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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
25 July 2006

Spokesman's Noon Briefing

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


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


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General in Rome

The Secretary-General is in Rome today to attend an international conference on Lebanon tomorrow.  And, he told you before his departure that he hoped that a package would emerge from the discussions that would allow for concrete measures to resolve the Lebanon crisis.
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**Security Council

At United Nations Headquarters, the Security Council began its work this morning by meeting with the countries that contribute troops to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The Council, then, went right on to consultations on that Force, with a briefing by Lisa Buttenheim, Director of the Asia and Middle East division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the recent developments, including the Secretary-General’s latest report on that Mission, which we reported to you yesterday.

And in that, the Secretary-General recommended that the Council extend the mandate of UNIFIL by one month to provide the time for the Council to consider all possible options for future arrangements in south Lebanon.  In the current environment, he said in that report, circumstances conducive to United Nations peacekeeping do not exist.

And the mission itself -– the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon -– reports today that there are a number of civilians who are still stranded in southern Lebanese towns, where intensive fighting between Israeli forces and Hizbollah is taking place.  The mission says that four members of the Ghanaian UNIFIL battalion were slightly injured yesterday evening, when a tank, round from the Israeli side, impacted inside their position.

Meanwhile, this morning, Hizbollah opened small arms fire at a UNIFIL convoy consisting of two armoured personnel carriers (APCs), causing some damage to the APCs, but no casualties.

The mission also reports that a number of positions were resupplied yesterday, with additional resupply convoys planned for today.  We have more details in a press release from the Mission, upstairs.

**Lebanon/Humanitarian

Turning to the humanitarian side, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today that it expects to have three convoys this week in Lebanon, which will be transporting both WFP food supplies and relief from other organizations.  The first convoy was expected to depart tomorrow for Tyre, carrying 125 tons of wheat-flour.  The first supply of WFP food aid –- 25 tons of fortified biscuits that had arrived from Italy over the weekend –- is now being distributed to those that had been displaced in and around Beirut.  The agency hopes that other humanitarian convoys would leave this week.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) reports that all of its services are functioning through some 600 health-care professionals working around the clock to provide health assistance to Palestinian and Lebanese refugees.  UNRWA has been able to provide shelter in schools and camps in southern Lebanon for 4,000 Lebanese.  We have more details in today’s briefing notes from Geneva.

**Gaza/Humanitarian

And, turning to Jan Egeland’s mission, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator toured the Gaza Strip this morning, following his arrival last night in Israel.  He toured two UNRWA schools and a health clinic that were damaged by Israeli incursions last week.

Egeland then visited the Gaza power station, which was destroyed by an air strike on 28 June, leaving the Gaza Strip without 45 per cent of its prior electricity supply.

Egeland later travelled to Gaza City, where he met with the UNRWA Commissioner General and, held a town hall meeting with local community members.  After his return from Gaza, Egeland met with Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah.  And, tomorrow, Mr. Egeland plans to travel to Haifa to view the destruction and human suffering that has been wrought there by rockets launched into Israel by Hizbollah.
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That’s all I have for you, today.  Anything for me? Yes?
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Question:  I’m sorry.  I got in late, so if you touched on this, I apologize.  But, I understand that Kofi Annan is calling for an extension of the UNIFIL mandate for another month.  Can you explain what the rationale is behind that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Yesterday, the Secretary-General’s report on UNIFIL came out, and he has recommended that one month extension at that time, while the Security Council and the international community look at the shape of the Mission in southern Lebanon because clearly, right now it is not able to execute what its mandated to do, given the current conditions on the ground.

Question:  But, the rationale for doing that is what exactly?

Deputy Spokesman:  I just explained the rationale, so that…

Question:  …to allow time, just this period to figure that out?

Deputy Spokesman:  Exactly.

Question:  Do you have any new information on the Rome conference?

Deputy Spokesman:  In what sense?

Question:  I mean any new developments there?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, I think, flagged for you yesterday, before he left for the conference.  The conference is being organized -– the UN is not organizing it -- so my understanding is that it’s the United States and Italy that are organizing it.  The Contact Group of Lebanon, of which the United Nations is a member, is invited, as are a number of other participants, who have been invited by the organizers.  If you want to go over the list, it’s not ours, but I can share what I have.

Question:  I just wanted to know if you have any information, any result coming out of the…

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the meeting is tomorrow.

Question: [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, today he has arrived, and he’s getting ready for the meeting tomorrow.

Question:  And beyond the meeting, is he then going on to one of the capitals in the region, in the Middle East that is, to…

Deputy Spokesman:  As of now, he’s scheduled to be back here on Thursday.

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For information media • not an official record

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