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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-08-06

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Thursday, 6 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.


  • Security Council rejects Iraqi non-cooperation with UN Special Commission; Secretary-General recommends comprehensive review.
  • Security Council demands urgent and unconditional ceasefire in Afghanistan.
  • United Nations begins evacuating staff from Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • United Nations expert monitoring human rights in former Yugoslavia expresses deep concern about Kosovo.
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda welcomes United States judge's decision to hand over suspect.
  • Chairman of Disarmament Conference reports agreement is near on creating group on prohibiting fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
  • Group of Latin American and Caribbean States endorses Uruguay's Foreign Minister as next General Assembly President.
  • UN World Food Programme and Lutheran World Federation sign new cooperation agreement.
  • Executive Secretary of Biological Diversity Convention to step down this October.

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday rejected an announcement by Baghdad that it would no longer cooperate with the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) which is monitoring the dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

"This announcement is totally unacceptable," Council President Danilo Turk of Slovenia told reporters following consultations on the breakdown of recent talks between Iraqi authorities and UNSCOM. "It contravenes the relevant Security Council resolutions and the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Secretary-General and the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq in February of this year," he said.

Ambassador Turk noted that Baghdad's announcement was made after a period of improved cooperation and some tangible progress.

The Security Council called for an early resumption of dialogue between UNSCOM, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iraq. Ambassador Turk also stated that the Council intended to respond favourably to future progress made in the disarmament process.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who attended the morning session, told reporters that he had spoken to Tariq Aziz earlier in the day. Mr. Annan said that Iraq was feeling frustrated, if not desperate, that its actions were not being recognized by UNSCOM and the Security Council. The Secretary- General called for an objective look at where things stand. "I thought maybe the time has come for all of us to stand back and make a comprehensive reassessment of where we are, where we are going and how to get there, bearing in mind the objective of effectively disarming Iraq and hopefully in the end, in return look to the day when Iraq and the people of iraq can return to the family of nations in an atmosphere without sanctions, " he said.

The Secretary-General recommended that in undertaking this comprehensive review it might be helpful to engage the Iraqis much more closely than in the past.

Ambassador Qin Huasun of China expressed support for the Secretary- General's proposal. "The issues can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations," he said. "There is no other choice and we support the proposal made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which is positive and constructive."

Prior to the Council's meeting, United States Ambassador Bill Richardson accused the Iraqi authorities of obstruction. "They are blustering, they are going out of their way to be defiant, and they are playing games," he said. "Once again, the Security Council is going to have to respond in a very strong, unmistakable way," he stressed.

Gravely concern at the new sharp escalation of the military confrontation in Afghanistan, the Security Council on Thursday demanded "an urgent and unconditional cease-fire to a final end to these hostilities."

In a statement read out on behalf of Council members by Council President Danilo Turk of Slovenia, the Council called on all Afghan parties to return to the negotiating table without delay or preconditions and to cooperate with the aim of creating a broad-based and fully representative government.

The Council also called upon all States to refrain from any outside interference in Afghanistan, including the involvement of foreign military personnel. "It reiterates that any such interference from abroad should cease immediately and calls upon all States to end the supply of arms and ammunition to all parties to the conflict and to take resolute measures to prohibit their military personnel from planning and participating in combat operations in Afghanistan," said Ambassador Turk.

Afghanistan's neighbours and other States with influence in the country were also called upon to intensify their efforts under the aegis of the United Nations to bring the parties to a negotiated settlement. The Council specified that talks should aim to achieve solutions that accommodate the rights and interests of all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society.

Deeply concerned at the serious humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the Security Council called upon all Afghan parties, particularly the Taliban, to secure the uninterrupted supply of humanitarian aid to all in need. The Council condemned the recent killings in Jalalabad of two Afghan staff members of the World Food Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Council deplored the measures taken by the Taliban which had made it impossible for nearly all international humanitarian organizations to continue working in Kabul. It supported efforts of the United Nations Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in its current talks with the Taliban in order to ensure adequate conditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"The Security Council remains deeply concerned at the continuing discrimination against girls and women and other violations of human rights as well as violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan," said Ambassador Turk. He called upon all parties to respect international conventions regarding the rights of non-combatants and the treatment of prisoners of war.

The United Nations has begun evacuating its staff from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Seventy-seven UN staff members who are considered "non-essential" have left the capital city, Kinshasa with their families and are headed for Abidjan, C“te d'Ivoire. United Nations Spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt told reporters that the evacuation from the capital went well. "Everybody's safe, and about 20 essential staff now remain in Kinshasa," he said.

