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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-07

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

Tuesday, December 7, 1999

UNITED NATIONS HOLDS THIRD ROUND OF CYPRUS PROXIMITY TALKS

The third round of talks on Cyprus began this morning at 11:00 when the Secretary-General's Special Advisor, Alvaro de Soto, met here at Headquarters with His Excellency Glafcos Clerides.

De Soto is scheduled to meet His Excellency Rauf Denktash this afternoon at 5:30.

In response to previous questions on whether the Secretary-General ever received the expected letter from United States President Bill Clinton, the Spokesman confirmed that the letter arrived last Friday. He declined to comment on the letter's contents.

In response to a question on how patient the United Nations would be regarding the duration of the talks, the Spokesman said, "We have as much time as the parties might want to give to this process. As long as they feel they're making progress and it's worth continuing the discussions, we're happy to continue to facilitate them."

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO VISIT MONTREAL

The Secretary-General leaves for Montreal, Canada this afternoon to participate in the World Civil Society Conference organized by a coalition of non-governmental organizations.

Tonight he will attend a reception sponsored by the Conference organizers and then a dinner hosted by the Canadian United Nations Association under the Chairmanship of Yves Fortier, the former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations.

He will make a speech at the dinner, in which he is expected to discuss Canada's strong contribution to the UN and to pay tribute to Daniel Rowan, a Canadian official who died en route to Pristina, where he was to have played a role in strengthening Kosovo's prison system.

Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General will address the World Civil Society Conference, where he is expected to focus on the challenges of globalization and the role of non-governmental organizations in giving globalization "a human face."

In an advance copy of the speech, which was made available under embargo to the press, he says that, during the protests he witnessed in Seattle last week, people were voicing their fears about globalization. The challenge facing civil society is to manage globalization to benefit the greatest number of people and nations.

The Secretary-General will return to New York about mid-day tomorrow.

UNHCR SAYS CIVILIANS IN CHECHNYA ARE "TOP CONCERN"

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sadako Ogata reiterated UNHCR's concern about the fate of Chechnya's civilian population trapped in the capital, Grozny, during a telephone conversation yesterday with Russia's Federal Emergencies Minister, Sergei Shoigu.

Shoigu had called Ogata to tell her that Russia has taken steps to improve the security of aid workers in the Northern Caucasus and decided to exempt UN agencies from value-added taxes on local purchases.

Ogata spoke to Shoigu hours after Russian media reported that Russian military commanders issued an ultimatum to Grozny's non-combatants, telling them to leave the city or be destroyed. She said the fate of Chechnya's civilians was currently UNHCR's top concern.

UNHCR said that very little information is available on the humanitarian situation inside Chechnya. Tens of thousands of people are believed to be trapped in Grozny and other areas under heavy Russian bombardment. Many are hiding in cellars without electricity and adequate supplies of food and water.

UNHCR's emergency team today went to North Ossetia's capital, Vladikavkaz, to be on standby for deployment in Ingushetia as soon as security improves.

Another UNHCR convoy arrived in Nazran this morning, bringing the total of food and other aid delivered by UNHCR to 2,500 metric tonnes.

ANNAN DISCUSSES DISPUTE WITH HONDURAS FOREIGN MINISTER

The Foreign Minister of Honduras, Roberto Flores Bermudez, visited UN Headquarters this morning. He met Department of Political Affairs officials earlier in the morning, and then met the Secretary-General at 11:30 a.m. before holding a press conference in Room 226.

The Secretary-General has also received a letter from the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua regarding the tensions arising from Honduras's treaty with Colombia on their maritime border. In that letter, the Nicaraguan Government repeated its commitment to use legal and diplomatic means to resolve the dispute.

The United Nations is expecting that a senior Nicaraguan official might visit headquarters later this week, and will announce the meeting once it is confirmed.

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS CONSULTATIONS ON CYPRUS

The Security Council is meeting this afternoon for consultations on the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The Secretary-General's report on Cyprus, which was released last week, recommended a further six-month extension of its mandate.

Under "other matters" this afternoon, the Council is expected to discuss the timing of consultations on a draft resolution on Iraq.

Also this afternoon, the release of two reports by the Secretary-General to the Security Council, on the Western Sahara and Sierra Leone, is expected later today.

The Spokesman responded to a question on the Cyprus consultations by noting that there was "no link" between the Council's work and the proximity talks that are also underway.

