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United Nations Daily Highlights, 07-07-16

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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

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SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON'S

PRESS CONFERENCE

U.N.

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, July 16, 2007

[The noon briefing will resume Tuesday, July 17, 2007]

BAN KI-MOON'S OPENING REMARKS AT PRESS CONFERENCE

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I have just returned from a two-week trip to Afghanistan and European countries. We discussed a range of important matters, from migration in Brussels, and millennium development goals; also climate change in Geneva. My meetings in London were dominated by Browns as you may knowGordon Brown; Malloch Brown. They are big men, and I think they are good partners to work with. I was very much assured by their strong commitment and support in London.

Before inviting your questions, Id like to talk briefly about the issue that dominated so many of our discussions. That is the situation in Darfur where we are now, and where we are going from now. We have made, I think, important progress. We must now push the pace. Hard.

Last month, as you know, the government of Sudan has acceptedunconditionallythe deployment of an AU-UN peacekeeping operation, a hybrid operation. The Security Council has before it a draft resolution authorizing this force. I sincerely hope that the Security Council will take the necessary action within this week which will allow more than 20,000 military personnel and civilian police. The resolution calls on Member States to finalize their contributions within 90 days.

I think this is fast, by UN standards. But I want to move more rapidly. The political situation on the ground is too fragile, the humanitarian crisis too dire, to waste more precious time.

Working with our many partners, chief among them the African Union, we must start preparing the ground for our peacekeepers immediately. The Chinese Government will soon send a contingent of military engineers in Darfur, where they will begin the essential communications and logistical work that must precede the mission. In fact, a preliminary reconnaissance group leaves for Sudan tomorrow, July 17. I am informed that several hundred international troops, or more, will be ready to deploy by October. I will push for September.

The first units of the so-called "heavy support package" will begin to deploy this fall. I will push to accelerate our timetable to the maximum, to the extent that security and logistics allow.

We will push no less hard on the political front. I have just received this morning from my Special Envoy Mr. [Jan] Eliasson, who co-chaired a successful first round of talks yesterday and today in Tripoli, Libya. Our intention is to step up the pace of political negotiations involving all parties rebel leaders, tribal leaders, government leaders. The goal is to get them around a table by early September.

I have been invited and intend to visit Sudan, including Darfur, at the earliest possible moment. However the timing will depend on when I think my visit could do most good in terms of cementing our advances. We must lock in our partners commitments, on the ground and diplomatically.

Above all, we must remember that a peacekeeping force is only a first step. It must be accompanied by an enduring political agreement. And any political agreement must in turn be followed by development programmes that go to the root causes of the conflict. Otherwise there can be no lasting solutions. As we move forward, we will not forget the enormous financial needs of our on-going humanitarian operations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a few other announcements before taking your questions.

As you know, UN inspectors from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] traveled to North Korea this weekend to verify whether or not the government of North Korea has closed down its reactor at Yongbyon. I am told that the facility has, in fact, been shut down.

This is welcome. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, and as a former foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, I encourage the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and other parties to continue to implement their commitments to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as soon as possible.

I also welcome any questions you might have on my visit to Afghanistan, which for security reasons I could not disclose before arriving in Kabul. I met with President Karzai and others. We spoke about the appalling casualties among the civilian population, and the need to act forcefully to address the pandemic problem of corruption at so many levels of government and society.

On Pakistan, I am especially concerned about the situation in Pakistan and the loss of life and destruction of property there over the past week. I condemn the terrorist attacks over the weekend that have claimed the lives of a large number of security forces and innocent civilians. President [Pervez] Musharraf has taken a strong stand against extremism. While I am in favour of firm action against extremism, I am conscious that the Government faces a delicate balance in ensuring the safety of its citizens.

Lastly, I am delighted to announce that next week, on July 26-27, I will make an official visit to San Francisco, the birthplace of the United Nations. I look forward to broadening my conversation with the American people and their leaders about the critical role of the United Nations in our increasingly globalized world. The trip will be organized in cooperation with the United Nations Association of the USA.

