HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
BAN KI-MOON TO BE SWORN IN AS SECRETARY-GENERAL TOMORROW
Tomorrow morning, the General Assembly will meet to pay tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to administer the oath of office of the
Secretary-General designate, Ban Ki-moon.
Then at noon, the Secretary-General designate, will hold a press conference at UN Headquarters.
Asked about Ban Ki-moons status after the swearing-in, the Spokesman said that he would take the oath of office, but it would become effective on 1 January, with Kofi Annan serving as Secretary-General until then.
Dujarric said he did not expect the current transition process to change, with the transition staff remaining in their current offices until 1 January. He said that he would continue to provide public briefings, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Annan, until 22 December, after which the briefings would be posted on the web during the holiday period leading up to the New Year.
Asked about other public events involving Secretary-General Kofi Annan before the end of the year, the Spokesman noted, in addition to his 19 December press conference, that the Secretary-General will address an event on the Alliance of Civilizations on 18 December and meet with UN staff informally on the afternoon of 19 December.
ANNAN WELCOMES HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCILS DECISION
TO SEND MISSION TO DARFUR
The Secretary-General is pleased that the Human Rights Council has taken robust action to address the grave human rights situation in Darfur.
He welcomes the Councils resolution, adopted by consensus, to dispatch a high-level mission to Darfur, composed of highly qualified individuals to be appointed by the President of the Council.
The decision of the Human Rights Council sends a united message that the ongoing violence and killing in Darfur is unacceptable and must stop.
The Spokesman disputed the premise of a reporters question, on whether it had taken a long time for the Secretary-General to call for a Human Rights Council meeting on Darfur, by noting that the Secretary-General has constantly urged action on Darfur for the past two years. In recent weeks, he had clearly given a message to the Human Rights Council to stop focusing on just one situation and to deal with others, including Darfur.
The Spokesman said that, although the Secretary-General might wish that the Human Rights Council had spoken on the matter earlier, it was extremely pleased that it had done so now.
SUDAN: U.N. MISSION CONDEMNS HIJACKING OF AFRICAN UNION VEHICLE
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) condemns in the strongest terms the weekend hijacking of a vehicle belonging to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) with two AMIS military personnel on board, and demanded their immediate release.
The Mission reiterates that all AMIS military personnel are in Sudan as part of a peacekeeping mission to bring peace to the war-weary people of Darfur. Their presence is crucial to restoring order and stability to a critically important part of Sudan and to allow Darfuris to return to their homes.
The Mission also reports that there have been skirmishes between armed Chadian opposition groups and Arab militias south of El Fasher in North Darfur. In West Darfur, there has been a spate of armed hijacking of vehicles, including vehicles belonging to the aid community.
Asked whether the Secretary-General supports British Prime Minister Tony Blairs idea of a no-fly zone for Darfur, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General is working on a number of diplomatic initiatives in Darfur. If these end in failure, he said, other options are to be looked at, although he declined to provide details at this stage on what they might be.
WORLD COURTS PROSECUTOR TO BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL
ON WAR CRIMES IN DARFUR
On Thursday afternoon at 3:00, the Security Council will hear a briefing from Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, on individuals allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Moreno-Ocampo will report on his nearly-completed investigation and the admissibility of the case in relation to national judicial proceedings in Sudan, and he will announce his next steps.
On a related note, this Friday, the Secretary-General will meet with actor/director George Clooney and a delegation comprising actor Don Cheadle of Hotel Rwanda and Olympic athletes Joey Cheek and Tegla Loroupe. The group returns to the United States on Thursday from a human rights mission to China and Egypt, during which they met senior government officials to urge both nations to use their influence with Sudan to end the killing in Darfur.
NEW TREATY WILL FIGHT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE DISABLED
The General Assembly this morning adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown delivered a message on the Secretary-Generals behalf after that adoption, saying that, for the 650 million persons around the world living with disabilities, today promises to be the dawn of a new era -- an era in which disabled people will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for all too long.
He called the Convention a remarkable and forward-looking document that will offer a way forward to ensure that those with disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else -- in education, employment, access to buildings and other facilities, and access to justice.
The Secretary-General urges all Governments to ratify, and then implement, the Convention without delay.
SECURITY COUNCIL CONSIDERS EXTENSION OF GOLAN HEIGHTS MISSION
The Security Council this morning held consultations on the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) and on missing Kuwaiti and other third-country persons and property in Iraq.
First, Council members received a briefing on the Secretary-Generals latest report on UNDOF from Lisa Buttenheim, the Director for Asia and the Middle East in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations. That report recommends a six-month extension of the UN peacekeepers, and a draft resolution on the missions mandate was circulated this morning.
Then, Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, the High-Level Coordinator dealing with missing persons and property in Iraq, briefed Council members on the Secretary-Generals recent report on that topic, which expressed disappointment at the slow progress in obtaining information on missing Kuwaitis.
The Council President read out a statement to the press after consultations, saying that Council members shared the views expressed by the Secretary-General in his report and strongly condemning the execution of Kuwaiti and third country nationals by the previous Iraqi regime, in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Security Council members also agreed that those responsible for these horrendous crimes should be brought to justice, according to that press statement.
KOSOVO STATUS MUST BE RESOLVED QUICKLY
This afternoon, the Security Council is holding an open debate on Kosovo, with the Secretary-Generals Special Representative in Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, briefing Council members.
Rücker is expected to stress the need for Kosovos status to be resolved as soon as possible, and for continued work towards implementing the internationally-agreed standards for Kosovo. He is also expected to brief the Council on arrangements being made for Kosovo, for after the UN Mission leaves.
