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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-20

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org


Friday, 20 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.


  • Security Council authorizes Iraq to sell $5.2 billion worth of oil over six months to pay for humanitarian aid.
  • Secretary-General arrives in Baghdad for meetings with senior officials aimed at resolving inspections standoff.
  • United Nations Mission in Georgia has direct contacts with captors holding its military observers.
  • Over 90,000 potential referendum voters identified by UN Mission in Western Sahara, Secretary-General reports.
  • UNICEF says anarchy in north of Sierra Leone disrupts agency's relief efforts.
  • United Nations says agricultural materials urgently needed for flood- affected province in Congo-Kinshasa.
  • Rwanda criminal tribunal authorizes UN Secretariat to testify as "friend of the court" in genocide trial.
  • Challenges posed by recent economic changes in Asia-Pacific region discussed at UN-sponsored meeting.

The Security Council on Friday unanimously expanded the "oil-for- food" programme for Iraq by authorizing that country to sell $5.2 billion worth of oil every six months -- up from $2 billion under previous arrangements.

By adopting resolution 1153 (1998), the Council altered the current arrangements, laid down in 1995. Originally, 30 per cent of oil revenues went directly to the Compensation Fund set up to pay those who suffered losses as a result of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Under the new resolution, the Council decided that the Secretary-General may "provide a proportionally smaller amount" for compensation.

In a recent communication to the Secretary-General, Iraq indicated that "its operational capacity is such that it can export a maximum of $4 billion worth of petroleum; any higher target is unrealistic and unfeasible". By its resolution, the Security Council requested that the Secretary-General appoint a group of experts to determine, in consultation with Iraq, whether the country can export $5.2 billion worth of oil. Based on "an independent report on Iraqi production and transportation capacity", the Council would be willing to consider authorizing the export of the necessary equipment to enable Iraq to increase its oil exports, the resolution states.

The new arrangements will take effect only after the Secretary- General has approved a distribution plan submitted by Iraq. In the past, the need for an approved distribution plan has stalled the oil-for-food programme. For that reason, the Secretary-General had recommended the use of a "single, ongoing distribution plan, kept under constant review and amended as necessary". Iraq subsequently rejected that recommendation, stating that an ongoing distribution plan would contravene the "exceptional and temporary" nature of the oil-for-food programme. By Friday's resolution, the Council called for "a distribution plan, submitted by the Government of Iraq, which includes a description of the goods to be purchased and effectively guarantees their equitable distribution, in accordance with [the Secretary- General's] recommendation that the plan should be ongoing".

Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived at the Saddam Hussein International Airport in Baghdad on Friday, where he was met by the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz.

Addressing the press at the airport, the Secretary-General described his visit, which is aimed at achieving a diplomatic solution to the standoff between the United Nations and Iraq as "a sacred duty". He also stated that as Secretary-General, he had "an obligation, a juridical and moral obligation to try and reduce international tensions wherever I can".

Mr. Aziz said he shared the optimism of the Secretary-General about the outcome of his visit, and indicated that the Government of Iraq wanted a "peaceful, balanced and fair solution", one that would "preserve the sovereignty, dignity and national security of Iraq as well as the implementation of Security Council resolutions."

The Secretary-General and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister then began talks, which are scheduled to continue on Saturday and are expected to last for three hours.

United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard, who is travelling in Baghdad with the Secretary-General, announced that Mr. Annan's trip will be extended by one day, through 23 February, to allow for discussion on the oil-for-food programme.

The United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) has had direct contact with a group of armed men who have taken four of its military observers hostage.

Briefing the Security Council on Friday, United Nations officials said that the hostage takers called themselves the "National Guard of for the Legitimate Government of Georgia".

The Council was told that the Georgian negotiating team which had been in the house where the hostages are being kept had left the scene for the time being. The Georgian authorities would continue to be in charge of the negotiations.

The Security Council took note of the initiation of the dialogue between the captors and UNOMIG and urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to inform it on the latest developments.

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has so far identified 90,537 potential voters in the poll, which will allow them to decide between independence or integration with Morocco. In January alone, 14,000 persons were identified -- the highest in one month achieved in one month since the process began.

