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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-08-21

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Friday, 21 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 strongly condemns attack against two staff members in Afghanistan.
  • Secretary-General appeals for return of missing Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Afghanistan.
  • United States tells Security Council that strikes at targets in Afghanistan and Sudan are in self defence.
  • United Nations refugee agency calls for immediate action to allow return of uprooted people in Kosovo.
  • Secretary-General is deeply concerned about Thursday's attack on supporters of Sam Rainsy in Cambodia.
  • Two United Nations officials call on parties to respect human rights of all civilians in Congo-Kinshasa.
  • United Nations refugee agency reports arrivals of refugees from Congo- Kinshasa in Angola.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has strongly condemned the attack against two staff members of the United Nations Special Mission in Afghanistan (UNSMA).

A statement issued by the Secretary-General's spokesman on Friday said that the attack took place in Kabul. In the attack, Political Affairs Officer Eric Lavertu of France and Military Adviser, Lt. Col. Carmine Calo of Italy were shot by an unidentified gunman as their car was approaching the United Nations.

According to the spokesman, Mr. Lavertu sustained a hand wound while Col. Calo received a wound to the abdomen and two wounds in the arm.

The Secretary-General called on the Taliban authorities in Kabul to take urgent steps to investigate the incident and bring to justice those who might have committed this "heinous" crime. He also called on the Taliban authorities to keep the United Nations informed about the results of that investigation.

He reminded the Taliban that they were responsible for the security and safety of all members of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations in Afghanistan. The Secretary-General strongly urged the Taliban to ensure their safety.

In light of the new developments, the statement said, the Secretary- General was again reviewing all security arrangements for United Nations staff in Afghanistan.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed to all the parties concerned, in particular the Taliban, to help find the eleven missing Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Afghanistan.

According to a spokesman for the Secretary-General, the diplomats and the journalist were at the Iranian Consulate-General in Mazar-i- Sharif when the city was captured by the Taliban on 8 August. They have been missing since then, the spokesman said in a statement issued on Friday.

The Secretary-General received a letter on 10 August from the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Kamal Kharrazi, requesting the United Nations to help secure the return of the missing Iranians. Upon receipt of the request, the Secretary-General gave instructions that the United Nations should do whatever is possible to facilitate a satisfactory resolution of this issue, the spokesman said.

He added that the United Nations had been in contact with the Taliban, the Pakistani authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross and other sources. "Unfortunately, these contacts have not yet produced positive results," the spokesman pointed out.

The Secretary-General reminded whoever was involved that the diplomatic status of these Iranians must be respected and protected under the Vienna Conventions.

The Representative of the United States has informed the President of the Security Council that American military strikes at targets in Afghanistan and the Sudan on Thursday were in self-defence.

In a letter to the President of the Security Council, dated 20 August 1998, Ambassador Bill Richardson said that the United States had exercised its right of self-defence in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

He said that his government had obtained convincing information that the organization of Usama Bin Ladin was responsible for the devastating bombings on August 7 of the United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. These attacks resulted in the deaths of 12 Americans and over 250 other persons, as well as numerous serious injuries and heavy property damage, Ambassador Richardson added.

He said that the Bin Ladin organization maintained an extensive network of camps, arsenals and training and supply facilities in Afghanistan and support facilities in Sudan which were being used to mount terrorist attacks against American targets. "These facilities include an installation at which chemical weapons have been produced," Ambassador Richardson said.

United States Armed Forces struck at a series of camps and installations used by the Bin Ladin organization to support terrorist actions against the United States and other countries, he said. "In particular, U.S. forces struck a facility being used to produce chemical weapons in Sudan and terrorist training and basing camps in Afghanistan," the letter added.

The letter said that the attacks were carried out only after repeated efforts to convince the Government of Sudan and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to shut down terrorist activities and cease cooperation with the Bin Ladin Organization.

The United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees has called for immediate action to allow the return of more than 230,000 people uprooted by the conflict in Kosovo.

Soren Jessen-Pertersen made the call on Friday as he left Kosovo after a two-day visit to assess the situation of displacement and level of destruction in the province and to urge the authorities to restore stability.