Rücker will be joined at the meeting by Kosovos Prime Minister, Agim Çeku.
SECURITY COUNCIL WELCOMES ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CEASEFIRE,
REITERATES SUPPORT TO LEBANESE GOVERNMENT
Tuesday afternoon, the Security Council adopted two Presidential Statements on the Middle East: one on the general situation in the region, and the other on Lebanon.
In the first statement, adopted following the Secretary-Generals final briefing on the Middle East, the Council expressed its deep concern over the situation in the Middle East, with its serious ramifications for peace and security, and underlined the need to intensify efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region. Among other things, the Council welcomed the agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to establish a mutual ceasefire in Gaza.
Later in the afternoon, the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement on Lebanon in which it reiterated its full support for the legitimate and democratically-elected Government of Lebanon and condemned any effort to destabilise the country. It also called for the full implementation of 1701 and the full cooperation of all parties to achieve that goal.
COOPERATION WITH HARIRI BOMB PROBE IS IMPORTANT
Asked about the assertion in the latest report by Serge Brammertzs International Independent Investigation
Commission that 10 countries had been reluctant to come forward with answers sought by the Commission, the Spokesman said that cooperation with the Brammertz inquiry is important. He noted that Brammertz would brief the Security Council next Monday and may talk to reporters afterward.
The Spokesman, in response to a further question, said that the Secretary-General would not have a specific reaction to the latest Commission report but is supportive of Brammertzs work, which is continuing in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council.
Asked whether the Secretary-General has been in touch with the leaders of Lebanon and Syria, Dujarric said that the Secretary-General has recently been in contact with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and with Amre Moussa, the Arab League Secretary-General who has been talking to all parties in Lebanon. The Secretary-General encourages efforts to find a political solution to Lebanons current crisis.
The Spokesman would not comment when asked about any progress on the Israeli-Lebanese prisoners issue.
SOMALIA: U.N. ENVOY APPEALS FOR END TO VIOLENCE
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, today appealed for an end to the violence in that country following a meeting in Nairobi with members of the international community.
The meeting was called to discuss the worsening security and humanitarian situation in Somalia and a possible resumption of the Khartoum dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and the Union of Islamic Courts.
In a message approved by the participants at the meeting, Fall also appealed to Somalias government and Islamist leaders to facilitate assistance for the hundreds of thousand of Somalis made homeless by the recent floods.
SOUTHERN AFRICAS FUTURE DEPENDS ON GOOD TREATMENT OF ORPHANS
James Morris, the Secretary-Generals Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, is currently in that region. Speaking to reporters in Johannesburg today, he said the future of southern Africa is dependent upon governments in the region halting the effects of HIV/AIDS and ensuring that orphans receive good nutrition, education and care.
In the last seven days, Morris has visited Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, where he met with government officials, as well as donors and representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Morris is scheduled to leave today for Mozambique, the last leg of his mission.
U.N. INTERNAL WATCHDOG ASKED TO LOOK INTO
ALLEGATIONS SURROUNDING ECONOMIC DEPARTMENT
In response to questions, the Spokesman confirmed that, at the request of the Secretary-Generals office, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has been asked to look into allegations raised in the press about programmes run by the Department for Economic and Social Affairs. (DESA). He added that OIOS is to look into issues that were mentioned in a Wednesday Washington Times article.
In reference to a question about the Thessaloniki Centre in Greece, the Spokesman said that the OIOS is trying to finalize its audit on that matter. Once that is done, in accordance with standard practice, the audit would be made available to Member States on their request.
Asked about DESA being given an opportunity to present its views, Dujarric noted that, as in any investigative process, people have the right to provide rebuttals and the department in question has the right to answer questions that have been raised.
Asked about the protection of relevant documents and of whistle-blowers, the Spokesman said that a policy to protect whistle-blowers is in place, as are regulations guarding against the improper destruction of documents. He said that whistle-blowers are accorded confidentiality, among other protections.
FORMER U.N. STAFFER TO RECEIVE ENTITLED PAY
In response to questions about the case of Callixte Mbarushimana, the former UN staffer whose contract had not been renewed in 2001 following allegations relating to activities undertaken during the Rwandan genocide, the Spokesman said the following.
In July of this year, the UN Administrative Tribunal upheld its original decision in favour of Mr Mbarushimanas demand for compensation, resulting from the non-extension of his contract with the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). While we very much regret this decision, in light of the decision taken by the tribunal, the Secretariat has no choice put to pay Mbarushimana the one-year salary he had requested.
The Secretary-General had withheld compensation pending this very unusual appeal and also pending any possible legal action for alleged crimes against humanity being taken against Mbarushimana by either the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda or judicial authorities in France, where he currently resides. He has now been forced by our justice system to make this very unfortunate settlement.
Asked whether the decision by the Administrative Tribunal was public, the Spokesman said it was.
Asked whether the UN Development Programme (UNDP) had acted quickly enough, the Spokesman said that the Secretariat and UNDP had worked together closely to see if there were alternatives to avoid the situation that we are in today.
UNITED NATIONS. HAS ENCOURAGED PEACE IN NORTHERN UGANDA: Asked whether the Secretary-General has encouraged talks between Uganda and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), the Spokesman said that the United Nations has encouraged the search for peace and justice in northern Uganda and has supported the peace process, as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland had noted.
UNITED NATIONS IS LOOKING INTO COUP PLOT REPORTS IN COTE DIVOIRE: Asked about reports of a coup plot in Cote dIvoire, the Spokesman said that the UN Mission in that country was looking into the reports.
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