San Francisco is a place close to my heart. I was a young foreign exchange student in the Bay Area, a long long time ago in 1962. The kind lady who opened her home to me lives just across the Bay Bridge. I cannot wait to see her.

And, of course, California is famous for something else close to my heart as Secretary-General of the UN. It is at the very forefront of the global war against climate change.

I plan to meet with the Guvernator . the honorable California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss one of my main priorities at the UN. Together we will tour local businesses in the Bay Area that are using green technologies. I look forward to seeing first-hand how California leads the world on this issue of supreme importance.

Today I have mainly touched on the situation in Darfur. But that does not mean that Im not paying attention to other geopolitical issues. I will continue to devote myself to matters concerning the Middle East, Kosovo, UN reform and the Millennium Development Goals.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

Merci de votre présence. Je serai heureux de répondre à vos questions. Comme vous le voyez, je continue à faire des efforts et des progrès en français. De plus en plus, je parle français avec des amis comme Alpha Konaré et avec ma Porte-parole. Mais pour les réponses, je préférerais aujourd'hui parler anglais."

[Interpretation from French] Thank you for coming. I will be pleased to answer your questions. As you know, I am continuing to make efforts and progress in French. More and more I am speaking French with my friends such as Alpha Konare and in particular with my Spokesperson, Ms. Montas, in French. During todays press conference I would prefer to speak English. Thank you very much.

SUMMARY OF ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS AT PRESS CONFERENCE

On Sudan

Asked about a new Security Council resolution on Sudan, the Secretary-General said that he would urge the Security Council to take action authorising a joint AU-UN hybrid operation as soon as possible. He noted that it would be appropriate to do so, one month after the Security Council visited Khartoum and received an agreement by Sudan on the hybrid proposal.

Asked about a US contribution to the hybrid force, he said that the agreement was that the troops for that operation would come as much as possible from African Union countries; if more troops are required, non-African troops would be sought.

He said he appreciated President Bushs strong support for his initiative, adding that a US contribution would be immensely important and that he has been coordinating on that with the US special envoy dealing with Sudan.

Asked why Darfur is a high priority for him, the Secretary-General said that this has been his highest priority since he began his job, because unless the issue is addressed, there will be more suffering by the people of Darfur, who have already suffered too much.

The Secretary-General, in response to a question, added that he would soon designate a distinguished person to be the head of the UN Mission in Sudan.

On Iraq

Asked about his position on any possibly US withdrawal from Iraq, the Secretary-General stressed that great caution should be taken, for the sake of the Iraqi people, adding that they should not be abandoned by the international community. He warned that an abrupt withdrawal could lead to a further deterioration in Iraq.

The United Nations, he said, has been deeply involved in helping Iraq, including through its work in political facilitation and humanitarian assistance. Ban said he would like to see harmonious coordination if any withdrawal takes place.

Asked about the UN stance on the Iraq war, and whether it as illegal, the Secretary-General said that everyone is fully aware of what has transpired over the past four years, and he pointed to the need to look to the future rather than backward.

He noted the launching of the International Compact with Iraq under his chairmanship last May, and said he would chair another meeting of the Compact next week in New York as a follow-up.

On the Middle East

Asked whether the United Nations would help to facilitate any peace talks between Israel and Syria, the Secretary-General said that he found it encouraging that Israel was willing to meet with Syria and all major regional players, and would be happy, if asked, to facilitate any peace initiatives.

He added that he was encouraged to see that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had met again.

Asked about the fate of the Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah and Hamas, the Secretary-General said that the less said publicly about them may be the better for efforts to secure their release. He said his facilitator continued his work to obtain the release of the two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah.

The Secretary-General added that he continued to urge the release of the soldier held by the Palestinians, Corporal Gilad Shalit. These efforts will continue, he said.

On Kosovo

Asked about the slow progress in the Security Council on approving a resolution for Kosovo, the Secretary-General said he was deeply concerned about the lack of progress.

Any further delay on this issue, he said, will have a very negative impact, not only in Kosovo but in the wider region.

He said he has been engaged in consultations with the leaders of the Security Council members, including with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as with Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu earlier this month in Brussels.

The Secretary-General expressed his hope that the parties concerned should not take any premature unilateral action on Kosovo.

