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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-08-27

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Thursday, 27 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 decides to suspend sanctions against Libya after it hands over Pan Am 103 bombing suspects to Scottish court to be set up in Netherlands.
  • Spokesman for Secretary-General rejects allegations made by former weapons inspector in Iraq.
  • UN confirms that Security Council committee approved contract for Sudanese pharmaceutical factory later bombed by United States.
  • Iraqi oil revenues will fall short of levels needed to fund humanitarian effort, according to UN spokesman.
  • Security Council nominates nine candidates for judgeships on International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.
  • United Nations refugee agency says Serbian police blocked truck convoy carrying food for needy people in Kosovo.
  • United Nations Secretary-General welcomes agreement between government of Guinea-Bissau and junta.
  • Tajik opposition confirms detention of three suspects in killing of four United Nations staff members in Tajikistan.
  • Conference on Disarmament negotiator says new security concerns are prompting changes in national positions.
  • United Nations World Food Programme starts $90 million programme aimed at helping millions of Indonesians.

The Security Council on Thursday evening decided to suspend sanctions against Libya after the Secretary-General reports that Tripoli has handed over two Libyans suspected of involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 for trial in the Netherlands by Scottish judges under Scottish law.

The Council acted unanimously through a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which allows for enforcement. This marked the first breakthrough in a situation which has been virtually deadlocked since the sanctions were first imposed in 1992.

Libyan Ambassador Abuzed O. Dorda told the Council that his Government accepted that the two suspects would be tried in a Scottish court in the Netherlands by Scottish judges under Scottish law. "This is a serious position; an irreversible position," he said. "We hope that the other party will likewise be serious in its position."

According to the resolution, if Libya does not hand over the suspects the Council would consider "additional measures."

The Council welcomed the initiative of the United Kingdom and the United States, outlined in a letter to the Secretary-General, which states that the court would "follow normal Scots law and procedure in every respect, except for the replacement of the jury by a panel of three Scottish High Court judges."

The Council called upon the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to take steps to implement the initiative. It decided that the Libyan Government "shall ensure that any evidence or witnesses in Libya are, upon the request of the court, promptly made available to the court in the Netherlands for the purpose of the trial."

Mr. Dorda said the Libyan authorities had the duty and right to consider the different procedural legal issues pertaining to the trial. "We are prepared on our part to undertake that consideration either directly with the judicial authorities of the States concerned or with the Secretary- General of the United Nations," said Ambassador Dorda, adding, "We look forward to closing this entire file."

The letter from the United States and the United Kingdom also calls for arrangements allowing international experts to attend the trial. By its resolution, the Council invited the Secretary-General to nominate international observers for that purpose. It also requested that he assist Libya with the safe transfer of the two accused from Libya to the Netherlands.

Libya's representative welcomed the acceptance of the proposals by the United Kingdom and the United States, noting that they had been put forward by the League of Arab States and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) more than four years ago. He said this acceptance was a positive step likely to result in a satisfactory and just solution to the long-lasting dispute which had caused suffering among both the Libyan people as well as the families of the victims.

In May, the Conference of Non-Aligned Ministers called on the Council to immediately suspend the sanctions until the International Court of Justice delivers its final judgement on a related case brought by Libya against the United Kingdom and the United States. The Movement also decided that if there was no response to this request, its members would end their compliance with the sanctions resolutions "in view of the immense harmful effects, both human and economic" they have caused.

In June, the OAU issued the same call to the Council, and decided not to comply with the sanctions starting in September if the United States and the United Kingdom refused to allow the two suspects to be tried in a third country.

Pan Am Flight 103 crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988, killing all 270 people aboard as well as 11 people on the ground.

The spokesman of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, has rejected the allegations made by Scott Ritter who resigned from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) which is overseeing the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Ritter alleged that the Secretary-General acted at the behest of Iraq when he proposed a comprehensive review of the disarmament effort in Iraq. Mr. Ritter claimed that the Secretary-General's proposal was equivalent to investigating the investigators. Spokesman Eckhard said that it was simply untrue and unfair to characterize the Secretary- General's proposal in those terms.

The Spokesman rejected the suggestion by Mr. Ritter that the Secretary- General had acted at the behest of Iraq. He pointed out that the Secretary- General was a "consensus builder by nature" and does not act at the behest of any individual Member State.

Mr. Eckhard stressed that the Secretary-General's proposal for a comprehensive review of the disarmament effort in Iraq was not to distract from the Council's disarmament objectives, "but to strengthen the consensus in favour of them."

