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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-21

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Wednesday, 21 April, 1999

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 welcomes agreement to end violence in East Timor as UN- brokered talks begin in New York.
  • Security Council members urge parties in Central African Republic to prepare for presidential elections.
  • UNHCR to try and reach 6,000 refugees stranded in remote border area of former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  • UN prosecutor welcomes British, German commitment to provide information on Kosovo war crimes.
  • UN protests deployment of Yugoslav soldiers in Prevlaka demilitarized zone on Croatia's border with Yugoslavia.
  • Commission on Sustainable Development to focus on eco-tourism and impact of pollution on world's oceans.
  • World Food Programme launches emergency operation to aid more than 260, 000 needy Eritreans.
  • War and civil strife threaten food security in many countries of sub- Saharan Africa, UN agricultural agency warns.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the announcement of the signing of an agreement in East Timor designed to end the violence and establish peace and stability in the Territory, a UN spokesman said Wednesday.

The Secretary-General was confident that the implementation of such an agreement, both in spirit and on the ground, would be of paramount importance to the negotiations under his auspices and the overall peace process in which he is engaged, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the latest round of talks on East Timor began Wednesday morning at UN Headquarters in New York. The Secretary-General's Personal Representative, Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, chaired bilateral meetings with senior officials of Portugal and Indonesia before all three parties convened to continue discussions on the proposed autonomy plan for the former Portuguese colony.

The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with the Foreign Ministers of both countries Thursday morning before trilateral talks continue in the afternoon and Friday, the spokesman said.

Members of the Security Council have urged the authorities and all parties in the Central African Republic to finalize preparations for the forthcoming presidential elections.

In a press statement on Wednesday, the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Alain Dejammet of France, said that Council members encouraged the Government and all political parties in the country to resume negotiations for an acceptable compromise on the organization and functioning of the mixed and independent electoral commission.

Members of Security Council, who had been briefed on the situation in the country by Bernard Miyet, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, noted with satisfaction the progress made in some areas, Ambassador Dejammet said.

The Council President added, however, that members of the Security Council urged the Government to continue to take concrete and necessary steps to implement political, social and security reforms and to address, in particular, the issues of salaries and arrears. They also called on the Government to continue the restructuring of the armed forces and expressed their strong support for the Secretary-General's appeal to donor countries to contribute to this process.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported no major refugee flows on Wednesday as it negotiated access to 6,000 Kosovars in a remote mountain village on the border of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The refugees stranded in the village of Male Malina are not formally considered as admitted to the country by the Skopje authorities. UNHCR staff delivered food and blankets earlier in the week, but were turned back on Tuesday.

In Albania, UNHCR and the government are taking advantage of the lull in refugee traffic to move up to 10,000 persons a day by road out of the northern Kukes area near the border with Kosovo.

The top prosecutor of the UN tribunal for Yugoslavia welcomed on Wednesday the announcement by the United Kingdom and German Governments that they would work closely with the tribunal to provide relevant military intelligence concerning possible war crimes being committed in Kosovo.

Justice Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, described her discussions with British and German leaders and the commitments they expressed as "extremely encouraging."

Last week after a meeting with officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Justice Arbour had called for nations to provide information to assist her Office's investigation into the atrocities being committed in the Balkans.

"We have been steadily building our co-operation with a number of countries, " Justice Arbour said, "and their decisions to increase our access to sensitive information takes us another important step forward. It should also send a signal to leaders and commanders on the ground who are implicated in the commission of war crimes that they will be brought to justice."

The Prosecutor said her Office would ensure that appropriate safeguards were in place for handling sensitive information and that it would work with state authorities to determine the best way of turning the information into evidence that could be used in a criminal court to prove the responsibility of military and political leaders for any war crimes.

"The Tribunal's investigators are now assembling a body of direct witness testimony," Justice Arbour said. "Putting these first-hand accounts together with information we expect to continue to receive from a variety of Governments will build strong prosecution cases."

