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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-09

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Monday, 9 February 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


  • Secretary-General cancels trip to Middle East in order to remain available until Iraq crisis is defused.
  • Security Council members urge Bosnian parties to redouble efforts to increase refugee returns.
  • Secretary-General expresses sadness at earthquake devastation in Afghanistan; UN rushes relief there.
  • Trial of suspect in 1994 genocide in Rwanda resumes at International Criminal Tribunal Arusha, Tanzania.
  • United Nations says Sudan is denying humanitarian agencies access to areas in dire need of aid.
  • Zambia appeals for international relief assistance to help flood victims.
  • United Nations and International Chamber of Commerce to cooperate on boosting investment flows to Africa.
  • International Chamber of Commerce and Secretary-General agree on goals of future UN/private sector cooperation.
  • Head of United Nations Environment Programme pledges to strengthen Organization's presence in Nairobi.
  • United Nations communications agency agrees on technical specifications for computer modems.

"I think the discussions and the search for a diplomatic solution has reached a critical stage and my presence is needed here." This was Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reasoning for canceling a proposed trip to the Middle East.

The Secretary-General has maintained close and frequent contacts with all parties concerned, including the Iraqi authorities. "I have made it clear to the [Security] Council that I will be prepared to intervene," he said on Monday in an interview with Cable News Network.

Asked if the Secretary-General would go to Baghdad, his Spokesman, Fred Eckhard, replied that, "he is waiting to see what Member States want him to do". Mr. Eckhard also told reporters in New York on Monday that the Secretary-General was waiting to see if a "proposal emerges that would have the support of the Security Council as a whole and some indication that Iraq would be willing to discuss it".

The trip was scheduled to begin in Rome on Tuesday, where the Secretary- General was expected to address a ceremony marking the twentieth anniversary of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). His visit to the Middle East was to have included stops in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

Welcoming a number of positive developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, members of the Security Council on Monday nevertheless urged the parties to take steps to consolidate that progress.

In a statement read to the press by Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon, Council members urged the parties to redouble their efforts in establishing functioning common institutions, in increasing the phased and orderly return of refugees and displaced persons, and in promoting a free and independent media throughout the country.

Council members welcomed the declared commitment of the new Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska to cooperate fully in implementing the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also underlined the importance of international support for the new Government in its effort to fulfil its obligations under the Peace Agreement.

The members of the Security Council also called on the Bosnian authorities to strengthen their cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as well as with the High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement, Carlos Westendorp.

Mr. Westendorp told reporters that, "The improvements in the last month have been dramatic, not only because I have imposed solutions -- this is very easy -- but because these solutions I have imposed have been accepted by the parties."

Concerning the area's future needs, Mr. Westendorp stressed the importance of addressing the problem of war criminals, modifying property legislation, facilitating the return of refugees, and promoting economic reconstruction and democratization. "The process is not yet irreversible", he noted.

According to the latest report of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the activities of the Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the parties "remain generally compliant with most military aspects of the Peace Agreement". However, the report cautions that tension is expected to remain in contested areas as the results of the municipal elections are implemented. It also notes that "acts of violence might occur in conjunction with the return of refugees and displaced persons".

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday expressed sorrow at the devastation and the large loss of life caused by the earthquake and its aftershocks which struck northern Afghanistan last week.

In a statement issued through his spokesman, the Secretary-General expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims.

On Monday, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivered emergency supplies and food to victims in the earthquake-stricken region of Takhar in northern Afghanistan.

"We stopped in the village of Khoja-Kaireb where we found 320 dead", a WFP field staff member said. "The town has nearly disappeared, not only from the destruction of the quake but also from the resulting landslides."

The four-truck convoy carried 19.5 metric tons of WFP food as well as medicines, blankets, tents and cooking stoves that had been furnished by partner agencies. After travelling the 120 kilometres of rugged, mountainous roads, the convoy reached the city of Rustaq on Monday afternoon to begin distributing mostly non-food supplies to the stricken region.

