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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-17

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 17 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.


  • An advance team goes to Iraq to prepare for United Nations Secretary- General's visit.
  • Sierra Leonean Ambassador says West African peacekeepers foiled a plot to unleash genocide in his country.
  • United Nations committee works to draft convention against nuclear terrorism.
  • Genocide suspect pleads not guilty before International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
  • United Nations relief aid convoy arrives in earthquake-stricten Afghan area.
  • World Food Programme ship arrives in Kenya with 25,000 tonnes of maize for Great Lakes region.
  • United Nations food agency warns that lack of funds will force cuts in rations to refugees in Kenya by half.
  • United Nations health agency says banning commercial food will not prevent spread of cholera.
  • States parties to women's anti-discrimination treaty elect 12 experts to monitoring committee.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced on Tuesday that an advance team was leaving this evening to prepare for his visit to Iraq.

Addressing the press following consultations with members of the Security Council, the Secretary-General said that he expected to arrive in Baghdad on Friday, with the support of the entire Security Council. The United Nations leader added that he would conduct discussions this weekend in an attempt to resolve the crisis pertaining to the inspection of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The Secretary-General said he believed that he now had "a clear basis on which to brief the Security Council on Wednesday and prepare to proceed to Baghdad."

Asked if he had "a trip or a deal", the Secretary-General said he believed he had both.

The Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations has said that West African peacekeepers have foiled a plot to unleash genocide in his country.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Ambassador James Jonah said that the military junta, which has been ousted by the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG), had planned to carry out the genocide from the hills of Freetown.

He said that during the fighting, the junta had deliberately mounted guns on a government building and, using two gunboats, had fired on civilian targets. Mr. Jonah charged that this was designed to "produce an outrage in the international community and they would blame ECOMOG and the Security Council would intervene and call for a ceasefire." Ambassador Jonah accused the retreating junta forces of burning houses in and around Freetown.

He also accused Liberian armed elements of fighting on the side of the military junta in his country. He added that, in violation of the Security Council sanctions, weapons continued to flow into Sierra Leone from Liberia.

On humanitarian assistance to his country, Ambassador Jonah thanked the United Nations for the speed with which it had responded to "bring succour" to the Sierra Leoneans.

In a related development, a ship chartered by the World Food Programme (WFP) left Monrovia for Freetown with 850 metric tonnes of emergency food, WFP announced on Tuesday. The priority for the food assistance would be hundreds of severely malnourished children and the most vulnerable people trapped by the fighting in Freetown, the United Nations food agency said.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leonean refugees continued to arrive in Guinea by boat although Freetown was reported to be calmer with a curfew imposed by ECOMOG troops, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday that an estimated 4,500 refugees had arrived since 6 February. On Tuesday three more boats carrying around 100 people arrived in Conakry, the agency said. Those arriving, according to UNHCR, spoke of lack of food and medicines. They also cited reprisals against people linked to the defeated junta as reasons for leaving Sierra Leone.

UNHCR met with representatives of the exiled Sierra Leonean Government in Conakry on Tuesday to discuss plans for repatriation. UNHCR and other United Nations agencies will send a mission to Sierra Leone on Wednesday to assess requirements for assistance and to re- establish contact with an estimated 14,000 Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone, UNHCR said.

Responding to the potential danger of acts or threats of nuclear terrorism, a United Nations committee on Tuesday began work on a draft convention on acts of nuclear terrorism.

"The temptation to use nuclear terrorism is very very great", said the representative of the Russian Federation, Alexandre Zmeevski, introducing a 20-article draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. He said the convention would fill the substantial gaps in existing legal instruments.

A number of participants in the meeting called for closer examination of the relationship between the draft convention and existing legal instruments. Those include the 1997 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings; the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; and the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Some participants noted that rather than elaborating a new instrument, it might be possible to address the issue through a protocol to the 1980 Convention.

At its first session last year, the Ad Hoc Committee elaborated a draft Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings which was adopted by the General Assembly last December. Fourteen States have signed the Convention since it opened for signature on 12 January.

A businessman and former Bourgmestre suspected of genocide in Rwanda pleaded not guilty before the International Criminal Tribunal for that country.

Laurent Semanza has been charged with seven counts of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions.

The counts charge him with being responsible for the extermination of civilians as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population on ethnic or racial grounds. His is also charged with causing violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons in the course of a non-international armed conflict. In particular, Mr. Semanza stands charged with murder and cruel treatment, such as mutilations.