But the situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more difficult, according to Mr. Brandt. United Nations personnel along with staff of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are still stranded in the towns of Bukavu, Goma and Uvira. Mr. Brandt said that on Wednesday, several NGO offices were looted in Bukavu, and the home of a UNICEF official was also looted. "He himself, we understand, was threatened by the military," Mr. Brandt added.

The chief UN human rights expert watching developments in the former Yugoslavia has expressed deep concern about recent events in Kosovo.

Jiri Dienstbier, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights, on Thursday appealed to both sides to respect international humanitarian law in order to minimize the suffering of civilians caught up in the conflict.

More than 100,000 Kosovo Albanians have been displaced by recent fighting, and over ten thousand others are refugees in neighbouring countries, according to the Special Rapporteur. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported that over 100 Serb citizens have been abducted by forces of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, while the Serbian authorities are reportedly conducting illegal arrests and mistreating detainees.

Meanwhile, Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) called the situation in Kosovo a "humanitarian disaster." Ms. Bellamy said that women and children were the principal victims of the fighting. She pointed out that pregnant women are obliged to give birth in the woods without the benefit of medical assistance, while some children are reportedly experiencing serious malnutrition.

The UNICEF Executive Director urgently appealed to the international community to take whatever measures may be necessary to achieve a lasting ceasefire. She warned that "if a concerted and effective international initiative is not taken, world leaders risk seeing the situation in Kosovo escalate to grotesque levels of violence and brutality."

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has welcomed a decision by a United States judge concerning the surrender of a suspect it had indicted.

On Wednesday, United States District Court Judge John Riney ordered the surrender of Elizaphan Ntakirutimana to the Tribunal.

"The Tribunal wishes to thank the Government of the United States for its efforts to cooperate with and render judicial assistance to the Rwanda Tribunal," said its Registrar, Agwu Ukiwe Okali. "The Tribunal hopes that this decision will accelerate the process of bringing Mr. Ntakirutimana, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, to face trial before the Tribunal," he added.

The indictment against Mr. Ntakirutimana, a pastor, charges that during the 1994 genocide, he encouraged victims to hide in a church and hospital compound, and then led armed men to the compound, resulting in the slaughter of hundreds of people.

The Chairman of the Conference on Disarmament on Thursday reported that agreement was emerging on the establishment of a group to look at fissile material used in nuclear weapons.

The Chairman, Mykola Maimeskul of Ukraine, predicted that one more day would be needed before the Conference could announce the formation of what will be known as the "ad hoc committee on the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear purposes."

Meanwhile, the Conference on Thursday continued to debate the nuclear tests carried out in India and Pakistan earlier this year.

India's representative, Savitri Kunadi, said her country had consistently maintained that the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only credible guarantee against their use. She called on nuclear- weapon States to guarantee that their nuclear arms are not used as instruments of pressure, intimidation or blackmail. Ms. Kunadi assured the Conference that as a responsible nuclear-weapon State, India did not intend to use nuclear weapons to commit aggression or to mount threats against any country.

The Group of Latin American and Caribbean States at the United Nations has endorsed Didier Opertti Badan, the Foreign Minister of Uruguay, as their candidate for President of the General Assembly's fifty-third session when it opens this September.

Mr. Opertti has had a long and distinguished international career, specializing mainly in international law. He served as Director of the Office of Codification and International Law of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) from 1979 to 1981. In 1985, he was named as a member of the OAS Administrative Court. He later was appointed as Uruguay's Permanent Representative to the OAS.

Prior to being named as Uruguay's Foreign Minister this February, Mr. Opertti served as Minister of the Interior since 1995. The 61-year old diplomat has a doctorate in Law and Social Sciences from the University of the Republic in Montevideo.

Mr. Opertti will take over from the current General Assembly President, Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine. The presidency rotates every year among the five regional groupings at the United Nations.

The United Nations World Food Programme and the Lutheran World Federation have announced a new agreement to cooperate in an effort to improve operations providing food aid to millions of people worldwide.

The two organizations agreed to explore opportunities for joining forces to maximize the impact and quality of their food operations.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Catherine Bertini, and the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Ismael Noko, issued a joint statement citing the need for inventive steps to reach people in need in an era of more complex humanitarian crises with less resources to address them.

The two organizations have a long history of working together. They are now collaborating on operations in Angola, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The Chief United Nations official charged with monitoring a key international agreement on biodiversity has resigned.

Calestous Juma of Kenya has been the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity since August of 1995. He recently informed the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Klaus T”pfer, that he would be leaving his position for personal reasons based on family considerations. Mr. Juma will serve out his current contract until it expires this October.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development by over 150 countries. Its objectives are "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources." The Convention is the first global, comprehensive agreement to address all aspects of biodiversity: genetic resources, species and ecosystems.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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