"Our priority right now is to provide emergency items such as medicine and temporary shelter", said WFP's Deputy Representative for Afghanistan, Tarek El Guindi. He added that WFP was prepared in the event that the area ran out of food supplies. "It will be another 24 hours before we understand the region's food needs."

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan, based in Islamabad, Pakistan, is coordinating arrangements for the relief effort.

The earthquake, which hit on 4 February, measured approximately 6.1 on the Richter scale.

The trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu, accused of participation in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, resumed in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania on Monday.

A legal adviser in the Office of the Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda told United Nations Radio that the court began hearing testimonies for the defence. Kingsley Moghalu said that Monday's trial highlighted the problem of bringing witnesses from various countries to testify before the Tribunal, given the fact that some were refugees in various parts of the world. In some of these countries, Mr. Moghalu pointed out, the refugees did not have proper documents, which made it difficult for them to travel to Arusha, Tanzania to testify.

The session which resumed on Monday marked the second phase in the trial of Mr. Akayesu, a former bourgmestre of Taba in the prefecture of Gitarama. In the first phase, Mr. Moghalu said, 28 witnesses testified for the prosecution.

The former Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) is expected to testify on Monday next week. On 13 January, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan partially waived the immunity of General Dellaire so that he could testify in the trial. "It is not a waiver for General Dellaire to be able to release confidential documents of the United Nations", Mr. Moghalu stressed.

Mr. Akayesu is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and acts of sexual violence committed against female civilians during the genocide in Rwanda.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Government of Sudan has denied humanitarian agencies access to recently displaced populations.

Last week, the Sudanese Government began suspending all flights into the Bahr el Ghazal region of southern Sudan. An estimated 100,000 displaced people were reported to be fleeing the civil conflict that recently flared up in and around the towns of Wau, Aweil and Gogrial.

OCHA reported that the displaced people were gathering in a number of locations in Bahr el Ghazal but were reported to be weak, hungry and in urgent need of assistance in the form of food, medicines and shelter materials. Mostly women and children, these people had been walking for several days without food and with little water.

The United Nations-run Operation Lifeline Sudan is collecting emergency supplies and has positioned them in Lokichokio, ready to be flown to the areas where the displaced have been gathering. But without flight clearances from the Government, the supplies cannot be moved.

The flight ban covers almost half of the population of southern Sudan and has a serious impact, not only on the war-affected population, but also on hundreds of thousands of women and children living in Bahr el Ghazal, one of the most deprived areas in the South, according to OCHA. With little or no medicines on the ground, wounded civilians caught in the conflict have no chance of receiving medical care, OCHA warns. Cases of diarrhoeal diseases are already reported among children on the move.

An Operation Lifeline Sudan emergency response team has been established in Lokichokio, with representatives from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme, a number of non- governmental organizations as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Operation Lifeline Sudan is in close contact with government authorities in order to resolve this issue.

The Government of Zambia has appealed to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) for international relief assistance for the victims of floods.

According to the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Lusaka, Zambia, floods which have affected countries in eastern and southern Africa, have also caused damages in the northern sections of Zambia. OCHA has reported that crops and homes were destroyed or damaged in that region.

The Government of Zambia has approached OCHA, through the Resident Coordinator, to coordinate its request for relief assistance in the form of food, blankets, hand tools, transport and other supplies. The initial request aims to cover the needs of some 4,000 to 5,000 people. That number is expected to increase as further assessment data will be made available in the near future.

OCHA said on Monday that it was prepared to serve as a channel for contributions to be used during the immediate relief phase in coordination with relevant agencies of the United Nations system.

Senior United Nations officials, led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and a high-level business delegation from the International Chamber of Commerce on Monday agreed to join forces in a move aimed at boosting investment flows into Africa and least developed countries in other parts of the world.

The two organizations supported a proposal that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) should prepare a series of business investment guides to the least developed countries with the cooperation of the International Chamber of Commerce.

The decision to draw up the investment guides came at a meeting held Monday to explore ways of stepping up dialogue and cooperation between the United Nations and business.

