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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-08-04

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 4 August, 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 expresses hope that developments in Iraq are a "hiccup" that can be overcome.
  • Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq will discuss internally displaced people with Baghdad Government.
  • Secretary-General calls on parties in Sudan to achieve political solution.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports more people fleeing continued shelling in Kosovo.
  • Fighting prompts UN refugee agency to suspend some operations in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • UN Emergency Relief Coordinator says there are some 350,000 internally displaced people in Guinea-Bissau.
  • Palestine's Permanent Observer says Israel is preparing to obstruct future troop withdrawals.
  • Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews situation in Croatia.
  • Participants at World Youth Forum in Braga, Portugal work to strengthen ties with United Nations system.
  • United Nations human rights official says rights of indigenous peoples continue to be violated.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday expressed hope that the recent developments in Iraq would be a "hiccup" that can be overcome.

Mr. Annan was commenting on the breakdown of talks between Iraqi officials and Richard Butler, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Butler, who has left Baghdad for New York, is due to report to the Security Council on Thursday about his recent efforts. "I would hope that when Mr. Butler comes back and reports we will be able to continue our work, and that this may be a major hiccup, but a hiccup that we can overcome," said Mr. Annan.

The Security Council met briefly on Tuesday to discuss its programme of work for the coming month, but "there was no discussion of substance," according to its President, Danilo Turk of Slovenia. "There is I think a feeling that the situation [in Iraq] is not good, that we have to take a very serious look at it and see whether the Council can help in establishing the right kind of progress towards disarmament and other goals, " he said. "The disarmament process is not completed and it has to go forward," he added.

During the talks, UNSCOM had presented its assessment of the results of the schedule of work that it had agreed on with Iraq in June. According to UNSCOM, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz did not accept that assessment and asked that Mr. Butler immediately present a report to the Security Council stating that all the disarmament work had been done and that no more proscribed weapons and capabilities remained in Iraq.

Mr. Butler said presently, due to the insufficient level of verification of Iraq's claim, UNSCOM could not present such a report to the Security Council. Instead Mr. Butler offered Mr. Aziz another accelerated work schedule for the next 5 - 6 weeks before UNSCOM's October report to the Security Council. The new schedule was not accepted by Mr. Aziz who, according to UNSCOM, said he saw no point in having further discussions during the visit. Mr. Butler therefore decided to fly back to New York.

On Tuesday, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq indicated that he would raise the issue of internally displaced people with the Baghdad Government.

Special Envoy Prakash Shah said the question would be discussed "because of its implications on the UN's humanitarian efforts in the Kurdistan region of Iraq."

He made his remarks after returning from the three northern governorates of Dohuk, Erbil and Suleimaniyah. Visiting the region from 24 to 30 July, Ambassador Shah met with various political leaders, including Massoud Barzani, leader of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani, leader of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as well as top officials of the regional administrations in the three governorates. They briefed him on the political situation in the region, including ongoing peace talks between the KDP and PUK.

Ambassador Shah also toured a number of projects being implemented by the United Nations as part of its oil-for-food programme dealing with demining, sewage, hydro-electricity, university studies and a rural water pumping facility.

Ambassador Shah said he had come to the region to familiarize himself with the situation in the north and with the implementation of the oil-for-food programme. He said he had asked local leaders for their understanding, and had assured them that the United Nations would correct shortcomings in the programme.

Mr. Shah had also encouraged the political leaders to continue to explore ways of working together to address the basic needs of the Iraqi Kurdish population. He had asked them to restrain from resorting to violence to resolve their differences, and had stressed the need for dialogue between the various Kurdish parties and the Government of Iraq.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday called on the parties in Sudan to redouble their efforts to achieve a political solution.

In a statement read out by his Spokesman, Juan Carlos Brandt, the Secretary- General welcomed the recent resumption of talks and reiterated his full support for the peace process.

"He commends the two parties for agreeing to a three-month ceasefire on humanitarian grounds," said Mr. Brandt, adding, "He is concerned, however, that the situation in southern Sudan will worsen unless a negotiated agreement is concluded without further delay."

The Secretary-General called on the parties to redouble their efforts for a political solution and indicated that he stood ready to contribute to those efforts, if requested by the parties and mediators.

