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United Nations Daily Highlights, 07-01-24

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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 FARHAN HAQ

ASSOCIATE

SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

BAN KI-MOON ARRIVES IN BRUSSELS

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began his travels to Europe and Africa today by arriving in Brussels where he held a series of meetings with key officials of the European Union, NATO and the Belgian Government.

Among his meetings was one with the European Union High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana.

Following that meeting, the Secretary-General said they had discussed the Balkans, Darfur, Somalia and Côte dIvoire, as well as issues such as climate change and human rights. He said of those topics, Our positions are on the same page.

The Secretary-General also metwith EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and noted afterwards, that tomorrow, he and Barroso will participate in the Paris conference on Lebanons reconstruction, for which he urged international cooperation.

The Secretary-General also met with the Secretary-General of NATO, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, and discussed with him how to increase overall cooperation between the United Nations and NATO at the organizational level. He told reporters afterward that the two organizations are very committed to work together in the future.

Asked about the Secretary-Generals links to NATO, especially in relation to Afghanistan, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General was merely continuing with a UN trend of working more closely with a variety of regional organizations, including the European Union and African Union.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SHOWS GRAVE CONCERN OVER SUDAN

Before departing for Brussels, the Secretary-General met with Mutrif Siddig Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sudan, yesterday at UN Headquarters where he raised his concerns about developments in Darfur over the last few days.

The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed by the trend in aerial bombardments that the Government of Sudan has conducted in several areas of North Darfur and alarmed by the reports of many civilian casualties.

The Secretary-General is also extremely concerned about the arrest of 20 staff members of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the African Union Mission in Sudan in Nyala, South Darfur, on 19 January and expects a swift investigation of this incident, particularly as several of the staffers were assaulted.

The UN Mission in Sudan, meanwhile, continues to report incidents of harassments of the people of Darfur and humanitarian workers assisting them.

The Mission also reports that following the harassment of local security forces against UN and humanitarian workers in Nyala on 19 January, the State Attorney of South Darfur ordered on the 22nd of January the arrest of the representative of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who had signed for the staff release. The OCHA representative was released later on the same day after the intervention of UN Security and the UN Legal Adviser.

A joint press release is available on the stand, issued by the African Union force in Darfur (AMIS) and the UN Mission in Sudan regarding the most recent meeting of the Tripartite Mechanism, which is made up of representatives of the African Union Mission, the UN Mission, and the Government of Sudan.

The UN Mission provided an update on the status of deployment of UN personnel in Darfur on implementation of the Light Support Package to AMIS and indicated that to date, a total of 27 UN military staff officers and 25 UN Police advisors have been deployed in Darfur in support of the African Union Mission.

Asked about the UN staff arrests in Darfur, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General had raised his concerns yesterday with Mutrif Siddig. The Spokesman added that this sort of treatment of UN staff was not acceptable, and noted that the UN had made efforts to secure the release of those who had been held in custody.

BAN KI-MOON TO URGE SUPPORT FOR RECONSTRUCTION OF LEBANON

Asked for information on the proposals that the Secretary-General would make at the upcoming Lebanon conference in Paris, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General was urging international support for the reconstruction of Lebanon. Haq noted that the Secretary-General would also be holding a number of bilateral meetings on the margins of the conference, in which a wide range of issues, concerning support to the Lebanese Government, could come up.

The Spokesman also noted that the Secretary-Generals concerns on Lebanon had been expressed in a statement issued yesterday. In that context, Haq said the Secretary-General was concerned that the political dispute in Lebanon had led to violence. In response to a further question, the Spokesman said it was important that all parties be represented and feel represented in the Lebanese Government.

Asked about how aid would be provided to Lebanon, the Spokesman said that that matter would be discussed at the donors conference in Paris.

Asked if it was appropriate to hold a donors conference in France, which was a former colonial power, the Spokesman said that France had opted to host the event, and that no donors had expressed issues with that. Haq added that he hoped the conference would be successful.

HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF ORDERS INDEPENDENT PROBE ON ABUSE IN GUINEA

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, is calling for an independent investigation into reports that security forces have killed dozens of unarmed protestors in Guinea.

Expressing concern over the deterioration of the situation in the country, the High Commissioner today cited reports of excessive use of force by army and police. Over 40 people are said to have been killed since the start of a nationwide strike on 10 January.

MILITARY FORCES TAKE CONTROL OF GANG HOUSE IN HAITI

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) reports that its military forces undertook an operation early this morning to take control of a house in the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, which had been repeatedly used by gang members to conduct criminal activities and to attack MINUSTAH troops.

The UN troops returned fire after being shot at by gang members who quickly fled the area due to MINUSTAHs quick and decisive action. According to initial reports, no UN personnel were injured in the operation.

U.N. MISSION DISCUSSES HUMANITARIAN ISSUES WITH SOMALIA GOVERNMENT

A UN inter-agency mission was able to travel to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, today, to meet with officials from the Transitional Federal Government, discussing humanitarian and other issues.

The mission took place despite a small security incident in which four mortars were fired after the aircraft carrying the UN personnel landed. There were no UN casualties. The UN cannot speculate that it was deliberately targeted, and the UN staff traveled back to Nairobi after completing their tasks.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: CURRENT IMPASSE A SOURCE OF INSTABILITY

The Secretary-Generals latest report on Ethiopia and Eritrea is now available. In the report the Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council extends the mandate of the UN Mission there by a further six months.

