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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-16

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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 16, 1999

REPORT OF RWANDA INQUIRY RELEASED

The Independent Inquiry on Rwanda, conducted by former Prime Minister of Sweden Ingvar Carlsson, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea Han Sung-Joo and Nigerian General and veteran of UN peacekeeping Rufus Kupolati, was released this morning. The members of the Inquiry also held a press conference this morning at UN Headquarters.

The panel found that the failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda was shared by the United Nations system as a whole, which lacked the resources and the political will to take effective action.&#9;

In a statement issued this morning, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he found the report thorough and objective and fully accepted its conclusions.

"On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse," he said.

He indicated his intention to learn from the United Nations's experiences in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and expressed his deep commitment to ensure that the United Nations never again fails to protect a civilian population from genocide or mass slaughter.

The report and the statement can be found on the Internet on the Spokesman's page of the UN website (www.un.org).

Asked about the Secretary-General's response, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General accepted the report's conclusions wholeheartedly and has already taken action to correct a number of problems identified in the report. "He's a manager; he's always looking ahead," said Eckhard, who added that Annan would want to follow up on the Rwanda and Srebrenica reports by changing policies and the work of the Secretariat as necessary.

In terms of actions, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General is not ready to make a specific announcement yet. But he noted that the Secretariat has tried to improve its internal communications with human rights officials and the Security Council. The High Commissioner for Human Rights participates in the Secretary-General's weekly cabinet meeting, he said. Also, UN departments send officers and Under-Secretaries-General to the Security Council regularly to inform them of events.

"We are very quick these days to report any news that we think is a matter of concern," Eckhard said.

At the same time, he said, the report also pointed to the failure of the UN system as a whole, including the lack of political will by Member States. "We all have some reflecting to do," he said.

Asked about whether the Secretary-General would apologize to Rwanda, the Spokesman noted his expression of "deep remorse." Ingvar Carlsson had said today that he had submitted a copy of the report to the Rwandan Government.

The embargo placed on the Rwanda report was broken early this morning by Canadian Press, the Spokesman noted. Lorraine Anthony, Foreign Editor of Canadian Press, apologized for an error made by the overnight editor, he said. The editor had mistakenly thought that a different publication had already broken the embargo, Eckhard explained.

The Spokesman emphasized that embargoed copies are a service to the press, to provide time to study lengthy documents before their release. However, he added, following the breaking of today's embargo, the United Nations is suspending until further notice its policy of releasing material on an embargoed basis.

UN CIVILIAN POLICE INVESTIGATE SHOOTING IN EAST TIMOR

On Wednesday evening in East Timor, two alleged militia members were handed over to UN Civilian Police by the East Timor National Liberation Armed Force (FALINTIL) after a shooting incident in Aileu. Four shots had been fired there at about 7:30 last night, and FALINTIL members searched for the shooters, returning later in the evening with the two alleged militia members.

UN Civilian Police are investigating the incident and maintaining a regular presence at the FALINTIL cantonment in Aileu.

Also yesterday, a mass grave was located in Passabe, in the Oecussi enclave, also called Ambeno, in the western part of the island. According to the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET), the mass grave contains 54 bodies. INTERFET will continue its investigation tomorrow.

Tomorrow will also be the opening session of the donors meeting for East Timor that is being held in Tokyo, Japan. The meeting, which is co-hosted by the United Nations and the World Bank, began tonight with a dinner for the heads of delegations.

More than 100 officials from 29 countries are expected to attend, and Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), will deliver a statement on behalf of the UN delegation tomorrow morning. Independence leader Xanana Gusmao is also expected to speak as part of the UN/East Timor delegation.

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS OPEN BRIEFING ON DRC

The Security Council today heard an open briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in which Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet warned that the military and security situation has seriously deteriorated in the past month.

He noted recent clashes between Government and rebel forces in Equateur province and in the south-east of the country, and added that the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) has so far deployed 62 of the 90 military liaison officers authorized by the Security Council.

But he added, "Until MONUC is guaranteed the full security and freedom of movement by both sides that it needs, it will not be able to complete its technical survey of the country." That would in turn prevent the UN from submitting its assessment of security and freedom of movement in the country.

The Council then proceeded to an open debate on the DRC, in which 15 speakers took part.

At 3:00 this afternoon, a Council working group will meet to follow up on the recent UN resolution on civilians in armed conflict.

Tomorrow, the Council is scheduled to hold consultations on Kosovo and the Ethiopia-Eritrea situation, and may also take up the comprehensive resolution on Iraq.

VISIT TO TRIBUNAL BY BOSNIAN SERB LEADER POSTPONED

The plane in which Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, of Republika Srpska, was supposed to travel to The Hague was snowed in in Banja Luka and was not able to take off. His visit to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was postponed.

IRAQ OIL SALES RESUME

Iraqi oil sales resumed today after a three-week interruption.

The first loading of Iraqi oil began shortly after midnight today at the port of Mina al-Bakr, where some two million barrels were loaded.

At 11 a.m. today, the pricing formula for Iraqi oil exports under the new phase was approved, clearing the way for a full resumption of Iraqi oil sales under the "oil-for-food" programme.

Already, 30 contracts have been received for oil sales, of which four have already been approved by the Sanctions Committee.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The World Food Programme (WFP) today issued a press release on a new Internet web called the "Hunger Site" (www.hungersite.com), an independent web site created last June by software programmer John Breen. If users click on the site's button marked "Donate Free Food," they will make the corporate sponsors who advertise on the site donate meals to hungry people throughout the world. The donations are at no cost to the computer users, but generate money solely from the advertisers. All donations generated by the Hunger Site are given to the WFP, which has so far received more than 200,000 dollars from the site's sponsors; the money has helped to provide food for school children in Ethiopia and Haiti.

An updated version of the Department of Public Information photo exhibit on "The United Nations and the Question of Palestine" opens today at UN Headquarters. It describes how the question of Palestine has been dealt with in the UN, the evolution of a search for a solution, and the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and of other UN agencies. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kensaku Hogen opened the exhibit at 12:30 today.

Lesotho today paid more than 77,000 dollars to the UN regular budget, paying off its balance for prior years and completing its payments for 1999. Lesotho becomes the 119th member state to pay its dues in full for this year.

There will be two press conferences at UN Headquarters tomorrow. First, at 11:15, Philippe Kirsch, Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for an International Criminal Court, will discuss two draft texts on rules of procedure and evidence, and on elements of crimes. Then, at the noon briefing, the guest will be Under-Secretary-General of Management Joseph Connor, who will talk about UN Headquarters arrangements dealing with the "Y2K" crisis.

The UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) announced that Ambassador Francesco Paolo Fulci of Italy would be the guest at the UNCA Club today at 3:30 p.m.

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