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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-06

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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

Monday, December 6, 1999

SECRETARY-GENERAL RESUMES CYPRUS TALKS

The Cyprus talks began this morning at 11 a.m. when Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto, met with Glafcos Clerides; and then at 12:15 p.m. he met with Rauf Denktash. Over the weekend, de Soto met with each of the parties.

In response to a question about the progress of the talks, the Spokesman said that the United Nations expected the talks to take place on a daily basis, until either the parties feel they can no longer make progress or until a breakthrough is achieved. The United Nations has tentatively scheduled 10 days for the talks but is prepared for longer talks if necessary, he said.

AID CONVOY CROSSES FRONT LINES IN AFGHANISTAN

Earlier today, an eight-truck humanitarian convoy carrying about 70 tons of aid traveled from Kabul across the front lines to the Panjshir Valley where there are some 65,000 displaced persons.

The permission to cross the front lines followed about a six-week engagement by the United Nations on humanitarian access to the Panjshir Valley with the Taliban and the opposition Northern Alliance.

The United Nations had set up a joint committee comprising of representatives of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance to plan this operation in a rare example of cooperation.

UNHCR SENDS MEDICAL TEAM TO WEST TIMOR

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), working with the Indonesian Government, the World Health Organization and others, dispatched a 41-member medical team over the weekend to the refugee camp in Tua Pukan in West Timor. Local authorities estimate that 170 deaths have occurred in that camp since September, 35 of them between November 22 and December 1 -- most of the deaths were of children under the age of five.

Conditions in the camp were described as appalling. Half the 192 latrines do not work, water sources are contaminated and the water that is being trucked in is untreated.

UNHCR reported some progress on the issue of separating the refugees from the militias, who continue to impede humanitarian workers. UNHCR representatives met today with the new Indonesian military commander for West Timor, Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri. Militia leaders also attended that meeting to deal with the situations in the camps. The Chief Military Observer of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) has been in Jakarta discussing this issue, among others. The Commander of the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET), Gen. Peter Cosgrove, will meet Maj. Gen. Kiki on Tuesday.

In Dili over the weekend, the deployment of 30 traffic wardens, who wore orange hats and vests and had been trained by INTERFET, took place.

SECRETARY-GENERAL OPENS MEETING OF AIDS PARTNERS

This morning, the Secretary-General opened a private meeting at UN Headquarters to form an international partnership against HIV/AIDS in Africa by calling for a response to the epidemic which he said would make humanity live up to its name.

He urged Governments to "break the conspiracy of silence at every level;" to meet the needs of those already infected with HIV and make effective treatments available and affordable; and to speed up work on developing a vaccine.

He said that over the next two days, the participants in this private meeting should join together to develop a plan of action no later than next May that could be used to cut the rate of HIV infections among the young by 25 percent by the year 2005.

"Our response so far has failed Africa," he warned. "From now on, let us resolve that failure is not an option."

The two-day meeting includes representatives from African and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Governments, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector. It is intended to be the start of a process to launch a five-year initiative to reduce HIV infections, particularly among 15-to-24-year olds in the most affected countries.

The actual launch of the International Partnership against AIDS in Africa is expected next spring.

WFP ANNOUNCES INCREASED REACH OF AID AGENCIES IN THE CONGO

The World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that aid agencies working out of major urban centers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are beginning to reach more people displaced by the conflict. However, recent assessments indicate that countless others are still trapped in the nation's interior without access to humanitarian assistance.

Over the past three weeks, WFP said its staff visited six locations in both government-held and rebel-controlled areas to gather more information on the plight of the displaced.

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 800,000 people in DRC who have been uprooted from their homes by the war and are living in precarious conditions throughout the country. Unless new funds are pledged soon, agencies like WFP will not be able to provide even survival rations for the tens of thousands of already malnourished people who are struggling to survive.

RWANDA TRIBUNAL CONVICTS RUTAGANDA OF GENOCIDE

This morning in Arusha, Tanzania, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda handed over its sixth conviction by sentencing Georges Anderson Rutaganda to spend the rest of his life in prison, upon his conviction on one count of genocide and two counts of crimes against humanity.

The judges ruled that Rutaganda bears individual criminal responsibility "for having ordered and carried out murders and for causing serious bodily and mental harm to members of the Tutsi ethnic group during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994."

Meanwhile, Carla del Ponte, the Tribunal's Prosecutor, Sunday began her visit to Kigali, Rwanda. Upon arriving, she visited a memorial honoring the victims of genocide in Gikongoro. Today she is working with her staff in her office in Kigali, and she will stay in Rwanda until Wednesday.

UN RECEIVES LETTERS ON HONDURAS-NICARAGUA DISPUTE

This morning, the United Nations received a letter from the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua regarding its maritime border dispute with Honduras. Tuesday, the Foreign Minister of Honduras, Flores Bermudez is expected at headquarters and will hold a news conference.

On Friday, the United Nations confirmed receipt of a letter from the Government of Honduras requesting that international observers be sent to its border with Nicaragua, following tension between the two countries over their maritime border with Colombia.

The Organization of American States also received a request for observers from Honduras and that its Permanent Council is meeting on this issue in Washington today.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Mitch Werner, Deputy Assistant Secretary-General in External Relations, lost his battle with cancer over the weekend. He passed away on Sunday, at the age of 48, leaving his wife and two children. Werner had previously worked for the Information Department, and later left the United Nations and eventually became Vice President of the United Nations Association of the United States. He returned to the United Nations in 1997 to work with the current Secretary-General. The funeral was held this morning. The Secretary-General's Office will organize a memorial service for him in early January. The family asks that instead of sending flowers, his friends make a contribution to the U.S. Committee for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe released two human rights reports today that document extensive human rights violations in Kosovo. The press release and the report are out on their website.

The World Health Organization (WHO) today signed a license agreement in Geneva with a private pharmaceutical company, Hoechst Marion Roussel Inc., which would allow the WHO and its partners to ensure the availability of a drug that is used to treat African sleeping sickness. An estimated 55 million people in 36 sub-Saharan African countries are exposed to the risk of contracting African sleeping sickness, according to the WHO.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Randolph Kent, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

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