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Highlights of the Noon Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General 30 Apr 2007

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SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS U.N. MISSIONS IN SUDAN AND WESTERN SAHARA

The Security Council has decided to extend the mandates of two peacekeeping missions - for Sudan and Western Sahara - which had been otherwise set to expire by the end of the day. Both missions will now be extended by six months, until the end of October.

The Council has also adopted a Presidential Statement on Somalia which, among other things, demands that the relevant authorities there do all they can to facilitate the free movement of aid and humanitarian workers throughout Somalia.

Today is the last day of the UK presidency of the Security Council. The United States will assume the Council's rotating presidency for the month of May.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Liberia, Alan Doss, welcomed the Council's decision last Friday to lift the sanctions on the export of rough diamonds from Liberia.

Asked whether the incoming Security Council President, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, would give a press briefing, the Spokeswoman said that the United States had said that he would not give a formal briefing but would speak to the press at the Security Council stakeout.

PARTICIPANTS IN DARFUR MEETING GRAVELY CONCERNED OVER CONTINUED VIOLENCE AND INSECURITY

The Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, attended a meeting hosted by Libya on the situation in Darfur over the weekend, which was attended by Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, the African Union, the European Union and the League of Arab States.

The meeting reconfirmed support for the Addis Ababa conclusions of 16 November 2006, subsequently endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.

The participants also underlined the urgency of finding a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Darfur crisis.

They also expressed grave concern over continued violence and insecurity in Darfur and urged all parties to immediately cease hostilities and act upon their commitment to uphold a ceasefire without delay.

Meanwhile, World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran says WFP has made dramatic progress in reducing malnutrition in Ethiopia, Sudan and Chad, but the achievements risk being diminished by constantly shifting security conditions.

Sheeran, speaking after she concluded a visit to the three countries, said she is encouraged by the gains she has seen but emphasized that sustained improvement requires long-term investment to steer a country from overwhelming crisis to gradual recovery.

SECURITY COUNCIL WRAPS UP KOSOVO MISSION

The Security Council has wrapped up its mission to the Balkans. After visiting Brussels and Belgrade, the mission arrived in Kosovo, where its head, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verbeke, spoke to the press.

In that encounter, Verbeke said that the Security Council delegation saw in Kosovo a willingness to build a strong multiethnic society. Asked about divisions in the Council over Kosovo, he said there was enough potential for mutual confidence and cooperation to move towards the international community's collective aim for Kosovo - namely a multiethnic society where everybody is at ease. Verbeke also said that there were no firm deadlines in the status process.

Following its visit to Kosovo, the team went to Vienna, where it met with the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Kosovo status process, Martti Ahtisaari.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO CO-CHAIR LAUNCH OF IRAQ COMPACT

The Secretary-General will be traveling to Egypt this week where he and the Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki will co-chair the launch of the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) on May 3rd in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The International Compact is an Iraqi initiative co-sponsored by the United Nations. It seeks to consolidate peace in the conflict-torn country and pursue political, economic and social development over the next five years.

The Secretary-General attaches great importance to the ICI and considers this process to be one of the most critical means of helping Iraq to build a "secure, unified, federal and democratic nation, founded on the principles of freedom and equality, capable of providing peace and prosperity for its entire people".

The Secretary General will also attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of expanded Iraq neighbours, representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council and members of the G-8 countries.

Meanwhile, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, said today that the process of selecting new Iraqi electoral commissioners complied with the relevant legal process and allowed Iraqis from all over the country and the diaspora to submit applications.

SOMALIA: U.N. HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR CONCERNED BY ABUSE OF CIVILIANS

Eric Laroche, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, has written an open letter to Somali leaders, military commanders, elders and community representatives, in which he expressed grave concern at reports of abuse, harassment, theft and rape perpetrated on civilians displaced by the latest round of violence in Mogadishu.

Laroche deplored the fact that while the country is in the middle of a major human tragedy, military activity continues to hamper the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in critical need.

He appealed to the Somali leaders to ensure the safe passage of relief goods and workers throughout the regions under their control and urged them and the Ethiopian forces backing the government to respect the provisions of international humanitarian law.

HAITI ELECTIONS A SUCCESS, SAYS U.N. ENVOY

The Special Representative of the Secretary General for Haiti, Edmond Mulet, has expressed his satisfaction at the successful conduct of the rerun of the local, municipal and legislative elections held this weekend in Haiti.

The UN Mission in that country says that more than 300,000 voters in 25 communities cast their ballots in 69 voting centres and 770 polling stations to choose their representatives.

The elections were organized with logistical and security support provided by the UN Mission to the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council and the National Police.

TIMOR-LESTE : FIRST-ROUND ELECTIONS WERE FREE AND FAIR

The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) said in a statement today that, while it recognizes that the first round of elections was not perfect, the consensus assessment was that they were free and fair, reflecting the will of the voters.

In response to the sixth report of the Electoral Certification Team, UNMIT also said this first national election conducted by Timorese authorities should be seen as a significant achievement.

The UN Mission adds it will continue to encourage calm and respect for the outcome of the elections as announced by the national electoral authorities.

NEPAL: MAOISTS NOT ALLOWING RETURNS OF DISPLACED PERSONS

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal reports that in many parts of the country, Maoist local cadres are not complying with the Party's formal commitments to allow displaced persons to return to their homes in safety.

In a statement released today, OHCHR called on the Maoists to support the return of IDPs and to ensure that they allow unconditional, dignified and safe return of all persons recognized as IDPs. The Mission also urges that local cadres return all land and property confiscated from IDPs.

OHCHR's regular monitoring activities in rural areas in recent months indicate a failure to implement such central-level commitments, due to the attitude of village-level cadres as well as the failure of district level CPN-M leaders to hold cadres accountable for preventing the safe and sustainable return of IDPs.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO OPEN RWANDA EXHIBIT TONIGHT

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open the traveling exhibit entitled, "Lessons from the Rwanda genocide." at 6 pm this afternoon in the South Gallery of the Visitors' Lobby at UN Headquarters.

The exhibit, which will first be shown at UN Headquarters over a period of three weeks, highlights the role of States in preventing genocide, educates viewers on the warning signals, examines the genocide in Rwanda, and emphasizes the plight of victims and the needs of survivors of sexual violence

The Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the UN, Joseph Nsengimana; Stephen Twigg, Campaigns Director of the Aegis Trust, which runs the UK Holocaust Center and the genocide memorial site in Kigali, Rwanda; and Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, will participate at the opening.

Asked whether the exhibition was a one-time event, the Spokeswoman said that this exhibition would last for three weeks, but she added that the General Assembly had also decided to commemorate the Rwandan genocide on a regular basis, so other events will follow.

Asked whether Member States had been consulted during the review process for the exhibition, Montas said they had not.

She said that DPI had noticed problems with the text of the exhibition earlier his month and had realized that it had not been sufficiently reviewed. Consequently, a number of experts were consulted, including from DPI, the Department of Political Affairs, the Office for Legal Affairs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

Asked whether there is any reference to the Armenians in the exhibition, the Spokeswoman said that one panel refers to "the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War One".

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
United Nations, S-378
New York, NY 10017
Tel. 212-963-7162
Fax. 212-963-7055