The United Nations has protested the deployment of Yugoslav soldiers in the demilitarized zone in the disputed Prevlaka peninsula between Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In an apparent spill-over of the Kosovo crisis, the United Nations Mission of Observers (UNMOP) reported on Wednesday that some 20 Yugoslav military police were still manning a strategic crossing in the de- militarized zone, said a UN spokesman. The area is reported to be calm but tense.

The President of the Security Council, Ambassador Alain Dejammet of France, said in a press statement that Council members were determined to follow the situation carefully. Earlier, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, briefed the Council after seeking clarification on the deployment from the Yugoslav mission to the United Nations.

The Croatian Ambassador to the United Nations, Ivan Simonovic, lodged an official protest with the Security Council on Tuesday, demanding that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia immediately withdraw its troops from the demilitarized area on Croatia's border. In a letter, Ambassador Simonovic said the act violated the agreement between the two countries and relevant Council resolutions.

In its short life, the Commission on Sustainable Development had begun to show how institutions and people could work together to reduce the tension between development and sustainability, UN Deputy Secretary- General Louise Frechette said on Wednesday.

The Commission, which monitors the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, is holding its seventh annual session at UN headquarters in New York.

In an address to the opening of the Commission's high-level segment, Ms. Frechette said sustainable development would not be achieved without the resources needed to do the job set out in Agenda 21 and other agreements. Nor would it be achieved without the Commission's policy- making being more meaningful to individual citizens.

Over 70 ministers of Environment, Oceans and Development are attending the three-day high-level segment. They will discuss such issues as eco-tourism, the impact of overfishing and pollution on the world's oceans and seas and the problems facing small island developing States.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Wednesday that it would begin providing food aid to thousands of Eritreans affected by the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

In response to a request by the Eritrean Government, WFP said that it would launch a $15.4 million operation in April to feed approximately 268,000 Eritreans displaced by the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea in three southern provinces. WFP said that the recipients will include about 146,500 displaced persons, mostly women and children who fled the border towns, and approximately 21,500 returnees who were deported from Ethiopia. The UN food agency said that it expected to provide rations to the displaced persons through the end of the year.

"The fighting has completely upset these people's lives," said Russ Ulrey, WFP's Regional Logistics Officer who led an assessment mission to Eritrea in March. He added that many of the people interviewed during the mission said that their homes had been completely destroyed by bombing and fire. Mr. Ulrey said that the people had nothing and were literally living out in "the middle of nowhere." The WFP official said that the assessment team saw visible signs of malnutrition among the displaced population.

In a related development, a UN spokesman announced that Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Africa, was leaving New York for Paris on Wednesday to meet with President Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso, the Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). From Paris, Ambassador Sahnoun would proceed to Asmara, Eritrea, to meet with the Eritrean authorities and then go on to Addis Ababa to confer with the Ethiopian side and further consult with the OAU.

With war and civil strife posing a major threat to food security, 17 sub- Saharan African countries face "exceptional food emergencies", while much of the sub-region sees improved food and crop prospects, according to a Special Report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Agency (FAO) released on Wednesday.

Disruptions of food production caused by continuing violence and widespread population displacements were further aggravated by adverse weather conditions in some areas, the report added.

Singling out Angola as perhaps hardest hit by civil strife, FAO described the food outlook in the country as "extremely bleak" because of fighting which had resumed last December just after the beginning of the current cropping season.

In Somalia, six consecutive poor harvests have led to starvation- related deaths and severe malnutrition, but the food situation was expected to deteriorate even further, according to the report. FAO said one million people were desperately short of food, with more than 400,000 threatened by starvation. The UN agency stressed the need for the international community to "devise ways to reach the increasingly desperate population."

On a brighter side, the report described harvest prospects in most of southern Africa as "favourable". It said that recovery in production could be expected in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, while "good harvests" were in prospect in Madagascar, Malawi and Swaziland. The food outlook in western Africa, particularly in the Sahelian countries, was also favourable following above-average or record harvests.

The 17 countries listed by FAO as facing "exceptional" food emergencies are Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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