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United Nations Daily Highlights, 06-11-07

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

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME GETS NEW CHIEF

The Secretary-General and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf announced today their appointment of Ms. Josette Sheeran (United States) as Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), in succession to Mr. James Morris. The Executive Board of WFP has confirmed its concurrence with the appointment of Ms. Sheeran. Ms. Sheeran currently serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs where she is responsible for economic issues including development, trade, agriculture, finance, energy, telecommunications and transportation. Prior to her appointment as Under Secretary, Ms. Sheeran served as Deputy United States Trade Representative in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). There, she was responsible for trade negotiations and treaties in Asia and Africa and for advancing global negotiations on trade capacity-building. The Secretary-General would like to put on record his deep appreciation for the exceptional leadership that Mr. Morris haws given to WFP since 2002. He rendered outstanding service as Executive Director of the World Food Programme, bringing assistance to some of the worlds neediest people. Mr. Morris leaves behind an institution which has become one of the worlds largest humanitarian programmes, and which has established a solid reputation as a primary institution of the UN system in providing aid in emergencies.

Asked whether the Secretary-General spoke with Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon about the appointment, the Spokesman said that in the past few days, the Secretary-General had consulted with Ban, who agreed with the decision taken by the Secretary-General and Jacques Diouf. That consultation took place after the main candidates on the shortlist had been interviewed and before her name had been forwarded to the WFP Board. He noted, in response to a further question, that the selection process had begun before Ban Ki-moon was designated as the next Secretary-General. However, Dujarric said, the decision on the appointment was one made by Kofi Annan and Jacques Diouf. Asked about any connection between Sheerans appointment and the US elections, the Spokesman said there was none. Asked about a resumé for Sheeran provided by the United Nations, the Spokesman said that the resumé was provided by the United Nations. He declined to comment on any differences between that resumé and any previous ones describing Sheerans career. In response to a question suggesting that the selection process had not been transparent, the Spokesman said that it was a rigorous process that had been open to governments and non-governmental organizations. Outside ads had been placed, and a number of shortlist interviews were conducted. In the end, he said, the Secretary-General and Diouf had nominated the person that they thought would be the best leader for WFP. Asked whether Sheerans association with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon had come up during the interview process, the Spokesman declined to comment on private interviews. He emphasized that the religious views of individuals is their own business and is not a matter for concern.

U.N. POLITICAL HEAD TO VISIT MYANMAR

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, will visit Myanmar from 9-12 November as an emissary of the Secretary-General, within the context of the good offices mandate given by the General Assembly and at the invitation of the Government of Myanmar. Mr. Gambari is expected to meet with senior officials and with actors from across the political spectrum, including all those with whom he met during his first visit in May of this year.

The Secretary-General appreciates the invitation extended to his envoy to visit the country once again, as part of a process of dialogue that could lead to strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and Myanmar. The Secretary-General emphasizes, however, that the continued value of such engagement can only be demonstrated by tangible steps forward on central issues such as human rights, democratic reform and national reconciliation.

SECURITY COUNCIL LAUDS PEACEFUL ELECTIONS IN D.R. CONGO

The Security Council began its work this morning with consultations on Somalia. It received a briefing on recent developments in that country from the Secretary-Generals Special Representative, Francois Lonseny Fall.

The Council also adopted a Presidential Statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which paid tribute to the civic responsibility shown by the Congolese, who participate peacefully and in large numbers in provincial elections and the second round of the presidential election.

This afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled consultations to receive an update on the talks underway in Juba, in southern Sudan, between the Lords Resistance Army and the Ugandan Government. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari will provide that briefing.

CLUSTER BOMB USE NEAR POPULATED AREAS MUST STOP

The Secretary-General has sent a message to the Third Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which started today in Geneva.

In that message, the Secretary-General calls on parties to freeze the use of cluster munitions against military assets located in or near populated areas. At the same time, he reminds them that placing military assets in such areas is illegal under international humanitarian law.

Urging parties to stop the transfer of those cluster munitions that are known to be inaccurate and unreliable, and to dispose of them, he also challenges parties to establish technical requirements for new weapons systems so that the risk they pose to civilian populations can be reduced.