The Secretary-General provided these figures in his latest communication to the Security Council covering MINURSO's activities. In it, he appeals to the Council to support the continued preparations and provide the necessary resources for the full deployment of MINURSO.

At the same time, the Secretary-General that there has been a "perceptible increase" in the level of tension between the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y del Rio de Oro. The tension is blamed on a number of factors, including interruptions in the identification process caused by the illness of participating sheikhs on either side. "There was a marked increase in anti-POLISARIO and sometimes anti-MINURSO coverage in the Moroccan press," the Secretary-General writes. Moroccan official public demonstrations have also been held to protest the negative testimony of sheikhs on the POLISARIO side.

The Secretary-General appeals to the parties to cooperate with MINURSO in the identification of persons from non-contested tribes.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says that it would be able to quickly resume the support of health units and immunization campaigns if security could be quickly restored in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone.

However, UNICEF Representative Tony Bloomberg said that the province remained in a state of anarchy with groups of the ousted junta forces continuing to hold some towns and to engage in looting property.

As for Freetown, where the situation was relatively calm, the city population continued to suffer from the consequences of the latest fighting, cut off from supplies of food, water and medicine, according to the United Nations agency.

The situation at local hospitals was particularly critical. In the words of UNICEF officer Murada Sesay, the wounded were "laid on the ground outside the hospital doors. Inside, the beds are full but there are no drugs." After the fighting died down this week, 25 of the 70 casualties brought to hospitals were children, he said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that agricultural materials are urgently needed to avert food shortages in a flood-stricken province in Congo-Kinshasa.

In its latest situation report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, OCHA says that a joint mission which had gone to assess the damage and needs in the flood-affected Province Orientale has completed the preparation for its report.

According to the mission, the worst phase of the floods is considered to be over, with the river levels decreasing. However, the mission says that there are still some scattered cases of emergency in several villages along the Congo River between Kisangani and Lukutu and Lowa and Ubundu. A tentative estimate of the affected persons for the entire province is 26, 000.

As the floods have destroyed crops and food stocks, the affected population throughout the province is facing a precarious food situation, according to the United Nations mission. It says that assistance in the form of seeds and agricultural tools and equipment are urgently needed for the next planting season to avert a looming threat of food shortages.

OCHA says that it is prepared to serve as a channel for cash contribution to be used during the immediate phase of relief assistance.

A trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has authorized the United Nations Secretariat to appear before it as a "friend of the court" in the trial of a genocide suspect.

The Tribunal announced on Friday that in accordance with one of its rules, the Secretariat could appear as Amicus Curiae to make a statement on the scope of the waiver of immunity enjoyed by General Romeo Dallaire. General Dallaire who was the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), will testify as a witness for the defence in the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu. Mr. Akayesu is accused of committing crimes during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The Secretary-General will be represented by Ms. Daphna Shraga, of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs in New York. She will make her statement before General Dellaire's testimony scheduled for 23 February 1998.

Rule 74 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal provides that a trial Chamber "may, if it considers it desirable for the proper determination of the case, invite, or grant leave to a State, organization or person to appear before it and make submissions on any issue specified by the Chamber."

The impact of recent economic changes on the industrial and technological development in the Asia-Pacific region is being discussed at the Meeting of Ministers of Industry and Technology which will run through 24 February at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok. High-level officials from some 27 countries are gathered at the event, which is being sponsored by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

At the opening session on Thursday, ESCAP Executive Secretary Adrianus Mooy told participants that the repercussions of the region's crisis could become a source of continuing economic difficulty for many years to come. New forms of risks with intensified competition for markets, investment resources and technology flows had emerged, he noted.

Most analysts were predicting a severe contraction in the growth rate of gross domestic product in several countries of the region, Mr. Mooy said. But he went on to express the belief that the present financial sector crisis was a temporary interruption in the region's spectacular performance in the industrial and technological fields. The crisis should be viewed as an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and adopt remedial measures. As it eased, liberalization and privatization could be expected to gather fresh momentum in the region, he said.

At the conclusion of the Meeting, the Ministers are expected to adopt recommendations designed to meet the region's challenges for sustaining industrial and technological dynamism. A plan of action aimed at accelerating industrial and technological development in the region is also expected to be adopted.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

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