The 51-year old suspect is alleged to have participated in organizing and carrying out two church massacres in Gikoro Commune, and other massacres in Bicumbi Commune, among other crimes.

A United Nations convoy carrying fifty tonnes of relief items arrived in earthquake-stricken Rustaq in Afghanistan from Faizabad on Tuesday.

A United Nations spokesman said that another convoy left Dushanbe, Tajikistan, with 200 tonnes of supplies. A third convoy was on standby in Kabul and had been unable to leave because the road had been hit by an avalanche.

Delivering relief assistance to the district of Rustaq, which on 4 February was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, has been hampered by bad weather conditions. United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that United Nations planes were again not able to land in the area on Tuesday because of fog and heavy snow.

Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello was scheduled to leave for Afghanistan on Tuesday. "Weather conditions permitting", Mr. de Mello would visit the earthquake site in the Rustaq area, Spokesman Eckhard said.

During his four-day mission in Afghanistan, Mr. de Mello would also rally donor support for the 1998 Consolidated Appeal for $157 million launched on 4 February.

A vessel chartered by the World Food Programme (WFP) docked in Mombasa, Kenya, with 25,000 tonnes of maize for emergency operations in the Great Lakes region, WFP announced on Tuesday.

The United Nations food agency said that the shipment, valued at over $10 million, will provide maize rations for 1.4 million people for one and a half months. The maize will be divided among WFP operations in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Allen Jones, Regional Manager for WFP's Great Lakes operation described the food donation, which was given by the European Union, as an extremely welcome contribution. "It is a significant part of this year's regional food needs", Mr. Jones said.

Floods, attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon, have destroyed major transport links from the ports of Mombasa, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, forcing the agency to resort to longer and slower alternative delivery routes. "The challenge now will be to transport the food in-land", the WFP official said.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Tuesday that it will be forced to cut food rations for 125,000 refugees in Kenyan camps by half in two weeks if it does not receive urgent funding.

WFP says the reduction comes at a time when the refugees are particularly weak. They are living in the Dadaab camps in northeastern Kenya where malaria is on the rise as a result of constant rains and floods caused by El Nino.

Expressing serious concern about the possible need to cut food aid to the Kenyan refugees, WFP Advisor Rikki Malik-Lali said "they have no other means of survival and are entirely dependent upon WFP food aid".

Funding is urgently needed to maintain an airbridge being used by WFP to transport food to the 125,000 Somali and Sudanese refugees in three camps. Currently, they are receiving almost 1,900 calories in their daily ration, which includes maize, wheatflour, beans, lentils, oil and salt. "This provides the bare minimum in nutritional value. If it is halved, we will see a rapid increase in malnutrition which could ultimately lead to starvation and further outbreaks of disease", warned Ms. Malik-Lali.

WFP has been urging donors to give $2.2 million to continue the airbridge until March, but has so far received only $705,000 from the United States and the Netherlands.

The United Nations health agency has rejected the use of bans on commercially imported food as a means of stopping the spread of cholera.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday reported that although food that has crossed international borders can cause cholera, WHO has never documented a cholera outbreak resulting from commercially imported food.

"The placing of embargoes on the importation of food such as freshwater fish and vegetables is not an appropriate course of action to prevent the international spread of cholera", said WHO Director-General Hiroshi Nakajima. He said food bans could represent "an additional burden on the economy of the affected countries."

According to the WHO Director-General, the best way to deal with food imports from cholera-affected areas is through agreements between importing countries and food exporters. They need to establish which hygienic practices are required during food handling and processing to prevent, eliminate or minimize the risk of any potential contamination. Exporters and Governments should also set up arrangements to ensure that new measures are enforced.

States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women have elected 12 experts to serve on a committee which monitors its implementation.

The Convention embodies the most comprehensive legally binding treaty on women's rights. Often referred to as an international bill of rights for women, the Convention sets an agenda for national action to end discrimination.

Elected on Tuesday were: Feng Cui, of China; Naela Gabr, of Egypt; Savitri Wimalawathie Ellepola Goonesekere, of Sri Lanka; Rosalyn Hazelle, of Saint Kitts and Nevis; Rosario G. Manalo, of the Philippines; Mavivi Lillian Yvette Myakayaka-Manzini, of South Africa; Zelmira M. E. Regazzoli, of Argentina; and Chikako Taya, of Japan.

Re-elected to the Committee were: Charlotte Abaka, of Ghana; Emna Aouij, of Tunisia; Ivanka Corti, of Italy; and Carmel Shalev, of Israel.

The Committee members elected on Monday will serve four-year terms beginning on the first of January next year.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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