefing on the ECOSOC resolution and ECOSOC reform.

Question:  Last week I asked a question regarding eradicating poverty and the food needsin African countries and other issues, $3.9 billion needed for 2007.  I asked a question from the guy who was here.  I don’t remember his name.  What is his plan to get rid of poverty?

Spokeswoman:  Is this the Special Rapporteur on Food to whom you are referring?

Question:  I asked him a question, what is the UN planning in the long term for needy countries?  Are they gathering just money, for example, $3.9 billion for this year, for next year, so on and so forth, he didn’t give me a good answer.  Okay we want to do this and that.  Is it going to be like this every year?  Find a little bit money here, to solve [the problem], give a little bit there.  He didn’t give me any content on what is the plan?

Journalist:  He is referring to Mr. Cisse of the Islamic Development Bank.

Spokeswoman:  Don’t forget, he is not developing the project.  He is in fact, funding the projects.  So what he was saying is:  we are going to give money, within our region, which is the Arab/African region for projects that support the eradication of poverty.  That’s the idea.

Question:  But if I want to be in charge of the planning, I would come up with a robust development plan.  For a country to come up with an agricultural agenda, they have to come up with a production line.  Are they doing it like this, or just buying food from this industry or that?  Or will they just give it to them, so they don’t die (inaudible) because you’re hungry now, but don’t think about it tomorrow? 

Spokeswoman:  I think this is really up to the Governments and NGOs who are involved in developing projects to take some of what you’ve said on board.  And I’m sure that they will because the idea is, within their [national] strategies, to make sure that they have plans that will eventually lead to the eradication of poverty.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.