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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-24

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 24 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 members thank Secretary-General for "very satisfactory" agreement reached in Baghdad.
  • Arriving at Headquarters to applause of staff, Secretary-General says collective efforts exemplify United Nations.
  • Security Council calls on Tajik parties to intensify efforts to implement peace agreement.
  • United Nations Secretary-General calls on Palestinians and Israelis to settle their conflict.
  • International Court of Justice poised to decide whether it can consider Libya's cases on Lockerbie affair.
  • United Nations Human Rights Commissioner concerned at Malaysian court's decision to try a UN Rapporteur.
  • New United Nations drug report emphasizes role of culture in undermining prevention efforts.
  • United Nations Children Fund says thousands of Rwandan children are struggling without parents.
  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Common Fund for Commodities enhance cooperation.

Members of the Security Council on Tuesday expressed their gratitude to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for "the action he undertook in Baghdad which led to the very satisfactory result, namely the Memorandum of Understanding" signed by Iraq and the United Nations.

"The Security Council encouraged the Secretary-General to continue working to enable the United Nations to arrive at a prompt and lasting solution of that matter," said Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon, who addressed the press on behalf of the members.

United States Ambassador Bill Richardson said his Government welcomed the Secretary-General's initiative. "It is a good initiative, but we want to see clarification, verification," he said. "We want to see the agreement tested, we want to see it complied with, and we want to see it enforced."

The Ambassador of the United Kingdom, John Weston, said the Council had held a "good discussion which has enabled us to clarify some of the questions about the agreement and what it means." He said the Council would move to adopt a draft resolution in the next few days that should allow for "putting the relationship with Iraq on a more stable footing".

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have done my work. I trust the Council will do its duty," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said at a press conference held after his briefing to the Security Council. He said he had a "general sense of approval" from the membership on the agreement signed in Baghdad. "Obviously there are details which will have to be worked out, and explanations which must be given, but none of it gives me and my team any difficulties," he said, adding, "I'm convinced that once the explanations are given, we will have unanimous and strong Council support."

Mr. Annan noted that, in contrast to other agreements negotiated between the United Nations and Iraq, "this one was negotiated with the President himself". Given the fact that it had been negotiated by Saddam Hussein, the Secretary-General predicted a "qualitative difference" in Iraq's attitude.

The Secretary-General, visibly tired from his intensive schedule of travel and talks, called for ongoing arrangements to ensure that the relationship between the United Nations and Iraq could be maintained smoothly. "We should have a mechanism for resolving conflicts before they become dilemmas and almost bring us to the brink of war," he said.

He praised the Iraqi leadership for showing "courage, wisdom and flexibility", and said the outcome was a victory not for himself as Secretary-General, but for the United Nations as a whole.

The Secretary-General emphasized the role of peoples around the world in galvanizing support for the Iraq mission, as well as other important initiatives, such as the global ban on landmines. He called attention to two issues which should mobilize the peoples and governments of the world in the coming months, namely the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed on 10 December 1948, and the General Assembly's special session on drugs, to be held from 8 to 10 June.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived at United Nations Headquarters in New York to the applause of his staff, who gathered around the building's entrance to welcome him upon his return from Iraq.

After being introduced by the President of the Staff Union, Rosemary Waters, the Secretary-General paid tribute to all who had helped contribute to the successful diplomatic outcome. He began by praising United States President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair "for being perfect peacekeepers". Mr. Annan, who served previously as the Under-Secretary- General of Peacekeeping Operations, said "we taught our peacekeepers that the best way to use force is to show it in order not to have to use it". By demonstrating firmness and making military force available, the United States and the United Kingdom had contributed to the solution, he said.

Mr. Annan went on to pay tribute to the Russian Federation, particularly President Boris Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. The Secretary-General noted that their envoy had spent about a month in Baghdad pushing for a diplomatic solution. "President Chirac of France was very effective in trying to work with other governments to find a diplomatic solution," Mr. Annan said, noting that the French leader had also sent an envoy to meet with the Iraqi leadership. "In fact, when he realized I was taking on this journey and how arduous it is, particularly when you go by commercial flight, he gave me his own plane," the Secretary-General said.

Other countries, including Qatar and Canada, had also stepped forward to offer transportation to the Secretary-General to facilitate his mission. President Mubarak of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan and others, including Pope John Paul II, also supported the diplomatic effort, Mr. Annan said.

