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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-25

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Wednesday, 25 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.


  • Leader of UN team which mapped presidential sites in Iraq reports that they have been carefully measured.
  • Secretary-General outlines terms of new United Nations peacekeeping operation in Central African Republic.
  • Secretary-General appeals to Haiti's leaders and authorities to negotiate end to political crisis.
  • Amid mounting threats against United Nations personnel working in dangerous conditions, staff convene summit.
  • All four United Nations military observers held hostage in Georgia are free.
  • Former Force Commander of United Nations Mission in Rwanda testifies before International Criminal Tribunal.
  • Bosnian war crimes suspect to appear before International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.
  • Head of United Nations Drug Control Programme discusses anti- drug strategy in three Latin American countries.
  • World Food Programme delivers food to Bahr El Ghazal in southern Sudan.

The leader of a United Nations team sent to Iraq to map the presidential sites has reported that they have been carefully measured.

Stephan de Mistura went to Iraq from 15 to 18 February, in advance of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's diplomatic mission to Baghdad. According to Mr. de Mistura, the team received the full cooperation of the Iraqi authorities, and was able to visit the sites by helicopter, car and on foot. "We were able to overfly each presidential site we wished. We were able to enter into each of the presidential sites -- walk in, drive in, and then even visit internally -- and take, above all, the measurements," he said.

Those measurements yielded specific data, according to Mr. de Mistura. He said the five-person team concluded that the total size of the sites was 31.5 square kilometres, comprising an estimated 1,058 structures. Information on the size, parameters, locations and number of buildings on each presidential site was reported to the Secretary- General, who in turn informed the Security Council.

Mr. de Mistura, who briefed the Council on Wednesday, said its members "appeared to be quite convinced about the fact that this part of the problem is not ambiguous any more".

Most of the presidential sites are compounds surrounded by high walls. In describing them to reporters, Mr. de Mistura said, "imagine in this compound with large walls a farm, landscape, and then a lake, with some beautiful villas -- large villas, what they call presidential guest houses." Since the houses were meant to give hospitality to heads of State from around the world, they were rather luxurious, he added.

The information provided by the team to the Secretary-General clarifies the nature of the agreement he reached with Iraq, according to Mr. de Mistura. "The agreement refers to something very specific now, which is eight sites. Which ones? We know. Where? We know. And we agree on."

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, responding to a request of the United Nations Security Council, has outlined the modalities for a new United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic, to be known by its French acronym, MINURCA.

The Security Council mandate for the current peacekeeping effort in the country, the Inter-African Mission to Monitor the Implementation of the Bangui Agreements (MISAB), is set to expire on 16 March. To allow for a smooth transition to MINURCA, the Secretary-General recommends that the Council extend MISAB's mandate through 15 April.

Should the Council decide to establish MINURCA, the Secretary- General cautions, this would present a "major political and logistical challenge to the United Nations troop-contributing countries and interested Member States". However, the Secretary-General assures the Council that the MISAB troop-contributors and France have expressed their readiness, in principle, to participate in the proposed United Nations operation.

The proposed Mission would be charged with helping the people of the Central African Republic to consolidate national reconciliation and secure a stable environment in the country's capital. The Secretary- General is proposing that its military strength -- at a minimum -- be approximately 1, 400 personnel all ranks. He is also calling for a public information component, a small electoral unit and reliable civilian logistical back-up.

In his report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says the security situation in the Central African Republic is improving, but there is still cause for concern. "It is obvious that the progress achieved towards national reconciliation is still fragile and that the situation is far from being irreversible," he writes, adding that without a successor to MISAB, "the situation in the country is likely to deteriorate rapidly, with serious implications for the humanitarian situation and peace and security in the region".

Expressing deep concern that Haiti is still without a functioning Government after over eight months, Secretary-General Kofi Annan repeated his call to the country's authorities and leaders to negotiate an end to the crisis.

The Secretary-General's appeal is contained in his latest report to the Security Council on the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH). The Secretary-General notes that the stable and secure environment established under previous United Nations peacekeeping missions has held. "On the negative side, however, there has been little change in the level of criminal activity, including organized crime related to drug trafficking, which has been a constant worry to the Haitian authorities."

