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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-23

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 23 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 and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister sign agreement on diplomatic solution to inspections standoff.
  • Secretary-General says Guatemala is consolidating peace, but armed forces must do more to document past abuses.
  • Security Council committee issues list of UNITA officials and family members affected by sanctions.
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda postpones hearing of General Romeo Dellaire.
  • Head of United Nations Development Programme in Africa's Great Lakes region to discuss development aid.
  • Officials of over 100 countries meet in Malaysia to discuss ban on export of hazardous wastes.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on Monday signed an agreement aimed at achieving a diplomatic solution to the standoff over weapons inspections.

"If we implement the things we have agreed, I am sure we will not have any difficulties," the Secretary-General told the press in Baghdad before departing for Paris. From Paris, he will return to United Nations Headquarters in New York, where he will brief the Security Council on Tuesday.

While details of the agreement are not being discussed pending its presentation to Security Council members, the Secretary-General said it was balanced and conformed to the Council's resolutions. "I am hopeful, perhaps even confident, that this agreement will take us beyond the crisis," he said. "I would hope that the terms we have agreed on -- questions of access, questions of inspections and all the things we are going to do are implemented respectfully and carefully."

The Secretary-General did offer one piece of information about the agreement, saying "categorically" that it contained no time limits or deadlines. "Having said that, I think it is important that we try to do our work within a reasonable period," he added.

The agreement was reached following a series of meetings with the Iraqi leadership, including President Saddam Hussein. "The President was very well informed and was in full control of the facts," Mr. Annan said. "I was grateful to him that we were frank, constructive, and, at the end, were determined to settle this issue diplomatically."

While in Baghdad, the Secretary-General was in telephone contact with a number of world leaders, including representatives of all five permanent members of the Security Council. Addressing the press on Monday, he thanked the many leaders who had exerted "strenuous efforts" to realize the agreement. Mr. Annan also thanked the millions who had prayed for the success of his mission. "You can never underestimate the power of prayer," he said.

The Guatemalan armed forces have been slow to cooperate with a United Nations commission set up to explore past human rights abuses, according to a new report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "It is in the armed forces' own interest to help shed light on the years of the 'dirty war' and show just how it operated," he states in his latest report on the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA).

The Secretary-General says that while the armed forces have provided some information, replies have been incomplete, access has been restricted and the documents provided were not of central importance. He emphasizes that the State must make a special effort to ensure the success of the commission, which was set up under the peace agreements "to clarify past human rights violations and acts of violence that have caused the Guatemalan people to suffer." According to the Secretary- General's report, the commission has received over 5,000 pieces of testimony and has "considerable backing" from the general public, while the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) has gradually cooperated in the investigation.

The Secretary-General also reports a number of positive developments, including the consolidation of peace. "The fact that the integration of former URNG combatants and the transformation of URNG into a legal party are taking place without violence or reprisals is a further sign of this positive change in a country that has a history of violence, polarization and political repression."

The role of the armed forces in national life -- predominant during the decades of armed conflict -- has decreased, according to the report. However, the Secretary-General reports that the lack of public safety in Guatemala and the limits on the National Civil Police have prompted some to call for the armed forces to be involved in internal security matters. The Secretary-General cautions that such involvement, while permitted by current legislation, must be strictly regulated according to the peace agreements' spirit of strengthening civilian power.

During 1997, the Guatemalan Government maintained 15 military zones. According to MINUGUA, this "perpetuates the clearly territorial pattern of deployment adopted by the Guatemalan armed forces in the 1980s in the context of counter-insurgency activities and contrasts with the deployment of 1961, when the armed conflict first began."

A Security Council committee on Angola on Monday issued a list of eighty senior officials of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and adult members of their immediate families affected by sanctions.

Under Security Council resolution 1127 (1997) adopted on 28 August, the Council decided to impose diplomatic sanctions against UNITA if the party failed to comply with its obligations under the 1994 Lusaka Protocol and relevant Council resolutions.

Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council decided that States shall impose restrictions on UNITA personnel and adult members of their immediate families and shall seal UNITA offices in their territories. It also urged States as well as international and regional organizations to stop their officials from travelling to UNITA headquarters, except for the purpose of promoting the peace process and humanitarian assistance.

Furthermore, the Council decided that States would deny UNITA aircraft permission to take off from, land in or overfly their territories, except in cases of medical emergencies or for flights carrying food, medicine or humanitarian supplies. They would also prohibit the supply of any aircraft to Angola without going through the country's Government.

Last Thursday the Security Council expressed its concern at the various delays in the Angolan peace process and reiterated the importance of adhering to the deadline of 28 February 1998 to complete the implementation of the peace plan for Angola.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has postponed hearing the testimony of General Romeo Dellaire because one judge had an accident on Sunday.

General Dallaire, former Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), had been scheduled to testify for the defence in the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu accused of committing crimes during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The President of the Tribunal, Judge Laity Kama and the Registrar, Agwu Okali, said that Judge Lennart Aspegren had a minor accident while horseback riding on Sunday. Judge Laity Kama also said that the health of Judge Aspergren gave no cause for concern.

In a related development, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, a former Director of Political Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday pleaded not guilty to six counts related to the genocide.

Mr. Barayagwiza who was also a senior officer in the administration of Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity. He is alleged to have presided over several meetings to plan the killing of Tutsis and certain Hutus in the commune of Mutara in the Gisenyi Prefecture. He is also charged with distributing weapons and money, instigating and ordering killings and acts of violence against Tutsis and certain Hutus in the commune.

The head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) visited Burundi today as part of his tour of the Great Lakes Region in Africa to discuss development assistance.

UNDP Administrator James Gustave Speth is also the Chairman of the United Nations Secretary-General's Interagency Task Force on Relief and Development in the Great Lakes region set up in May 1997 to coordinate the work done by United Nations agencies and other international organizations in the region.

Mr.Speth who left New York last Friday for Rwanda, is also scheduled to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo later this week. His tour which started on 21 February will end on 27 February.

The UNDP Administrator has gone to the three African countries to meet with the presidents and top government officials to discuss national priorities for humanitarian and development assistance after years of war and civil unrest in the region. In each country, Mr. Speth will explore opportunities for regional reconstruction initiatives to pave the way for long-term development.

During his tour, Mr. Speth will also participate in meetings with local non- governmental and civil society organizations, local representatives of aid donor-governments, local heads of United Nations agencies, and heads of UNDP's offices in the three countries and Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Republic of Congo.

Officials from over 100 countries meeting in Kuching, Malaysia, on Monday began to discuss a list of hazardous wastes covered under a convention controlling movements of hazardous wastes.

The meeting is a follow up to the September 1995 adoption of an Amendment to the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The Amendment bans the export of such wastes from developed to developing countries. It also calls for phasing out the export of hazardous wastes destined for recycling or recovery by 31 December 1997, with a full ban thereafter.

Opening the meeting, the Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment of Malaysia, Law Hieng Ding called on countries to join the Convention and "prove that they are sincere in protecting the welfare of third world countries."

The Secretary of the Basel Convention, Dr. Iwona Rummel Bulska, said that she was pleased to note that 117 states parties to the Convention were acting with determination to stop the illegal traffic and that Interpol was also helping in tracking down offenders.

Later this week, a high-level segment of the meeting is expected to adopt two lists of wastes developed by the Basel Convention's Technical Working Group. The first "hazardous wastes" list would ban the export of wastes containing arsenic, lead, mercury, asbestos and dozens of other chemicals and substances. A second "non-hazardous wastes" list includes wastes that can be safely and profitably recycled or re-used such as scrap iron, steel, copper, certain electronic assemblies, non-hazardous chemical catalysts, ceramics, solid plastic, paper and textile.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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