"There were millions of people around the world rooting for a peaceful solution and praying for us," the Secretary-General said to applause. "This is what the United Nations should be like."

Although he addressed his remarks to the United Nations staff, Mr. Annan made reference to "We the Peoples" -- the opening words of the Organization's Charter. "When we pull together from across the world and work together to solve a problem, we almost always can do it," he said.

The Security Council on Tuesday called on the Government of Tajikistan and the United Tajik Opposition to intensify their efforts to fully implement the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan.

In a statement read out on behalf of the Council members by its President, Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon, the Security Council expressed regret that implementation of the Agreement had been slow.

The Council reiterated its concern that the security situation in some parts of Tajikistan remained precarious. Ambassador Rewaka said "the international community is ready to continue assisting in the implementation of the General Agreement as well as in humanitarian and rehabilitation programmes". But he added that "its ability to do so and also the ability of UNMOT to carry out its tasks more effectively is linked to improvements in the security situation".

Firmly condemning the November 1997 hostage-taking of relief workers, the Council urged the parties to cooperate further in ensuring the security and freedom of movement of international personnel. The Council also welcomed a presidential decree establishing a joint security unit charged with providing security, including armed escorts, for UNMOT personnel. It called upon the parties to activate the unit as soon as possible.

Also by its Presidential Statement, the Council welcomed the readiness of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Peacekeeping Forces to arrange for the guarding of United Nations premises in Dushanbe. The Secretary- General was encouraged to continue expanding the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) to its authorized strength as soon as he deems that conditions are appropriate.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the Palestinians and Israelis to move towards a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of their conflict.

In a message to the High-Level Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which opened in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday, the Secretary-General said that he attached high priority to the search for a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its core question of Palestine. In the message, delivered by Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Annan said that the current prolonged stalemate between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization was a source of great concern.

Mr. Annan noted some of the achievements in recent years in the Middle East including mutual recognition by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the signing of the Declaration of Principles and subsequent agreements, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the beginning of a process of reconciliation and economic cooperation among the countries in the region. "The parties must not turn back now; they must find it in themselves to persevere," the Secretary-General said.

The Secretary-General said the road to peace also made it essential to put an end to terrorism and violence among Palestinians and Israelis. He said that terrorism and violence were "acts by extremists aimed not only at innocent civilians but also at the peace process itself."

The conference, scheduled to end on Wednesday, has been convened under the auspices of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The principal judicial organ of the United Nations will announce this week whether it can consider two cases related to the Lockerbie affair.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced on Monday that it would decide whether it has the jurisdiction to deal with two cases brought by Libya against the United States and the United Kingdom over the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988.

The United Kingdom and the United States maintain that the Court lacks jurisdiction in the matter and that the Libyan claims are not admissible, particularly in view of resolutions adopted by the Security Council. The Council imposed sanctions on Libya pending its surrender of the two suspects for trial either in the United Kingdom or the United States.

Libya argues that it has the right to try the suspects under the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation. The Libyan Government has offered to let the suspects be tried in a third country or at the ICJ or another court set up at The Hague.

The ICJ decision will be announced on Friday, 27 February. It will be simultaneously posted on the Court's website at .

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern at the decision of the Malaysian court to try the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

In a statement Tuesday, Mrs. Mary Robinson said that she was gravely concerned that defamation suits filed against Special Rapporteur Param Cumaraswamy could proceed. That decision effectively found that Mr. Cumaraswamy was not immune from legal process in Malaysian domestic courts, she said.

Mrs. Robinson noted that in its decision of 19 February 1998 dismissing the Special Rapporteur's application for leave to appeal, the Federal Court stated that the Special Rapporteur was neither a sovereign nor a diplomat but an "unpaid, part-time provider of information." The Human Rights Commissioner said that this characterization by the highest court in Malaysia misconstrued the role of Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights.

She also noted that the court had ignored a certificate presented in March 1997 by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan asserting that Mr. Cumaraswamy, as Special Rapporteur, enjoyed the protection provided under the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The Secretary-General had determined that the words constituting the basis of the complaints in this case were spoken by the Special Rapporteur in the course of his mission and was therefore immune from legal process with respect to those words.