UNHCR REACHES AGREEMENT ON EAST TIMOR REFUGEES

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that agreement has been reached with local Indonesian military authorities to separate militia members and their families from refugees in West Timor. Local military and provincial officials have offered a separate facility to shelter these people.

Meanwhile, four more children died in the Tua Pukan camp in West Timor yesterday, and UNHCR fears that similar appalling conditions exist in other camps in the province where the agency has not had full access.

Returns from West Timor remain low, and only about 113,000 have gone back so far to East Timor.

The Indonesian National Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in East Timor arrived in Dili today for a week-long visit to East Timor during which they will, for the first time, collect direct testimony from witnesses.

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) today began deploying newly-appointed District Administrators. Eventually, 13 Districts will be headed by transitional administrators appointed by the Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

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PUERTO RICANS STAGE PROTEST OUTSIDE UN GATES

There was a brief, unscheduled demonstration outside the UN Headquarters today. At about 9:30 a.m., 10 Puerto Rican demonstrators staged a protest outside the visitors' gate, criticizing United States military training exercises in Puerto Rico.

According to UN Security, the protestors caused a few minor delays at the gate, and UN Security briefly stopped the UN tours to ensure that none of the demonstrators had joined the tours.

At 10:15, the New York Police Department arrested the 10 demonstrators and charged them with disorderly conduct.

FOUNDATIONS PROVIDE $78 MILLION TO UN POLIO CAMPAIGN

A campaign to eradicate polio by the end of next year, involving joint efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International, received a major contribution today from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organizations announced that the foundation would provide 50 million dollars to their campaign to certify the world as "polio-free."

That money, along with the 28 million dollars provided by the United Nations Foundation, established by Ted Turner, will help to vaccinate millions of children during a mass immunization programme planned for the coming year.

"We are on track to eradicate polio," said WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland. "With this kind of contribution, a polio-free world is within reach, and one of the world's largest health initiatives can be brought to a successful conclusion."

UN FORCE COMMANDER ARRIVES IN FREETOWN

The new Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Maj. Gen. Vijay Kumar Jetley, who was appointed by the Secretary-General at the end of last month, arrived in Freetown today. The Indian contingent, which will include the Force Headquarters and a security element of the Indian battalion are also scheduled to arrive today.

MEETINGS ON IRAQ COMPENSATION BEGIN IN GENEVA

In Geneva, the Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission is meeting from today until Thursday. The Governing Council comprises the 15 members of the Security Council, and will consider a number of reports and recommendations regarding claims filed for compensation following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. A press release on the outcome is expected on Thursday.

UNHCR FIELD OFFICE OPENS IN COLOMBIA

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today the establishment of its first field presence in Colombia with the opening of a field office in Barrancabermeja, north of Bogota in the department of Magdalena Medio.

The new office, which opened on 3 December, is the first of three UNHCR field offices scheduled to be opened in Colombia between now and the end of next year.

The deterioration of the Colombian conflict in the past few years has led to the internal displacement of at least 800,000 people since 1996. In the first six months of 1999, an estimated 123,000 people were displaced.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Spokesman noted that his Deputy Spokesman, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, has gone to East Timor until 1 April to help set up the information operation for the United Nations Transitional Administration. His temporary replacement is John Mills, the press officer for the Office of the Iraq Programme, who will fill in for Almeida e Silva half time between now and 1 April.

The Department for Disarmament Affairs is organizing a technical workshop today, from 3 to 5 p.m., in Conference Room 7, to discuss a draft "Light Weapons Field Guide" for relief workers. The workshop will be chaired by Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala.

A press release is available from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concerning a meeting beginning tomorrow in Cairo on the impacts of large dams in Africa and the Middle East.

Assistant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Soren Jessen-Petersen is in New York today. He would be available to talk to reporters about refugee-related topics later in the afternoon, possibly after 3:30 p.m.

The Spokesman made a correction in last week's Friday quiz, which had said that the word "discrimination" had never appeared in the United Nations Charter or Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That information was obtained from a background paper on "the definitions of racial discrimination," which was issued at the Commission on Human Right's 55th session and is posted on the Website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The document and quiz were wrong, the Spokesman said: "The word 'discrimination' appears not once, but four times, in Articles 7 and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the resolution which established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). At 3 p.m. tomorrow in Room 226, the Secretary-General and UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen will give a press briefing on UNRWA's work over the past 50 years. Delegations are invited to watch the briefing in Viewing Room 4.

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