Mr. Jessen-Petersen on Thursday travelled to villages damaged by the conflict in Kosovo, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He saw some shops which have begun to reopen and a few people who were out in the streets in Orahovac which was shelled heavily in mid- July, the agency said.

The UNHCR official also saw many empty villages around Pec, the scene of the latest flare up of violence. Junic was completely deserted except for the heavy presence of police, the refugee agency said.

Mr. Jessen-Pertersen met with displaced people at the Kotrodic village outside Pec who told him that they wanted to go back to their homes as soon as possible. He told them that UNHCR was seeking ways that will allow people to return safely to their homes.

The UNHCR official underlined the urgent need for adequate arrangements to reassure the people that it was safe for them to return. "Authorities must assume their responsibilities in establishing the necessary conditions for safe return," Mr. Jessen-Petersen said before departing for Montenegro.

He was scheduled to meet with Milo Djukanovic, President of Montenegro and other senior officials.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that he was deeply concerned by an attack outside the compound of the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh, where supporters of Sam Rainsy were holding an all-night vigil.

Mr. Rainsy and a group of his supporters were detained shortly after the grenade and firearms attack outside the office of the National Election Committee on Thursday. A statement issued by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General said that the arrested people were subsequently released after intervention by United Nations personnel and others.

The Secretary-General noted that Mr. Ung Huot and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia sent him a letter dated 22 October 1997 in which they guaranteed that political leaders would not be arrested or detained for acts and words spoken in connection with their electoral activities.

They also pledged that the Government would ensure that all political leaders enjoyed freedom from intimidation and threat in respect of any and all political activities relating to the election, the statement added.

The Secretary-General said that he was in contact with his Personal Representative in Cambodia and continued to monitor the situation very closely.

"He wishes to reiterate his hope that all political parties in Cambodia will resolve outstanding problems through dialogue and due process," the statement concluded.

Two senior United Nations officials have called on all parties to respect the human rights and dignity of all civilians, regardless of ethnic or national origin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The call was made on Friday by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, on behalf of the Secretary-General.

They stressed the Secretary-General's strong concern over the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a statement issued by Fred Eckhard, the spokesman of the Secretary-General.

The statement said that since the beginning of the conflict earlier this month, the international community had been receiving "alarming" reports of arbitrary executions, torture, harassment and detention of civilians based on their ethnic origin. "Allegations of human rights abuses committed by Government and armed opposition forces continue to flow out of the country, " it added.

The statement said that other sources of concern were reports of sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers, hate propaganda, and the steady deterioration of the situation, in particular in Kinshasa where electricity and water supplies have been disrupted sporadically over recent days. Citing government sources, the statement added that the disruption of the supplies have lead to a collapse of already weakened health, sanitation, and medical services resulting in the deaths of patients and the general civilian population.

The United Nations officials stressed that the parties in the conflict-torn country had a responsibility to protect all non-combatants. They urged the Congolese parties to uphold the standards and principles of international humanitarian law and allow relief personnel access to vulnerable groups and other needy people in the country. "United Nations and other humanitarian workers must also be able to work freely and in safety," they added.

The statement concluded by expressing the Secretary-General's hope that dialogue would prevail and that further bloodshed and suffering would be avoided.

The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday that refugees fleeing the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have arrived in Angola.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that its mission two days ago found 126 people in the Angolan border town of Noqul. UNHCR staff also received reports of refugees in a second town.

According to UNHCR, fighting between the rebels and government forces in Matadi has also forced Angolan residents to return from Congo- Kinshasa.

UNHCR and local authorities have provided tents and emergency rations to the group of refugees which the agency described as being "in an unacceptable physical condition."

In the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, refugees continued to cross Lake Tanganyika to Kigoma in Tanzania, UNHCR said. The refugees, who were arriving at a rate of a few dozen per day were almost all women and children who came mainly from the towns of Baraka and Fizi, south of Uvira.

Other Congolese refugees have crossed to Burundi since the fighting broke out in Congo-Kinshasa on 2 August, the agency said, adding that it was working to move all of them to a single reception centre in Cibitoke. UNHCR noted that the number of new arrivals had decreased significantly in the past few days.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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