Although most of the lawlessness does not appear to be politically motivated, the Secretary-General says there is fear that the politically motivated killings of the past may return. It is too early to tell whether two incidents -- the assassination of a security officer of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the lynching of a police station chief -- reflect a specific pattern.

While there have been some improvements in the Haitian National Police, the Secretary-General reports "recurring human rights abuses by rank-and-file agents" and, in some cases, poor leadership. There has also been an increase in the number of arrests on the grounds of allegedly subversive activities against the State. "In some of those cases, the Haitian National Police and government prosecutors were ultimately unable to provide sufficient evidence to justify the arrests, some of which were further marred by police brutality against the suspects."

The prosecution of officers who do not conduct themselves properly is severely hindered by the absence of a functioning judicial system in Haiti, the Secretary-General reports. He expresses concern over reports of "incidents of human rights violations, corruption and other misconduct". Without a functioning judiciary, the international community's efforts to professionalize the Haitian police force could become more difficult. The Secretary-General strongly urges the Haitian authorities to move forward urgently in the area of judicial reform. He also calls for international support to their efforts.

"This meeting is a call to action," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday in a message to the first Summit on the Independence of the International Civil Service. The Summit was convened by the Staff Council in response to mounting threats against United Nations personnel working in dangerous conditions.

The Secretary-General began his message by referring to five staff members: Alfred Nsinga, who died of gunshot wounds in El Salvador; Abdala Daker Hayatli, who has been detained in Rwanda since 1995; Elizabeth Assey, who was killed during a robbery in Tanzania; Tomas Ouijada, who has been detained in Lebanon since 1995; and Alec Collett, who has been missing in Syria since 1980. The Secretary-General further noted that Vincent Cochetel of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is still being held in the Caucasus following his detention one month ago.

In a statement read out by United Nations Security Coordinator Benon Sevan, the Secretary-General said the situation has worsened significantly since 1992. Before that year, no more than a handful of civilian staff had lost their lives, but since then, 219 civilians have died while serving the United Nations. Since 1994, hostage-taking has become a new threat, with 130 staff members held in 43 separate incidents. "Combatants fail to respect the United Nations' impartial presence, and instead target those wearing UN blue for detention, extortion, robbery and murder," according to the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General called on Governments to ratify the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. That treaty will enter into force only after five more States ratify it, bringing the total to 22. Mr. Annan also stressed the importance of developing a strategy to raise security awareness among United Nations staff, and announced the forthcoming publication of a comprehensive book on the subject.

"United Nations staff members can be held hostage, but the spirit of peace and progress that drives our work can never be imprisoned," he said. "UN staff members can be attacked, but we will not be bullied into giving up the work for peace that we carry out on behalf of the international community."

All four United Nations military observers who were taken hostage in Georgia last week have been released.

According to a United Nations Spokesman, three of the hostages were released on Tuesday afternoon and the fourth got his freedom on Wednesday. The Spokesman said it was not yet clear how the fourth hostage was freed.

The military observers serving with the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) were seized by armed men who broke into the Zugdidi sector headquarters of UNOMIG on Thursday last week.

UNOMIG reported last Friday that it had established direct contact with the hostage takers who were negotiating with Georgian authorities.

The former Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) testified today before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

General Romeo Dallaire who served in Rwanda between 21 October 1993 and 19 August 1994 explained the role and operations of UNAMIR in late 1993 and early 1994. He said that the peacekeeping force, made up of troops from 26 countries, performed its duties to the best of its ability.

However, the General added, the mission did not get all the equipment and resources it required. "The force could have played a more effective role with adequate equipment and training", he said. UNAMIR, like all United Nations operations depended on contributions from Member States, and its performance was a reflection of the commitment of the organization's Member States in both human and material resources, the General said.

The Registrar of the Tribunal, Agwu Okali, told United Nations Radio that, technically, General Dallaire was not a defence witness for Jean- Paul Akayesu, who is accused of committing crimes during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. "He was an expert witness called by the defence." the Registrar said.

He said that although the testimony of General Dallaire was over for now, it would "not surprise anyone if other defence counsels try to call him." The Registrar added that at the trial on Wednesday, the prosecution indicated that they would likely call the general in the future for other cases.

