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United Nations Daily Highlights, 06-11-02

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

ARCHIVES

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, November 2, 2006

ANNAN ARRIVES IN URUGUAY FOR IBERO-AMERICAN SUMMIT

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he is to attend the Ibero-American Summit.

He is scheduled to speak as the summit opens tomorrow, and he is also expected to meet with Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez, among other leaders, on the margins of the summit.

LEGAL IMMUNITY LIFTED FOR INDICTED U.N. PROCUREMENT OFFICIAL

The following statement was released last night after the indictment of Sanjaya Bahel by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York:

Sanjaya Bahel, a UN staff member, has been the subject of an internal fact-finding investigation into allegations of misconduct related to his procurement functions, conducted by the Procurement Task Force, which reports to the Organization's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). He was formally charged with misconduct by the Organization on 31 August 2006 and has been suspended without pay since that time.

The United Nations provided its final report to the competent authorities of the United States and India. The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York commenced its own investigation into the activities of Mr. Bahel. The United Nations has been cooperating fully with the Office of the United States Attorney during the course of its investigation.

Today (Wednesday), the Secretary-General received a request from the U.S. authorities to waive Mr. Bahel's immunity from legal process. The Secretary-General confirms that he has waived Mr. Bahel's immunity.

Asked about Bahels status, the Spokesman said that he understood from the US Attorneys office that Bahel was arrested on Wednesday. He had returned to New York a few days ago.

Responding to comments that OIOS had cleared Bahel in an earlier investigation, the Spokesman emphasized that no one would dispute, as the US Attorneys office said, that the indictment is based on the exhaustive work done by the Special Procurement Task Force, which reports to OIOS.

The United Nations, Dujarric said, had concluded its investigation into Bahel in August and since then worked closely with the U.S. Attorney, an effort that led to his arrest.

Although there had been problems in the past, he conceded, in following up on earlier OIOS audits, in this case, following an examination into procurement practices in UN peacekeeping operations into the field, eight UN staff had been placed on leave. Then, he said, the Task Force was formed. Following its investigation, Bahel was suspended without pay, and the information in his case was transferred to the U.S. Attorney.

The chronology of events was that leads are being followed up, and the UNs procedures have been tightened in the past couple of years, he said. This, the Spokesman stressed, is one of the lessons learned from the Volcker investigation, which clearly highlighted the need for better follow-up mechanisms to audit reports. The result, Dujarric said, is that people who commit misconduct at the United Nations will have to face charges.

Asked about the status of other investigations, the Spokesman said that six cases have now been completed, including Bahels case. Of those, two staff members have been fully exonerated of any alleged irregularities and are now back at work. Another two are also back at work but have been asked to respond to allegations of mismanagement. A final decision on action to take on another staff member is now pending.

He noted that the Secretary-General and other senior officials have underscored the significant effort that has gone into reorganising the procurement service to manage it in the best possible way.

SECURITY COUNCIL SETS ITS AGENDA FOR NOVEMBER

The Security Council held consultations this morning in which it approved its programme of work for November.

During its consultations, the Security Council also received an update from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno about the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Yesterday afternoon, after consultations, the Security Council adopted a resolution endorsing the decisions by the African Unions Peace and Security Council to renew the mandates of the President and Prime Minister of Cote dIvoire for a new and final transition period not exceeding 12 months. The resolution also details the Prime Ministers mandate in implementing the road map drawn up by the International Working Group for Cote dIvoire.

D.R. CONGO: VOTE COUNTING CONTINUES WITH NO MAJOR INCIDENTS

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) reports that polling stations were re-opened today in the town of Bumba in Equator Province and in the Ituri district town of Fataki, where voting was suspended last Sunday after a Congolese soldier had shot to death two electoral workers. The security situation all across the vast country remains calm, the Mission says.

Meanwhile, vote counting continues without any major incidents. The Mission says that reports from various parts of the country note that compared to the July general elections, there is a significant improvement in the organization of the ballot-counting operation.

The Mission adds that the Independent Electoral Commission had dismissed as a fraud a document posted on the Internet purporting to present the results of the run-off presidential election. The Commission warns against further efforts to disrupt the process and stresses that provisional results will be public on 12th November and the final results on 19 November.

Asked whether the European Force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had communicated any intention to stay in that country beyond 30 November, the Spokesman said that he was not aware of any such communication. He said that the UN Mission in the country had been working well with the European Force, which was a valuable addition to the UN forces.

SOMALIA: ISLAMISTS GROWING INFLUENCE THREATENS

TRANSITIONAL FEDERAL INSTITUTIONS

The UN Political Office for Somalia says that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country, Francois Lonseny Fall, will be in New York next week to brief the Security Council.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-Generals latest report on Somalia is out on the racks today. In it, he says that the expansion of the influence of the Islamic Courts poses a serious threat to the transitional federal institutions and raises security concerns for the self-declared autonomous Somaliland and Puntland regions.