Mr. Eckhard also rejected Scott Ritter's accusation that the Secretary- General was a sounding board for Iraq. He said that to accuse any Secretary- General of being a sounding board for Member States' complaints was to deny him one of his primary functions. "I think it is part of his job description," Mr. Eckhard concluded.

The Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Ambassador Richard Butler told reporters that after Mr. Ritter had handed him his letter of resignation and after discussing it with him he had no choice but to accept the resignation.

Ambassador Butler said that the resignation of Mr. Ritter would take away from UNSCOM the skill, knowledge and dedication that the weapons inspectors needed.

The chief weapons inspector added that he also expressed to Mr. Ritter his "deepest gratitude for the enormous contribution" and the sacrifices he had made in the service of UNSCOM.

"That's done, he has now left us," Ambassador Butler said, adding that UNSCOM would go on with its work of disarmament and monitoring in Iraq.

A committee of the Security Council monitoring Iraq's imports had approved a contract for the pharmaceutical factory which was recently bombed by the United States in retaliation for terrorist acts against its embassies in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, a United Nations Spokesman said on Thursday.

Spokesman Eric Falt told reporters in Baghdad that in December 1997, the United Nations received from Sudan a request for approval of a contract between the El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Company of Khartoum and the Ministry of Agriculture of Iraq. The contract, valued at $199,000, was for the supply of 100,000 one-litre containers of a veterinary pharmaceutical called Shifazole.

The request went through the Security Council committee which was established in 1990 to monitor the sanctions against Iraq. The 15-member committee approves all of the country's contracts for humanitarian supplies. The contract for the El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Company was approved this January.

According to the Spokesman, Sudan requested, and received, a six- month extension for the contract on 7 July. "It is not unusual for extensions to be requested and granted for delivery later than originally envisaged," Mr. Falt noted. He added that there was no record of the shipment arriving in Iraq by Lloyd's Agents stationed at entry points into Iraq.

Iraqi oil revenues will fall short of what is needed to fully fund the humanitarian relief effort, according to the spokesman of the United Nations office which runs that programme.

"There is still no precise estimate of what the oil revenues will eventually be under the current phase of the oil-for-food operation but there is a clear projection that we will fall far short of the sum of $4.5 billion -- which ought to have translated into more than US $3 billion for the humanitarian allocation," said Eric Falt, Spokesman for the United Nations Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

Mr. Falt told reporters in Baghdad on Thursday that under the circumstances, all of the United Nations partners involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid were discussing how to prioritize the available funds.

Despite the projected funding shortfall, Mr. Falt stressed that "there is no intention to reduce the quality and the quantity" of relief being distributed under the oil-for-food plan.

Concerning the situation in northern Iraq, the Spokesperson reported on a project being implemented by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) aimed at planting over 3 million trees in the area. This week, FAO opened a forest nursery in Dokan, Suleimaniyah Governate with over 120,000 seedlings. That facility was one of eight nurseries planned under the oil-for-food programme. Together, they were expected to produce a total of 3.3 million pine seedlings each year which would be planted to combat erosion in Iraq's three northern governorates.

"This reforestation project will particularly help in stopping environmental degradation in the immediate areas around three dams where the capacity of the reservoirs has being reduced as a result of siltation," Mr. Falt told reporters. The project would also provide employment to people in the areas, he noted.

Most of the areas where the nurseries were located had been the site of rich, lush green vegetation decades ago, according to Mr. Falt. "All the trees are now gone, cut down for firewood because of the shortage of fuel," he noted. A total of about $125,000 would be spent on the forest nurseries, with more funds expected in the future.

The Security Council on Thursday chose nine candidates for election by the General Assembly to serve as judges on the third Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

The Assembly is expected to meet shortly to elect three judges out of the nine candidates. Each will serve through 16 November 2001. (Normally judges are elected for four-year terms, but in this case their terms will coincide with those of the other judges on the Tribunal, who began work on 17 November 1997.)

Acting unanimously, the Council forwarded the following nominations to the General Assembly: Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco); David Hunt (Australia); Per- Johan Lindholm (Finland); Hugo Anibal Llanos Mansilla (Chile); Patrick Robinson (Jamaica); S.W.B. Vadugodapitiya (Sri Lanka); Luis Valencia- Rodriquez (Ecuador); Jan Skupinski (Poland); and Peter H. Wilkitzki (Germany).

The Security Council established the Tribunal on 25 May 1993 to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991.