Mr. Okali also explained the role of Daphna Shraga from the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs who represented the Secretary-General as "a friend of the court." He said that her role was "to explain to the Court the understanding of the United Nations as regards the scope of the waiver of the immunity" given to General Dallaire in order to testify. The Registrar said that in waiving the immunity, the Secretary-General had said "this was limited in certain respects and did not mean that everything, including confidential UN documents would now be open for scrutiny or discussion."

Regarding the work of the Tribunal in general, Mr. Okali said they were going "full steam ahead" with the trial which resumed earlier this month, and that they felt they would be able to conclude at least two or possibly three cases currently on trial. "By the middle of this year, we should have at least the first judgement on one of the cases, presumably Akayesu which was the first case to be taken up by the Tribunal", Mr. Okali said.

A Bosnian war crimes suspect is set to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Thursday.

The accused Simo Zaric, who turned himself in on Tuesday, will appear before a Trial Chamber to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on each of the counts in the indictment issued against him.

Mr. Zaric was indicted on 21 July 1995, together with Milan Simic and Miroslav Tadic along with three other individuals who are still at large. They are accused of involvement in the "campaign of terror" against Bosnian Croats and the Muslim population of the municipality of Bosanski Samac by Serb military and paramilitary forces from Bosnia and elsewhere.

Mr. Zaric is charged with one count of a Grave Breach of the Geneva Conventions and one count of a Crime Against Humanity. He is accused of participation in the planning and preparation for the unlawful deportation and forcible transfer of hundreds of Bosnian Croat and Muslim residents, including women, children and the elderly from their homes to other countries or other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The head of the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) is on a three- country tour in Latin America to discuss the new strategy for the eradication of opium and coca.

Pino Arlacchi, UNDCP Executive Director and head of the United Nations Office in Vienna met with President Ernesto Samper of Colombia last Friday and with President Alberto Fujimori of Peru on Monday, United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Wednesday.

Mr. Arlacchi and the Minister of Health of Peru, Marino Costa, also agreed to organize a Conference of International Investors in May 1999 to discuss alternative development. The aim of the conference is to present the advantages of investing in agricultural produce like cocoa, rubber and palm derivatives.

The United Nations drug control agency and the two drug control agencies, namely PLANTE (Plan de Desarollo Alternativo) or Plan for Alternative Development in Colombia and Contra Drogas (Against Drugs) in Peru have developed common plans to promote alternative development. The plan is for the eradication of existing crops used for the production of drugs. It will be submitted to the Special Session of the General Assembly on Drug Control to be held in June.

Mr. Arlacchi is in Bolivia on the final leg of his Latin American tour.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday delivered food by road into southern Sudan.

Brenda Barton, WFP's Regional Information Officer told United Nations Radio that it was the first time that the United Nations agency had managed to deliver food by road from Uganda to Bahr El Ghazal. The 120 tonnes of food delivered by truck will sustain 51,000 people for six days.

Ms. Barton said that normally, this part of southern Sudan "which is very, very remote and vast" was only accessible by air for a couple of reasons. One reason is that most of the area is usually covered by water necessitating airlifts or airdrops of the food. The second reason is the conflict between factions "who are fighting either among themselves or with the Government of Sudan." She characterized the delivery of food by road as "a very great achievement."

WFP had other problems in the recent past in trying to deliver food to some 250,000 to 300,000 people, about half of whom had been recently displaced by fighting between the Government and a rebel faction, Ms Barton said. On 4 February, she added, the Sudanese Government imposed a flight restriction citing security problems.

The WFP officer said that her agency, which was working with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and a group of at least thirty non- governmental organizations, was trying to take advantage of the good weather conditions to deliver food by road. She pointed out, however, that these conditions would only allow such delivery for another four or five weeks.

According to Ms. Barton, the operation in southern Sudan was very expensive, costing "something like $1,000 per metric ton of food delivery into the area." She said her agency anticipated "some enormous needs for this year, particularly on the cash front" which was always a problem.

The United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations are helping approximately 2.4 million people in both the northern and southern parts of Sudan, Ms. Barton said.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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