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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-09

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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 9, 1999

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES ISRAEL-SYRIA AGREEMENT

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement issued through his Spokesman, warmly welcomed the agreement between Israel and Syria to resume their negotiations at a high-level meeting next week in Washington. The Secretary-General congratulated Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, as well as U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for their mediation efforts.

"This important agreement raises renewed hopes in the difficult search for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East," the statement said. It also said that the Secretary-General hoped that it would be followed soon by the resumption of talks between Israel and Lebanon and further progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track.

COUNCIL WORKING GROUP MEETS ON CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT

The first meeting of the Security Council's informal working group on civilians in armed conflict began this morning.

The working group was established to review the recommendations in the Secretary-General's report of September 8.

In that report, the Secretary-General made wide-ranging recommendations, but urged the Council to pay particular attention to nine proposals, including the need for rapid deployment and preventive deployment; better assessment of the impact of sanctions; use of targeted sanctions; and recommendations regarding humanitarian access.

The working group meets at the expert level and is chaired by Canada. Its mandate lasts until next April.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS WESTERN SAHARA, IRAQ

This afternoon, the Council will meet for consultations on Western Sahara, on which Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet will present the Secretary-General's report, which was made available on Tuesday.

That briefing will be followed by further discussions on Iraq.

In response to a question on Council discussions on Iraq, the Spokesman noted that Secretary-General has been following recent developments closely, including the possibility of action on a comprehensive resolution "in the next few days." The Secretary-General hoped that the Council could stand united in their efforts, Eckhard said.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS SPECIAL ADVISER ON COLOMBIA

Following the Secretary-General's meeting with President Andr&eacute;s Pastrana of Colombia during the General Debate of the General Assembly last September, the Secretary-General has appointed Jan Egeland of Norway as his Special Adviser on International Assistance to Colombia.

Egeland's appointment took effect on December 1. He will act as a focal point for the UN system in its efforts to mobilize international assistance on social, humanitarian, human rights, drug control and peace-building activities in Colombia.

ANNAN RESUMES NEGOTIATIONS ON CYPRUS

The Secretary-General returned to the proximity talks on Cyprus today, meeting first with His Excellency Glafcos Clerides at 10 a.m., and then with His Excellency Rauf Denktash at 10:45 a.m. Each meeting was initially one-on-one, and delegations joined in afterward.

The Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, met at 9:15 a.m. with Sir David Hannay, the special envoy on Cyprus of the United Kingdom, and Ambassador Alfred Moses, the special envoy on Cyprus of the United States.

The Spokesman added, in response to questions, that the Secretary-General returned to the talks after being out of town Wednesday morning, and wanted to meet with the parties this morning to catch up on recent developments. He declined to comment on the specifics of the meetings.

Asked about a shooting incident Wednesday in Cyprus, the Spokesman noted that there was an incident just north of the Cyprus "buffer zone." He said that hunting season was underway in Cyprus, and in recent years hunters had penetrated the buffer zone and UN peacekeeping forces have tried to keep them out. In this case, he said, several hunters went beyond the buffer zone, crossing into the Northern part of Cyprus, where shots were fired and a Turkish Cypriot was injured. His wounds were not life threatening, Eckhard added.

ANNAN CONTINUES MEETINGS ON NICARAGUA-HONDURAS DISPUTE

At 12:30 today, the Secretary-General met Guillermo Arguello Poessy, the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, to discuss tensions between Nicaragua and Honduras over their maritime border. On Tuesday, the Secretary-General had met the Foreign Minister of Honduras, Roberto Flores Bermudez, on the same subject.

The matter is now before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). A press release from the ICJ issued Wednesday said that Nicaragua asked the ICJ to determine the maritime boundary between Nicaragua and Honduras.

TOP UN OFFICIAL IN EAST TIMOR TRAVELS TO AINARO WITH GUSMAO

Today, Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), traveled with East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao to the village of Ainaro, south of Dili, where Gusmao had previously taken refuge during his days as a guerrilla fighter.

Gusmao told a welcoming crowd that he would travel to the border with West Timor to invite refugees still in West Timor personally to return home safely.

The number of returns thus far from West Timor is more than 115,000. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR ) believes that the Indonesian Government estimates of 140,000 refugees remaining in West Timor may be inflated; UNHCR representatives on the ground today estimated that up to 50,000 of those refugees may choose to remain in West Timor.

ANNAN AND RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSS CHECHNYA

Asked about the Secretary-General's position on Chechnya, the Spokesman said that Annan was one of the first officials to voice his concern on the humanitarian situation there.

The Secretary-General contacted Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov Wednesday by telephone, he said. The Foreign Minister indicated that a number of international organizations had voiced their own concerns, notably the European Union, the Council of Europe and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

IAEA WARNS OF NEED FOR Y2K PREPAREDNESS

The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El-Baradei, in a statement to his agency's Board of Governors, flagged a need for heightened preparedness to respond to complications related to the "Y2K" computer glitch.

El-Baradei noted that his Agency has continued its Y2K assistance program by organizing missions to nuclear power plants and medical facilities that requested assistance with the bug. He said, however, that there is concern that some nuclear power plant operators are falling behind in their efforts to complete the necessary Y2K tasks because of late actions and a shortage of funds.

The concern is not directly related to safety, but such areas as updating computers to monitor radiation, according to the IAEA.

TRIBUNAL RECEIVES GERMAN FORENSIC REPORT ON KOSOVO

Today in The Hague, a representative of the German police provided reports and evidence to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that resulted from a German forensic team's work in Kosovo over the past six months. This evidence will be used by Tribunal Prosecutor Carla del Ponte in preparing her case on Kosovo.

The German team was one of 14 forensic teams that provided personnel to assist the Tribunal's investigation in Kosovo. Partial results from the forensic teams have been submitted to the Tribunal by virtually all of the teams to date. The Prosecutor now expects to receive information and evidence from the teams' national police agencies.

UN MISSION WRAPS UP WORK ON ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE IN GUINEA

A two-week mission to Guinea from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded its field work this week on the possible environmental impacts of refugees to that country. The team was looking at problems of deforestation, erosion and unsustainable land use, and the issues of water, waste management and sanitation, particularly in urban centers. Its recommendations will be submitted to the Secretary-General.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures, Guinea is the African country hosting the highest number of refugees with some 489,000 refugees, mainly from neighboring Sierra Leona and Liberia.

Earlier this year, during talks between the Secretary-General and Government officials of Guinea, concern was expressed about the influx of refugees in the forest areas close to the Guinean border.

Following the Secretary-General's request, Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director, received advice and assistance from the World Bank, UNHCR and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). UNHCR and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) are partners in the assessment mission.

WHO URGES ADEQUATE PREPAREDNESS TO COMBAT MENINGITIS

At a meeting at the World Health Organization (WHO) which concluded today, a group of health experts from various agencies urged adequate preparedness in the effort to combat meningitis.

The International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control concluded two days of meetings by warning that countries at risk for meningitis must carry out thorough disease surveillance and have ready sufficient stocks of vaccine and syringes.

According to WHO, 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are at particular risk for large meningitis outbreaks.


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