Asked about any precedent created if Kosovo becomes independent, Ban said that Kosovo is a sui generis issue, and should not create any precedents.

On Iran

Asked about Irans compliance with Security Council resolutions, the Secretary-General said that he was encouraged by the recent Iranian decision to talk to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on resolving outstanding issues.

On Afghanistan

Asked about reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General said that when he visited Kabul, he made his concerns about civilian casualties clear to the Afghan authorities, as well as to the commander of the NATO forces on the ground, and also talked about it with the NATO Secretary-General. He said that the NATO officials assured him that they will do their utmost to avoid such casualties in the future. He added that the Taliban made matters difficult by hiding among civilians.

On his visit to Washington, D.C.

Asked about his meeting on Tuesday with US President George W. Bush, the Secretary-General said that they would discuss a range of geopolitical issues, including climate change, Iraq, UN reform and the funding of UN peacekeeping operations.

On climate change, he said, he was encouraged by the high level of expectations generated by the 24 September special session at the United Nations. He would use that meeting to generate strong political momentum for the meeting in Bali later this year.

He said he would discuss those issues with President Bush, to try to encourage high-level US participation at the September session. The Secretary-General added that he was encouraged by the position that President Bush had taken on climate change during the recent Group of Eight summit.

On Cyprus

Asked about UN work in Cyprus, the Secretary-General said that he had held good talks with one of the Cypriot leaders, Mehmet Ali Talat of the Turkish Cypriots, last Friday, and was continuing to encourage the leaders of the two communities to engage in dialogue.

On the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Asked whether it was time to lift Security Council sanctions on the DPRK, the Secretary-General said that the DPRK has taken one step in a larger road map. It also needs to take measures to dis-enable its nuclear facilities and dismantle its nuclear weapons programmes.

Ban added that what has happened at Yongbyon is just one step, but I think it is a very important and encouraging step.

On DPRK audit

Asked about the progress of the audit being done on UN operations in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General noted that he had taken quick and early action as soon as reports of irregularities about the UN in the DPRK came to his attention. He had ordered an audit be conducted by Board of External Auditors.

That first phase is now complete, Ban said. While that audit did not show widespread misuse of funds, it did reveal enough irregularities that the auditors need to conduct a second phase, which has begun, and which needs to include travel to Pyongyang. He has requested the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions that the investigation be continued.

He has also contacted UN Development Programme (UNDP) leaders, including Administrator Kemal Dervis, his deputy Ad Melkert and members of the UNDP board to look into what further activity may be needed if the Board of Auditors work does not satisfy them.

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Asked about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Secretary-General said that he is concerned about the situation, especially in the Kivus. He said that he has asked President Laurent Kabila to refrain from military action.

As for concerns about activities attributed to UN peacekeeping troops, the Secretary-General noted that it is up to the countries who sent the troops to bring them to justice if they commit any wrongdoing, and he urged troop contributing countries to take the necessary administrative and judicial measures. He noted that the UN internal justice system is antiquated, and he intended to take up that matter with the General Assembly.

On Africa

Asked about the shifting of responsibilities from the post of a UN Special Adviser on Africa to other UN posts, the Secretary-General said that he was trying to integrate and consolidate the UNs work on African issues.

He said that the responsibility for the New Partnership on Africas Development (NEPAD) would fall under his High Representative dealing with least developed countries, land-locked states and small island developing states. That official would also deal with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The Secretary-General defended the high priority he has placed on Africa, and noted that his deputy, Asha-Rose Migiro, comes from Africa, and that he has a special adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, who deals with African as well as other political issues.

About his management of the United Nations

The Secretary-General responded to recent media accounts criticizing some of his management style by saying that, although he is aware that any public figure will be scrutinized, some of the charges made against him were unfair.

Regarding a question that he was too close to some countries, he said, I regard myself as a middle of the road man, as taught by Confucius. Ban said that he tries to have good relations with everybody.

Regarding management, he dismissed reports that he had brought in a number of Korean officials, saying that only one senior Korean official accompanied him to the United Nations.

