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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · Geneva


PB/02/02/01
1 February 2002

Geneva Press Briefing

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

Marie Heuzé, the Director of the United Nations Information Service at Geneva, briefed journalists about comments by the Secretary-General on the Middle East; the Secretary-General's call for an Olympic Truce; and upcoming press conferences.

Secretary-General on the Middle East

The Director recalled that during the Secretary-General's official visit to Austria, which ended yesterday, he met with Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League. In a press conference on Wednesday, 30 January, the Secretary-General was asked what attitude the international community should take towards the Middle East. "I think we have tended to focus too much on security only -- I think that security should be linked with improvement in the conditions of the Palestinians and it should also be linked with political prospects of getting the parties to the table and discussing a settlement", said the Secretary-General.

Asked if he was concerned about Yasser Arafat's physical and diplomatic isolation, the Secretary-General replied: "Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian people. By being isolated and virtually being under house arrest makes it difficult for him to lead. He is in an extremely difficult situation. He's being asked to stop the violence. He's being asked to lead and yet, as a leader, he and his institutions are under so much pressure that I really do not see how that is going to help, how he is going to go about delivering what the international community is asking him to do. And I think we need to be careful how we deal with the situation, because when the leader who is supposed to act is weakened to the point of impotence, we have a real problem on our hands". The Secretary-General's comments were available in the press room in English and French.

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For information media - not an official record