Also in connection with the Review Conference, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland released a statement, which said that the immediate freeze on the use of cluster munitions was essential until the international community put in place effective legal instruments to address urgent humanitarian concerns about their use.

Meanwhile, the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) in southern Lebanon reports that the density of cluster munitions in Lebanon is higher than in Kosovo and Iraq, and denser in built-up areas.

LEBANON: U.N. MISSION WELCOMES ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL FROM AREA AROUND GHAJAR VILLAGE

Major General Alain Pellegrini, the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), met today with senior officers from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israeli Defense Forces at the UN Position at the border crossing at Ras Al Naqoura.

It was agreed that the Israeli Defense Forces will withdraw their forces from most of the surrounding area of Ghajar village today. UNIFIL will carry out intensive patrolling and set up temporary checkpoints in the specified area to confirm that the Israeli forces were no longer present there.

Pellegrini welcomed the Israeli withdrawal from the area around Ghajar, and said he hoped that an agreement will soon be reached for full Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Asked whether Israel had withdrawn from the northern part of Ghajar, the Spokesman said that Israel had not fully withdrawn from Ghajar and was still present in the northern part of the town, but added that Pellegrini expected that an Israeli withdrawal from that area would take place soon.

Asked about an Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General was working on the Shebaa Farms issue in accordance with the Council resolution.

RELIEF SUPPLIES SENT TO DISPLACED PERSONS IN GAZA

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports that the Israeli military operations on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun finished in the early hours of this morning. The agency adds that Israeli forces are still present in other parts of Gaza.

Since last Friday, a joint humanitarian convoy of UNRWA and the International Committee of the Red Cross has been in Beit Hanoun, delivering food, water, milk, blankets and mattresses to the hospital there. Additional convoys entered Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

UNRWA staff delivering humanitarian supplies notes significant damage to roads and houses throughout Beit Hanoun. In addition, they say, the Israeli military destroyed phone lines, cut electricity in the area and food and water supplies are scarce.

Also, the World Food Programme said that it had provided 5,000 loaves of bread and 300 tins of canned meat for 300 displaced persons in a hospital in Gaza.

Asked about the UNs response to the violence in Gaza, the Spokesman recalled that the Secretary-General had spoken over the weekend with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, calling on him to exercise restraint in the Gaza operations and to do his utmost to protect civilian life. He added that the envoys of the Middle East Quartet remain in contact on the matter.

SUDAN: MILITIA ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS OCCURRING DAILY

Regarding Darfur, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs continue to receive daily reports of militia attacks on civilians, as well as attacks against humanitarian vehicles on key roads and even inside camps housing displaced persons.

One report indicates that yesterday, on 6 November, militia attacked villages southwest of El Fasher in North Darfur. According to the report, the militia have burnt houses, destroyed crops and taken animals. A number of people were wounded, and an unknown number of civilians have been displaced as they were forced to flee their villages. Also in North Darfur, armed men attempted to hijack two vehicles of an NGO from within a displaced persons camp on Monday.

In South Darfur, vehicles belonging to the African Union force (AMIS) and NGOs were forced to return to Nyala after being attacked by villagers who were accusing AMIS of failing to provide protection.

Following the large-scale attack in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur less than 10 days ago, which the Secretary-General condemned, there are still serious concerns about further militia attacks in areas of West Darfur. There is also fear that inter-tribal conflicts in several areas could increase with the end of the rainy season.

In response to a question about material support to the African Union (AU) Mission in Darfur, the Spokesman said that support has been identified and will be made available immediately after the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding with the AU and the Government of Sudan.

The UN Mission in Sudan has acquired land and has started to move equipment and prefabs to El Fasher. The mission has also confirmed that close to 200 night vision goggles had arrived in Khartoum.

As part of the immediate UN support package to AMIS, nine military officers and nine police advisers were deployed to El Fasher and Nyala in mid-October. Eight military officers and nine police advisers are in Khartoum, ready for deployment, and 13 additional police officers have been recruited and will deploy soon.