The United Nations refugee agency has said that Serbian police blocked an eight-truck convoy carrying food parcels for 3,000 families in Kosovo.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the convoy was turned back turned back at a check point at Slatina outside Pristina on Thursday.

The convoy was carrying enough food to feed between 15,000 and 20,000 people for one month in western Kosovo. The United Nations refugee agency expressed concern and said it hoped that the action was a "freak incident."

UNHCR is assisting more than 230,000 people driven from their homes in the Kosovo conflict, according to a United Nations spokesman.

According to UNHCR there are 170,000 displaced people inside Kosovo, of whom 50,000 are on the move without shelter in isolated areas which are difficult to reach by aid workers.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed the signing of an agreement in Cape Verde on Wednesday between the Government of Guinea- Bissau and the self-proclaimed junta.

The Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard, said on Thursday that the agreement reaffirmed the ceasefire and a memorandum of understanding that had been agreed between the two parties on 26 July.

The Secretary-General noted that the meeting between the two sides to the conflict was held under the joint auspices of the Economic Community of West African States and the Community of the Portuguese- speaking Countries.

The Secretary-General expressed the hope that these two groups would continue their joint efforts to help achieve a lasting peace in Guinea- Bissau.

The leadership of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) has confirmed that three suspects were being held in connection with the killing of four United Nations staff members in Tajikistan.

United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Thursday that the UTO leadership had informed the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) that the suspects were being held by a field commander.

The detained persons, whose names have not yet been released, are suspected of killing Yutaka Akino, a civil affairs officer, Major Ryszard Szevczek, Major Adolfo Siarpegu, and a Tajik interpreter on 20 July.

The four staff members of UNMOT were shot to death while on patrol in an area near the border with Afghanistan.

The changing security environment is prompting delegates to the Conference on Disarmament to reconsider their positions on major issues, one of the Conference's chief negotiators said on Thursday.

Peter Naray of Hungary, the Special Coordinator on the Review of the Conference's Agenda, told participants that he had witnessed more flexibility and an increased desire for action on the part of a number of delegations. However, there was no major shift in basic positions on substantive matters nor a willingness to redefine the disarmament agenda established during the years of the cold war.

Mr. Naray said that since basic positions on the agenda -- despite increased flexibility of many delegations -- were not sufficiently close to embark on an exercise to combine approaches, he was not in a position to propose a new future agenda for the Conference. He would suggest possible amendments, additions and updates within the framework of the present agenda. He recommended the Conference continue consultations on the review of the agenda during the next session.

The Conference also heard a report from Australian diplomat John Campbell, who served as the Conference's Special Coordinator on Anti- Personnel Landmines. He said that although it had not been possible to achieve consensus on that issue, agreement was close. He recommended that the Conference reappoint a Special Rapporteur on Anti-Personnel Landmines next year to bring the work to its completion. Mr. Campbell said it should be possible for the Conference to agree to negotiate a ban on transfers of landmines.

The Special Coordinator on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, H.M.G.S. Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, said that delegates generally recognized the importance of that issue. While there was no objection in principle to the re-establishment of an ad hoc committee to address the matter, further consultations would be needed. Among other objectives, such a committee would work to negotiate specific measures towards the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Pavel Grecu of Romania, the Special Coordinator on Transparency in Armaments, stressed that such transparency was critical to building confidence and achieving security. However, transparency was not an end in itself, nor could it substitute for removing the root causes of tensions. In addition, transparency could not replace concrete, non- discriminatory arms control agreements, he pointed out.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has commenced a major humanitarian relief operation for Indonesia which aims to help some 5.3 million people suffering the effects of drought and economic crisis.

The $90 million effort will aid pregnant women, nursing mothers, children under five and families surviving on one meal a day, according to WFP. The programme will also support community activities through food-for-work projects.

"The World Food Programme has returned to Indonesia to prevent the current food crisis from developing into a disaster," said the agency's country representative, Philip Clark. "This is a precarious time for many people in Indonesia, but for those least able to defend themselves, it is a time of real crisis."

The agency had closed down its aid operations to Indonesia in 1996 because the country's strong economy had enabled the Government to meet food import requirements with its own resources. But drought and the El Nio phenomenon dramatically altered that situation, causing serious crop losses. All this occurred at a time when the region's economic crisis was hampering Indonesia's ability to import rice and forcing more and more people into poverty.

So far, Australia, the United States, Japan, Germany and Norway have contributed to WFP's effort.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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