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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
19 November 2008




Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
 

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

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** Middle East

And turning to the Middle East -- yesterday, from Geneva, the Secretary-General telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to express his deep concern over the consequences of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.  He strongly urged the Prime Minister to facilitate the freer movement of urgently needed humanitarian supplies and of concerned UN personnel into Gaza.

The Israeli Prime Minister denounced the continuing rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, but agreed to look seriously into the urgent matter raised by the Secretary-General.

On the ground today, no fuel, humanitarian supplies or commercial commodities were allowed into Gaza, according to the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO).

Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says that, starting tomorrow, it will have to suspend cash assistance to some 98,000 of the poorest people in Gaza.  This is due to the unavailability of shekel bank notes in Gaza banks.

In related news, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Karen AbuZayd, has warned that UNRWA is facing what the agency is calling a “grave and imminent financial crisis".  She was addressing UNRWA's annual meeting, which brings together donors, host Governments, non-governmental organization partners and other stakeholders.

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**Questions and Answers

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Question:  Alright.  Also you said this thing on Gaza -- Tzipi Livni has said that Israel will now boycott the Durban II Conference in April in Geneva.  Is the UN aware of that?  Do they have any… Do they see any linkage between the calls by Ban and the Human Rights Commissioner yesterday in this announcement?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights regrets Israel’s confirmation that they do not intend to participate in the Durban Review Conference.  Given the critical importance of the issues under discussion at the Conference, broad participation is essential.

These issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are issues which affect all countries and millions of individuals around the world, on a daily basis.

The outcome document of the original Durban Conference was agreed to by consensus and is an extremely valuable document with important and innovative recommendations for tackling racism in all its manifestations.

This is the initial response from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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For information media • not an official record

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