The peace talks, which resumed on 4 August in Addis Ababa, are sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday that more people are fleeing shelling in Kosovo.

UNHCR Spokesman Kris Janowski said that the road between Srbica and Giogovac was "packed with people on the move in horse carts, tractors and private vehicles." He added that houses were burning and smoke was rising from the west of the road.

In the villages of Vrbovci and Ceres, some 3,000 people are being accommodated by villagers or taking refuge in a nearby forest. "We hope to deliver basic supplies to these people as soon as possible, but the ongoing conflict and the constant movement of people make it difficult for us to provide them with adequate aid," said Mr. Janowski.

UNHCR estimates that at least 35,000 people have fled the Malisevo area. The estimated total number of people who have been displaced both within and outside Kosovo has reached 180,000, not including thousands of Kosovo Serbs who have left for elsewhere in Serbia and Vojvodina without ever registering as refugees. "It is therefore fair to say that almost 10 per cent of Kosovo's population has been displaced by the conflict since early March," Mr. Janowski noted.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has decided to suspend its repatriation operations in some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to an outbreak of fighting there.

According to UNHCR Spokesman Kris Janowski, the agency has suspended its operations in Uvira and Baraka, where gunfire continued on Tuesday for the second night in a row. He said that UNHCR staff in the area were reporting that the fighting included light, heavy and automatic weapon fire.

"It is unclear whether the clashes have caused any population movements, but reports from Uvira indicate that a small number of inhabitants may have left the town, and Rwandan authorities across the border from Bukavu have registered over 600 arrivals over the past few days," said Mr. Janowski.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator on Tuesday reported that there are some 350, 000 internally displaced people in Guinea-Bissau.

Most of the internally displaced people are located in Bafata, where United Nations agencies have established a temporary base, according to Sergio Vieira de Mello. So far, convoys have been dispatched through Senegal and Guinea to deliver over 500 metric tonnes of food aid to Bafata for onward distribution. Health and agricultural supplies have also been delivered. In addition, six drug kits have been sent so far, and the World Health Organization (WHO) plans to deliver a further 6.5 metric tonnes of health supplies in the coming weeks.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has delivered 54 metric tonnes of agricultural supplies, while UNHCR will shortly deliver 150 metric tonnes of other items through Senegal. Over 500 metric tonnes of food stored in Bissau city had been distributed to hospitals, vulnerable groups and internally displaced persons.

On 10 July, the United Nations appealed for $29 million to support the humanitarian relief effort in Guinea-Bissau. Only one country -- Sweden -- has responded so far, with a pledge of some $3 million.

"The humanitarian community, while appreciating the cooperation extended to them so far by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Conakry-Guinea, hopes to continue to count on their support to address the needs of the victims of the conflict," Mr. de Mello said.

Following the outbreak of conflict in Guinea-Bissau on 7 June, United Nations agencies and their partners were evacuated. The humanitarian operations resumed on 24 June in close collaboration with local community groups and the local Red Cross society.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine on Tuesday described the deteriorating Middle East peace process, which he said was caused by Israel's failure to comply with its obligations.

Nasser Al-Kidwa told the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people that the peace process, or "what was left of it" had worsened in the light of Israel's rejection of United States proposals which called for Israel to withdraw from an additional 13.1 percent of the West Bank. Instead, Mr. Al-Kidwa said, Israel was attempting to create a new category of Palestinian land which would make it more difficult to ensure future Israeli withdrawal.

He said he had the strong feeling that the Israeli Government had "run out of tricks, run out of any possible justifications of its positions." It had become increasingly clear that the basic position of that Government remained its refusal to implement agreements, as well as a refusal to adhere to the principle of "land for peace" and to implement Security Council resolutions on the matter, he added.

Mr. Al-Kidwa noted that there had been some recent meetings between the two sides, and indicated that the Palestinian side stood ready to explore, probably for the last round, the final Israeli position with regard to the United States proposals. However, it would not likely be of any help. In short, the situation was bad, on the political and economic levels, as well as on the ground. It was beyond any dispute that Israel remained the sole responsible party for such a situation, Mr. Al-Kidwa said.