The guides are to contain accurate, objective, investor-oriented and comparative information on investment opportunities and conditions in the countries covered. It was noted that UNCTAD has the technical capacity and requisite access to governments for compiling the guides, and that business input through the ICC would ensure that the guides are relevant to business needs.

Integration of the least developed countries into the global economy is a major challenge facing the international community. Even small amounts of foreign direct investment have a significant impact in countries with low levels of domestic investment and skills; therefore, their economies would benefit from greater flows.

According to United Nations estimates, the 48 countries identified by the United Nations as least developed, 38 of which are in Africa, currently attract less than 1 per cent of total foreign investment flows.

All these countries welcome foreign investment and many have introduced market friendly reforms to attract it. But political instability, the lack of favourable policy frameworks, inadequate physical infrastructure and the absence of efficient support services remain formidable disincentives.

However, there is evidence of potentially profitable investment opportunities in least developed countries. Many of them are not taken up simply because relevant information is not available to investors -- a serious shortcoming in the highly competitive world market for foreign investment. The investment guides are intended to help fill this gap.

Broad political and economic changes have opened up opportunities for a new partnership between the United Nations and the private sector which "could give new impetus to the pursuit of a more prosperous and peaceful world".

So reads a joint statement issued on Monday by United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan and the International Chamber of Commerce. "There is great potential for the goals of the United Nations -- promoting peace and development -- and the goals of business -- creating wealth and prosperity - - to be mutually supportive."

The seven-point statement calls for the United Nations and the business community to work jointly to expand economic opportunities, especially in countries which may face marginalization.

"Cooperation at the country level is largely about preparing the ground for business to invest on a scale and in a manner conducive to sustainable growth and development", the statement reads. It acknowledges that business is "well aware that it must be a responsible partner in the social order in which it operates".

Further dialogue between the United Nations and the private sector should focus on articulating common interests, intensifying the search for partnerships and translating the potential of cooperation into concrete action, according to the statement.

Representatives of more than 25 businesses from all regions of the world took part in the meeting with the Secretary-General and other United Nations officials. Also participating, as observers, were representatives of several United Nations Member States in their capacities as heads or members of intergovernmental bodies.

Klaus Topfer, the new Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) began his work in Nairobi on Monday by highlighting the importance of the work of the United Nations there. "The presence of the United Nations here in Nairobi underlines the importance of the African continent to the United Nations, and that is why I am very serious about strengthening this location", he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has designated Mr. Topfer as the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi.

In a statement issued through his Spokesman on Monday, the Secretary- General indicated that Mr. Topfer would serve, for the time being, as the head of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat). "This is intended to enhance the coherence of United Nations activities in the related fields of environment and human settlements", according to the statement.

The Secretary-General has also asked Mr. Topfer to chair a task force that would prepare proposals on reforming and strengthening United Nations activities in the environmental and human settlements areas.

Meanwhile in Nairobi, Mr. Topfer emphasized the UNEP's catalytic role and responsibility, at a time of increasing globalization, to ensure that "economic growth must be accompanied by environmental and social developments which in turn can make economic achievements sustainable". He also stressed the need for openness and team effort in enhancing UNEP's status as the global voice for the environment.

Mr. Topfer noted that it would take "extraordinary, dedicated efforts to bring environmental issues back to the center of global political activity", and called for cooperation and constructive criticism from all UNEP staff.

The United Nations communications agency has initiated a formal process to approve technical specifications for the fastest computer modems ever used on regular phone lines.

A United Nations Spokesman said that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on Friday reached an agreement on the specifications for PCM modems, also known as 56K modems. The modems can deliver information to computers at a rate of 56,000 bits per second using ordinary phone lines.

The modems standard will be adopted as a recommendation by the members of the ITU Standardization Sector, which is made up of representatives of 188 States and about 300 members of the telecommunications industry. The recommendation is expected to be widely used for applications for on-line services and to significantly boost modem sales.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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