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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-02

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, December 2, 1999

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS CONSULTATIONS ON CYPRUS, IRAQ

The Security Council began its informal consultations today by discussing its program of work for the month of December. In the first day of a new, month-long effort to acquaint next year's incoming Council rotating members with its work, the Council is allowing the new members -- which are Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine -- to sit in on discussions all this month, although they will not participate.

After those consultations are ended, the Council heard a briefing on the Cyprus talks, which begin here Friday, by the Secretary-General's Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto. After that briefing concluded, de Soto discussed the logistics, although not the substance, of the Cyprus talks, with reporters.

The Secretary-General's latest report on Cyprus was made available as a Security Council document, and in it, he recommended that the Security Council renew the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) by another six months, until June 15, 2000.

The Secretary-General said that the situation along the cease-fire lines "has remained stable," and noted the decision by the leaders of the parties to start proximity talks at UN Headquarters Friday. But he added that, under present circumstances, "the presence of UNFICYP on the island remains indispensable for the maintenance of the cease-fire between the two sides."

After its discussions on Cyprus end, the Council took up the renewal of Iraq's "oil-for-food" program. Two draft resolutions were introduced. The program is set to expire on December 4.

Those consultations are expected to continue into Friday, when the Council has scheduled a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast on Burundi.

EAST TIMOR COMMISSION GRANTED VISAS TO INDONESIA

The International Commission on of Inquiry on East Timor has been granted visas by the Indonesian Government to allow them to work inside Indonesia. They will travel from Dili to Jakarta on Sunday to work out their program.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, who heads the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), today met with Jaime Gama, the Foreign Minister of Portugal.

Also today, agreement was reached with independence leader Xanana Gusmao and other members of his party on a final draft of a constitution for the planned 15-member National Consultative Council (NCC). The NCC will allow the United Nations to consult the East Timorese about the governing of East Timor during the transition period.

In an update on East Timor, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted the visit today of U.S. Senator John Reed, who went to Atambua, in West Timor.

In response to a question on what the United Nations was doing to help bring back refugees from West Timor, the Spokesman said that the UNHCR was disappointed that, following the agreement between the International Force in East Timor and the Indonesian military to facilitate their return, "there really has not been any quickening of the pace of returns." UNHCR reports encounters with militia on a daily basis, he said.

The spokesman also said that Vieira de Mello and UNTAET were giving UNHCR political support for its aims. Many refugees, according to UNHCR, are families of militia or people who had worked with the Indonesian armed forces, he said. The two main UN concerns, he said, is the continuing intimidation in the camps and the campaign in which people in the camps have been told that it is not safe to return. UNHCR has tried to provide information to counter that "propaganda," he said.

RWANDA TRIBUNAL PROSECUTOR FILES BRIEF

Wednesday evening, Carla del Ponte, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda filed a brief requesting a review of the decision of the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal to release Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. There is no date set for the Chamber to take its decision. Last month, the Appeals Chamber ordered the release of Barayagwiza, ruling that his rights were violated because of the failure of the prosecutors to try him "diligently."

In other news from the Tribunal, last Friday, the French police arrested a person accused by the Tribunal, whose indictment is sealed as of today. An investigator from the Prosecutors Office was in France to work with the French authorities on that matter. Del Ponte said that he was a high-ranking Rwandan official, but did not provide further details on his identity.

This is the first time a person accused by the Tribunal has been arrested in France. Arrangements are being made to transfer the accused to Arusha, Tanzania, where the tribunal is based.

ANNAN, TOP UN HEALTH OFFIICAL URGE ACCESS FOR DISABLED PERSONS

Friday will be the International Day of Disabled Persons, and this year, the United Nations intends to draw attention to their lack of access to essential services worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 7 and 10 percent of the world's population has a disability.

In a message for the occasion, the Secretary-General said that for than half a billion people in the world, "accessibility can mean an education, a job and a community that would otherwise be denied them." He urged nations to build "truly accessible, caring and inclusive societies."

WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland said that it is necessary for UN agencies to devise and implement a common agenda on disability. In a statement that is embargoed until tomorrow, December 3, she said, "A more comprehensive effort is needed, at both the national and international levels, linking prevention with rehabilitation and equalization of opportunities."

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In response to questions, the Spokesman noted the effort by the families of victims of the Srebrenica massacre to sue UN officials for their actions during that incident. "The Secretary-General understands the anguish of the families of people who either were killed in that massacre or whose fate is not yet known after these years," the spokesman said. He declined to comment on the legal aspects of the case, except for noting that in previous cases, "UN officials in their official functions have immunity from such legal action."

In response to a question about reports from Afghanistan today quoting United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Erick de Mul, following a visit to the front lines, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General stands by the facts in his annual summary of the progress of peace efforts in Afghanistan issued earlier this week.

Governments should not be complacent in the fight against slavery, the Secretary-General said today in his message to commemorate the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. "This is not a time for complacency in the fight against slavery, but a time for action," he said, urging nations to ensure that the international conventions against slavery are implemented. Many types of slavery -- from traditional chattel slavery to child labor, migrant labor and forced labor -- are still practiced today, he argued.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, today visited the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), during which he thanked the FYROM government for clearing up the backlog of vehicles and aid-delivering trucks of their side of the border. Kouchner left Skopje in the afternoon to visit Albania and hold talks with officials there.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced it was opening on Monday, December 6, in Basel, Switzerland, the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Alvaro de Soto, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Cyprus.

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