The UN has also agreed to provide eight fly-away kits, 36 Global Positioning Systems, 36 armed personnel carriers and public information services equipment, as well as pharmaceuticals.

HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF WELCOMES SRI LANKA INQUIRY COMMISSION

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has

welcomed the Sri Lankan President's establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into extrajudicial killings and disappearances, expressing hope that it will see the perpetrators of serious human rights violations brought to justice.

The High Commissioner underlined the significance of this initiative in addressing impunity for human rights violations related to the on-going conflict in Sri Lanka.

IRAQ: LATEST FINDINGS OF MONITORING BOARD RELEASED

The International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) that oversees the Development Fund for Iraq met in Paris last week and received follow-up special audits looking into single-sourced contracts in Iraq.

One of the auditing firms, Crowe Chizek, reported that in their opinion the settlements between the company Kellogg Brown and Root, or KBR, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were reasonable.

The findings also provide additional information about the transportation costs incurred by KBR in providing humanitarian fuel supplies to Iraq from May 2003 to March 2004. These costs were very high, in some cases as much as 86 percent of the total contract costs. The IAMB continues to question the reasonableness of these costs and the adequacy of the administration of contracts.

The final meeting of the IAMB is tentatively scheduled for December 11-12. Its mandate expires at the end of this year. Its statement and the work of the auditors are available on its web site, www.iamb.info.

Asked about the timing of the information even though the IAMB meeting took place last week, the Spokesman said that the information was announced as soon as the IAMB posted it. He noted the time it takes for the Board to put out information, and denied any other reason for the time lag, in response to a question about todays US elections.

POLITICAL DEPARTMENT SETTING UP MEDIATION SUPPORT CAPACITY

Asked about the work of the UN mediation support capacity, the Spokesman said that capacity was currently being set up by the Department of Political Affairs to provide advice and support to UN and non-UN mediators working to prevent and resolve conflicts around the world. It would involve six staff workers.

Dujarric said the initiative was the outgrowth of the 2005 World Summit, whose outcome document recognized the important role of the good offices of the Secretary-General, including in the mediation of disputes and supported the Secretary-Generals efforts to strengthen his capacity in this area.

Asked about its funding, the Spokesman said that seed money was provided by the General Assembly. But, he noted, no decision has been made on who will lead the unit.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

U.N. APPEALS TO ABKHAZ SIDE NOT TO DISRUPT CIVILIAN AR TRAFFIC: In response to the announcement by the Abkhaz de facto authorities of a joint air force and air defence exercise in November, the UN Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) has emphasized the need to avoid disrupting, let alone endangering civilian air traffic. The Mission has made an appeal to the Abkhaz side to desist from actions that could directly or indirectly pose any risk to the normal operation of civilian aircraft.

U.N. Agencies Call for Greater Integration of Health Services to STOP Spread of H.I.V.: With an estimated 930,000 new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific in 2005, UN agencies have called for urgent efforts to prevent the escalating spread of the virus and reduce mortality by better integrating HIV prevention, treatment and care into maternal and newborn health services. Calls for strengthening integration of these vital health services came at the opening of the first Asia-Pacific Joint Forum, a conference of health professionals, government officials, people living with HIV, and civil society groups from 22 countries in the region.

NOT UP TO ANNAN TO COMMENT ON INDEPENDENT EXPERTS VIEWS: Asked whether the Secretary-General agreed with the criticism of the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, made by a UN special rapporteur for human rights, the Spokesman noted that it is not up to the Secretary-General to respond to the views expressed by independent human rights experts. He added that he had conveyed the Secretary-Generals views on the trial on Monday.

BACKGROUND BRIEFINGS TO BE HELD: At 12:45 tomorrow, a senior UN official will brief the press on the final report of the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, which the Group will be presenting in Istanbul on Monday next week. Then at 3:00, there will be another background briefing by a senior official, this time on the report of the Secretary-Generals High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence, which will be presented to the Secretary-General and General Assembly this Thursday, November 9.

  • **The guest at the noon briefing was the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall.

    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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