Asked whether senior appointments at the United Nations have gone to a few key nations, he said that he based his appointments on the qualifications of the people concerned, as well as on gender balance and geographical representation. He noted that a number of key officials, including the Deputy Secretary-General and key envoys in the field, are African.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE U.N. SYSTEM

UN ENVOY IN IRAQ CONEMNS KIRKUK BOMBING: The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary- General for Iraq Ashraf Qazi condemned in the strongest terms the car bombings in Kirkuk earlier today. Qazi described the bombing, which reportedly killed and wounded more than 200 innocent civilians, as a deplorable crime aimed at exacerbating tensions further in the city and the governorate. He noted that during his visit to the Northern Region last week, he had met with Deputy Governor Abdrahman Mustafa and reaffirmed the United Nations support for the peaceful resolution of outstanding issues with regard to Kirkuk and the region.

UN ENVOY WELCOMES OUTCOME OF TALKS ON DARFUR PEACE: Jan Eliasson, the UN Special Envoy for Darfur, who co-chaired with the African Union an international meeting on the Darfur peace process in Tripoli, Libya, said: "We are very happy that this meeting has concluded with a strong message of peace and beginning of negotiations. We are pleased that the Tripoli Meeting reconfirmed the AU-UN lead of the political process in partnership with regional actors. The meeting has also established that the pre- negotiations phase of the joint AU-UN Roadmap is to be launched early August with the Arusha meeting that (AU Special Envoy for Darfur Salim Ahmed) Salim and myself intend to convene with leading personalities of the non signatory movements from 3-5 August 2007 to facilitate the preparations for negotiations. The political process jointly led by the AU and UN in partnership with regional actors has gained significant momentum and reinforced credibility with the Tripoli Meeting."

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS U.N. MISSION IN COTE DIVOIRE: The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the UN Operation in Cote dIvoire (UNOCI) and the French forces which support it until 15 January 2008, to support the organization of free, open, fair and transparent elections in that country. The Council went on to hold a formal meeting to discuss its recent mission to Africa, which included stops in Addis Ababa, Khartoum, Accra, Abidjan and Kinshasa.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO HOLD CONSULTATIONS ON KOSOVO TODAY: This afternoon, at 3:00, Council members will hold consultations on Kosovo.

FEARS MOUNT OF HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN GAZA: The UN Relief and Works Agency has issued an urgent call for aid to the Gaza Strip, amid mounting fears of a humanitarian crisis there. UNRWA Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd says that unemployment in Gaza is running around 36 percent and poverty is affecting an estimated two thirds of households. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, almost no raw materials were imported into Gaza in the week ending last Monday, halting $370 million worth of construction. Due to the lack of supplies, only one-fifth of the Gaza companies that were open two years ago are still operating, and some 65,000 workers have been laid off.

UNIFIL CONFIRMS EXPLOSION INVOLVING U.N. POLICE VEHICLE: The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today confirmed that an explosion occurred in the area of Qasmieyah Bridge, involving one UNIFIL military police vehicle. A UNIFIL investigation team has been dispatched to the location and the Lebanese Army is on the spot as well. The UN peacekeeping force said that no casualties have been reported -- only damages to the vehicle.

U.N. MISSION OPENS NEW OFFICE IN CENTRAL AFGHANISTAN: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) opened on Saturday a new office in the central province of Ghor, where staff will help local communities with development, humanitarian efforts, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. UNAMA is well aware that Ghor has suffered greatly from its isolation and it continues to struggle to gain the attention it deserves. It is our hope that the days of Ghor being overlooked are slowly drawing to a close, said the Secretary-General Special Representative, Tom Koenigs, at a launch ceremony in Chaghcharan on Saturday.

REPORT ISSUED OF SECURITY COUNCIL MISSION TO AFRICA: Available today is the final report of the Security Council delegation that visited Africa on 14-21 June. The delegation, which comprised representatives of all current members of the Council, visited Addis Ababa for talks with the African Union, Sudan for consultations on the planned UN/AU peacekeeping deployment in Darfur and Accra for discussions with AU President John Kufuor. The delegation also visited Abidjan in Cote dIvoire and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for discussion with local and United Nations officials.

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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