The Court's decision also ignored the 1989 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in another case in which the Court advised that independent experts, such as a Special Rapporteur, were entitled to all the privileges and immunities provided under Section 22 of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

Mrs. Robinson said she fully agreed with the Chairman of the Meeting of Special Rapporteurs, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro who told the Secretary- General in July last year that "threatening the immunity of one expert constitutes an attack on the entire system and institution of the United Nations special procedures and mechanisms."

The Human Rights Commissioner urged the Government of Malaysia to respect its obligations under the Convention on Privileges and Immunities and to ensure that Mr. Cumaraswamy was protected from further action in this matter.

A prevailing culture of tolerating recreational drug use undermines prevention efforts, according to the latest report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

The Vienna-based INCB, a United Nations body, is concerned that a "culture of drug-friendliness" appears to be gaining prominence. Song lyrics advocate recreational drug use, while some pop stars set examples as if the use of drugs for non-medical purposes were normal. "The effect of drug- friendly pop music seems to survive even the occasional shock of overdose deaths, as such incidents tend to be seen as an occasion to mourn the loss of an idol and not an opportunity to confront the lethal effect of 'recreational' drug use," the Board points out.

The Internet has served to spread knowledge about drug cultivation and use that previously was hard to come by, according to the INCB's report. Information on how to grow cannabis indoors and how to make a range of "designer drugs" is posted on the world wide web, crossing all national boundaries and defying restrictions. The Board expresses concern about the fact that there are a number of web pages devoted to how to produce and manufacture illicit drugs, and how to avoid detection.

Given the power of media stars, the INCB recommends that Governments should seek the assistance of the sports and entertainment industries to influence the current "pro-drug" environment. "The creation of a culture that is predominantly against drug abuse is the most promising form of prevention in the long-term," the report states.

In order to galvanize a global effort in response to the drug problem, the General Assembly will convene a special session from 8 to 10 June with the participation of high-level representatives from around the world.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday that thousands of children who survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda were struggling in desperately impoverished child-headed households.

The virtual obliteration of Rwanda's social fabric had made the problem far worse in that Central African nation than in other countries ravaged by war, the United Nations agency said. It added that the spread of AIDS in Rwanda was also an increasingly important factor.

UNICEF's Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, said that while vast numbers of people were still in torment in the country, few remained as vulnerable as the children living in households without parents.

Although the number of child-headed households put at 85,000 at the end of the conflict may have decreased, there were still 60,000 such households, representing 300,000 children, said UNICEF. Ms. Bellamy said that whatever the exact numbers, the scale and persistence of the problem was daunting, adding that the plight of these children was not only heartbreaking and unacceptable, but also raised "deeply troubling questions about the long- term prospects for the country's survival."

A report prepared by World Vision with UNICEF's technical and financial assistance found that children in these homes were especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in a region where women were widely discriminated against. According to the report, three out of four households were headed by girls.

The report, entitled "Qualitative Needs Assessment of Child-Headed Households in Rwanda", found that 95 per cent of the children in those households had no access to health care or education; were frequently exploited and abused sexually, not only by their own community but even by relatives; had little basic household or agricultural necessities; and were frequently denied inheritance rights thus depriving them of property left behind by their parents, including land and houses.

The Executive Director of UNICEF said that although the Government was doing its best to assist these children, it did not have sufficient resources.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) have agreed to enhance cooperation at all levels.

The two organizations announced on Tuesday that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to improve the use of their resources more effectively and efficiently.

The two organizations have cooperated in the past to help developing countries and poorer groups to enhance competitiveness of their commodities. FAO and CFC said that they expected their cooperation to grow in this area.

They noted that commodity prices had been less stable and tended to fluctuate more than prices of other products, causing difficulties for both producers and consumers. Since commodities continued to be the backbone of the economies of most developing countries, the situation had been worsened by the declining prices of primary commodities accompanied by higher prices for inputs in commodity production, according to FAO and CFC.

Projects to help commodity development in developing countries are sponsored at the CFC by International Commodities Bodies (ICBs).

One example of the projects sponsored by FAO and CFC is a pilot meat processing plant for meat production in Uganda. The project trains people on how to develop, process and supply meat products compatible with the climatic conditions of the region and consumer tastes. Another example is a five-year $54 million project on new applications for hard fibres such as sisal and henequen, including the use of sisal pulp in paper manufacturing and sisal reinforcement for recycled paper in Kenya and Tanzania.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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