The Secretary-General says that the ongoing stalemate in the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains a source of very deep concern. The potential for this situation to deteriorate further or even to lead to renewed hostilities is real, especially if it is allowed to continue indefinitely.

Furthermore, the current impasse is a serious source of instability for the two countries as well as the wider region, taking into account, in particular, the recent developments in Somalia.

REFUGEE AGENCY CONCERNED BY FLEEING PALESTINIANS IN IRAQ

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is extremely concerned about reports of terrified Palestinian men, women and children fleeing Baghdad, a day after some 30 Palestinian men were taken from their apartments by unidentified uniformed men.

UNHCR has taken up the issue with the Iraqi authorities. In the meantime, it is helping to prepare the delivery of relief supplies to the Syria-Iraq border, in preparation for the new arrivals.

PHILIPPINES TYPHOON RELIEF UNDERFUNDED

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

reports that an appeal issued last December for typhoon survivors in the Philippines remains critically underfunded.

OCHA adds that, after nearly two months, around half a million people are still in need of emergency shelter kits so that they can leave crowded evacuation centres and overburdened host families, in order to repair their homes.

AUDITS OF U.N. FUNDS AND PROGRAMMES TO INITIALLY FOCUS ON NORTH KOREA

Asked why the Secretary-Generals intention to audit all UN funds and programmes seemed to be limited now to only a few issues, the Spokesman said that the initial focus of the inquiry would be on the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Nevertheless, that was just a first step. Haq also noted that UN Controller Warren Sach would be available to give the press more information on this topic on Friday.

In response to a further question, Haq said that this type of auditing reflected a new approach, an effort to look at a wide range of issues in a wide range of nations. Using the External Board of Auditors was indeed drawing on existing UN resources, but it was important to note that the Board involved external and not UN auditors, he said.

The Spokesman denied that the new auditing plans represented a vote of no-confidence in previous external audits, saying this was just a redirecting towards certain and specific issues of concern.

Asked if the Secretary-General now felt that he had the power to order audits in agencies, funds and programmes, the Spokesman said that was not the case because agencies had their own auditing mechanisms. The Secretary-General did, however, want to find ways where everyone could work together to get these audits implemented.

Asked if the Secretary-General would call for the UN audits to be made public, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General encouraged the UN to be as transparent as possible.

Regarding the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in particular, the Spokesman clarified that the Secretary-General did not command UNDPs Executive Board, which was made up of Member States. Nevertheless, that boards next meeting on Thursday was open to accredited journalists, Haq added.

SENIOR APPOINTMENTS TO BE ANNOUNCED IN COMING WEEKS

Asked if the Secretary-General was concerned about the anxiety felt by senior officials due to the delay in announcing senior appointments, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General was trying to have these announcements made as quickly as possible. However, talks on restructuring the UN were still in progress with Member States.

Asked if the Secretary-General had received the resignation letters that he had requested from senior UN officials, the Spokesman said he had no announcements to make on resignations or new appointments until discussions on restructuring were completed.

BAN KI-MOON TO BOOST AWARENESS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AMONG MEMBER STATES

Asked for the Secretary-Generals position on climate change, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General took climate change very seriously. The Secretary-General considered it a fact, and he wanted to see how he could get Member States to take it seriously and to take action on it.

Asked if climate change would come up in the upcoming African Union summit in Addis Ababa, the Spokesman later added that it would. He added that, in Nairobi, the Secretary-General would meet with the head of the UN Environment Programme.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS MEETING ON GEORGIA: The Security Council held a private meeting on Georgia this morning. It is now holding consultations on Georgia and other matters, with the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Georgia, Jean Arnault, briefing.

SECRETARY-GENERAL WILL NOT ATTEND DAVOS FORUM DUE TO BUSY SCHEDULE: Asked why the Secretary-General had not traveled to this years World Economic Forum in Davos, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General had been unable to go to Davos because of his packed schedule, which included stops throughout Europe and Africa.

BAN KI-MOON CALLS HOLOCAUST DENIAL UNACCEPTABLE: Asked to react to a draft resolution currently before the General Assembly on Holocaust denial, the Spokesman said the resolution was a matter for Member States to consider. On Holocaust denial in general, the Secretary-General had already said it was unacceptable.

FIJI COUP MAY AFFECT FUTURE PEACEKEEPING CONTRIBUTIONS: Asked about the role of Fijian peacekeepers following the recent coup in Fiji, the Spokesman said that his offices previous comments still stand. He reiterated that the idea of reevaluating Fijis contributions to UN peacekeeping operations in light of the recent coup did not affect the Fijians who were already serving, such as those in Baghdad. Rather, future deployment might be affected.

NEW FOOD AID SYSTEM PROPOSED: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today proposed a series of major changes in the way international food aid is managed and delivered. In the latest edition of its flagship annual report, The State of Food and Agriculture, FAO recommends that, wherever possible, aid should be provided in the form of cash or food coupons rather than food aid shipments, which can affect producers and markets in recipient countries and distort international trade.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SUPPORTS COURT FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA: Asked about the Secretary-Generals position on the exit strategy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Spokesman said that the exit strategy had been devised by the ICTYs officials themselves, and that those officials had already been briefing the Security Council on it. The Secretary-General supported the work of the ICTY, as it worked to complete all of its trials in a timely manner.

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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