The Secretary-Generals report, which covers the period from 20 June until 23 October, also addresses the preparations by the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development for their proposed peace support operation in Somalia and describes in detail the UNs activities in the areas of humanitarian assistance, rule of law, public health and water and environmental sanitation.

GRAVE ABUSES OF CHILDRENS RIGHTS CONTINUE IN BURUNDI

Available today is the Secretary-Generals report on children and armed conflict in Burundi. In it, the Secretary-General says that despite the substantial progress achieved in addressing the grave abuses of childrens rights, violations are still occurring with considerable level of impunity.

The report explicitly identifies the parties to the conflict responsible for serious violations, including the Hutu rebellion and the Governments intelligence and police apparatus.

The report also contains a series of recommendations with a view to securing strengthened action for the protection of war-affected children in Burundi and preventing any action which could affect their rights after the signing of the September Agreement between the Government and the last active rebel group.

LEBANON: U.N. SPEARHEADS OIL SPILL CLEAN-UP OPERATION

Regarding the Lebanon oil spill, currently, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), together with the International Maritime Organization, continues to coordinate the international response

Clean-up operations of beaches and underwater areas are ongoing, with the shoreline being the next target area. The majority of floating oil has now been recovered.

Recommendations for the long-term treatment of the oily waste will be included in UNEP's broader environmental impact assessment report, which is due out in a few weeks.

As winter approaches, a continuing need exists for personal protective equipment and shoreline clean-up equipment.

SELECTION PROCESS FOR FOOD AGENCY CHIEF CLARIFIED

Regarding questions posed yesterday on the appointment of the new head of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Spokesman later clarified that the Secretary-General and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) would interview the candidates and jointly make a decision on the individual they would wish to appoint to the post.

They would then jointly inform the WFP Executive Board. The Board would conduct its own consultations and then revert back to the Secretary-General and the head of FAO before an announcement was made.

INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM ENDS FIRST-EVER MEETING

The Internet Governance Forum concluded its inaugural session this morning in Athens.

Attended by representatives from more than 90 countries, information technology firms, NGOs and the Internet community, the Forum allowed interested parties that do not normally sit around the same table to discuss topics ranging from cyber-crime and freedom of expression to the digital exclusion of the developing world.

ANNAN CONCERNED BY VIOLENCE IN GAZA

Asked about the Secretary-Generals reaction to additional deaths reported in Gaza, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General continues to be concerned at the level of violence, and has called for the violence to cease and for all sides to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian and human rights law.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

CAPITAL MASTER PLAN BRIEFING TO COME: Asked about a briefing on the Capital Master Plan, the Spokesman said that Under-Secretary-General Christopher Burnham was still at work at the United Nations, and either he or someone from his office may brief later. He noted that among the aims of the Plan is to provide better working facilities for the media.

ONLY ONE SENIOR U.N. OFFICIAL RECEIVING HOUSING SUBSIDY: Asked about information from the United States that eight UN officials had been receiving housing subsidies, the Spokesman clarified that, although the US Mission had received such information from the United Nations earlier this year, the United Nations, upon further checking, had determined that only one senior UN official at headquarters had received a housing subsidy.

WATER SCARCITY MUST BE ADDRESSED IN AFGHANISTAN: Addressing drought and water scarcity should be a national priority for Afghanistan, according to a two-day workshop that concluded in Kabul yesterday. The discussion could not have been more timely, with over 2 million people currently facing the consequences of this years drought, a recurrent phenomenon in Afghanistan.

NEW CHILDRENS HEALTH CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY IN GHANA: UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank are all supporting a new health campaign for children in Ghana. During the week-long campaign, millions of children will be immunized against measles and polio and be given Vitamin A supplements. In addition, children in northern Ghana will be de-wormed, and all children under two will be given insecticide-treated bed nets free of charge.

MORE EFFORT NEEDED TO REVERSE SPREAD OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: The Secretary-General has sent a message to the Seminar on Strengthening Global Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, being held today in Bali, Indonesia. In that message, he says that the recent nuclear test by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, as well as the continuing concerns over Irans nuclear programme, have underscored the urgent need for the international community to re-energize its efforts to contain and reverse the spread of nuclear weapons.

U.N. AGENCY COORDINATES REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH STUDY: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the first study of global reproductive health will be

published later this week. Coordinated by the WHO, the evaluation shows a picture of declining financial support, increased political interference and an overall reluctance to tackle threats to sexual and reproductive health.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055


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