Mr. Al-Kidwa also reviewed the latest developments concerning the General Assembly's recommendation to convene a conference on enforcement measures of the Geneva Convention in relation to the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. He noted that Switzerland, in its capacity as the Convention's depository, had proposed that experts meet in Geneva on 27 October to 29 October to consider problems of a general nature facing the Convention, particularly concerning the occupied territories, and to seek remedies for those problems.

Palestine would be willing to participate in such a meeting, while insisting on the need to convene the conference on the enforcement measures of the Convention, Mr. Al-Kidwa said, adding that the Non- Aligned Movement had adopted a similar position. The convening of the Conference would be a step towards ensuring respect for the Geneva Convention, and would hopefully represent a new beginning, he observed.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Tuesday completed its consideration of a report from Croatia after hearing explanations from a Government delegation on measures taken by the country to combat racist offenses.

The Geneva-based Committee, which monitors compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, raised a number of questions concerning the problems faced by minorities in Croatia. Experts sought information on what measures Croatia was taking to deter police violence against persons belonging to minorities or ethnic groups. They also asked about Croat- Serb-Muslim relations within the country.

Croatia's Assistant Minister of Public Administration, Antun Palaric, said his Government had devoted special attention to human rights of ethnic or national communities or minorities. He added that the Government had given priority to settling the issue of refugees and facilitating their return to their homes.

Milvia Markovic, the Head of Department for International Cooperation at Croatia's Ministry of Education and Sports, said any racial tension could be attributed to certain groups which were outside governmental control. However, the Government was trying to build confidence among the various ethnic groups to defuse tensions and misunderstandings, he said.

The Committee expert who served as country rapporteur for the Croatian report, Mario Jorge Yutzis, expressed concern about the application of specific laws governing the transition of property in Croatia. He also noted that the commission set up by the Government to deal with properties belonging to displaced Serbians had not yet started its work. He also pointed out that a number of United Nations bodies had underlined the need for education on human rights in Croatia.

Over 500 young people have gathered in Braga, Portugal to attend the World Youth Forum under the theme "youth participation for human development."

The main objective of the Forum is to improve channels of communications between the United Nations system and youth organizations worldwide.

Geraldine Harris-Adams of United Nations Radio reported on Tuesday that, "The message of young participants at the World Youth Forum is: 'We, youth and adults alike, are affected by the same social and economic problems. We, the young people at the World Youth Forum, have solutions. Listen to us.'"

Reporting from Braga, Mrs. Harris-Adams said the young delegates, who come from around the world and are mostly in their twenties, "have a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental education, refugee relief, conflict resolution, youth organizing and more." She said they "lament the fact that their countries, and the international community often turn a deaf ear to their concerns."

On Tuesday, participants began to hammer out a document that they will present to the upcoming World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, to be held in Lisbon starting on 8 August. Each young delegate chose to participate in one of 10 working groups addressing different issues. The conclusions of each working group will be combined to form the Braga Youth Action Plan, which will be presented to government leaders at their ministerial meeting next week in Lisbon.

A senior United Nations human rights official on Tuesday said violations of indigenous people's rights continue, despite the increased international attention to their plight.

Speaking to reporters as the United Nations prepared to commemorate the International Day of the World's Indigenous People later this week, the Deputy Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Elsa Stamatopoulou, expressed concern about threats to indigenous cultures. "Ethnocide is the major plight facing indigenous communities, by which we mean the denial by the mainstream society to grant them the chances to live within and through their cultures."

Ms. Stamatopoulou cited three major controversial issues that she said were crucial for the survival of indigenous people, namely land and natural resources, the right to self-determination and the right to culture, language and education.

Nina Sibal, the Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), described her agency's work to benefit indigenous people through multilingual education. She stressed the importance of raising awareness, in particular through international appeals and declarations, such as the 1992 Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. These pronouncements drew attention to the conditions of extreme poverty and political marginality faced by the majority of indigenous people, and invited political leaders to listen to the many voices clamouring for dignity, justice and solidarity for all.

In response to a question, Ms. Stamatopoulou described the process underway to draft a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Representatives of indigenous groups had considered it to be an extremely good draft, she said, noting that the text was now being reviewed by a working group of the Commission on Human Rights, which was making slow progress. At best, the General Assembly would adopt the draft by the year 2004, she observed.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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