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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-20

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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

Monday, December 20, 1999

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT

Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement through his spokesman expressing his shock at the "indiscriminate terrorist attack" on Saturday against President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, in which there was a large number of innocent casualties. Annan sent the President a message wishing her a speedy recovery.

The Secretary-General also sent his condolences to the families of all the dead and injured, and hoped for the speedy and full recovery of the injured.

"The Secretary-General wishes to reiterate his condemnation of terrorism from whatever quarter," the statement said. "He is concerned that these continuing acts of terrorism in Sri Lanka may make the prospects for achieving peace even more difficult."

Annan also expressed the hope that Tuesday's Presidential elections in Sri Lanka will be credible and free of any further violence.

ANNAN OFFERS CONDOLENCES FOLLOWING VENEZUELA FLOODS

The Secretary-General, in a statement, expressed sadness at the loss of life and devastation caused by Venezuela's floods, and extended his deepest condolences to the people and Government of Venezuela, the Spokesman said.

He also assured them that the United Nations will continue to assist in the relief and rehabilitation of affected areas, Eckhard added, and thanked all Governments and private individuals who have assisted Venezuela.

According to the latest situation report on the Venezuela floods issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the weather has considerably improved, but the massive scale of the disaster is becoming increasingly evident. The State of Vargas is the area most affected.

The number of people directly affected, according to a report by President Hugo Chavez, is approximately 80,000. Overall, 150,000 people have been affected by the floods, with many people missing. The death toll is at present is 2,000.

OCHA's Regional Disaster Response Adviser, based in Quito, Ecuador, joined the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator today to assist in the overall coordination of the response provided by the UN System and donor governments.

A list of immediate needs for medical as well as other requirements have been established and available on the OCHA website -- http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/

UN OBSERVERS FIND GRAVESITES IN EAST TIMOR

UN Military Observers in East Timor found a mass gravesite in the East Timorese enclave of Ambeno, close to the border with West Timor. Eighteen burial sites were uncovered, some containing more than one body. Local people say the graves contain the bodies of about 50 people from three surrounding villages who had been fleeing militias when they were captured by militia members and shot on September 10.

Divers from the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET), acting on a tip from local people, found human remains at the bottom of a lake in Liquica, East Timor.

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor announced in Dili today that two Australian forensic experts would be arriving on Tuesday to set up a permanent forensic capability for the UN mission, with experts from different countries. The experts would work in East Timor for limited periods on a rotation basis starting next month.

TRIBUNAL FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA WELCOMES DETENTION OF GALIC

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) welcomed today's detention in Bosnia and Herzegovina of retired Maj. Gen. Stanislav Galic by members of the Stabilization Force (SFOR).

Galic, who was a commander of the Bosnian Serb Army's Romanija Corps between 1992 and 1994, has been charged by the Tribunal with four counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of violations of the laws and customs of war. The Romanija Corps was accused of using shelling and sniping to wound and kill civilians in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

Carla Del Ponte, the Tribunal's Prosecutor, said in a statement today that the arrest is in line with her policy of targeting senior figures in the chain of command for crimes committed during periods of conflict. "I commend SFOR for its significant contribution to international justice in carrying out the detention and transfer of persons indicted before the [Tribunal]," she said.

The Tribunal said it would set a time and date for Galic's initial appearance shortly.

UN MISSION IN KOSOVO WARNS HOSPITAL ON EXCLUSIONS

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) today reported that it has removed the UN flag from the Mitrovica hospital after Serb doctors refused a Saturday deadline to accept the return of 22 Albanian doctors. UNMIK said funding to the hospital will also be cut and that it planned to provide funding to open another facility in the same city that will be open to all patients.

UNMIK also announced the reopening in the coming days of Stari Trg, a part of the Trepca mining complex. Mitrovica's Regional Administrator described the reopening as a significant step forward in the economic recovery of Kosovo. Initially about 200 workers will conduct a six-week assessment to see what preliminary work needs to be done to get the mine operational. The Stari Trg mine had predominantly produced lead, but also was the site of deposits of silver, gold, cadmium, bismuth and zinc.

In the Pristina area, UNMIK announced the arrest today of an Albanian man suspected of having committed five murders over the past two months. The victims were of Serb and Roma ethnicity. Three other Albanian men, suspected of being accomplices, were arrested last week in connection with the same murders. All four are suspected to be members of the Kosovo Protection Corps.

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS WORKING LUNCH

There are no meetings of the Security Council scheduled today. However, the members of the Council will hold a working lunch to discuss issues informally.

Tuesday, the Council is expected to hear briefings from the Department of Political Affairs on the situations in Guinea-Bissau and in the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. On Wednesday, it will hold an open meeting on East Timor.

SIERRA LEONE REBEL LEADER ARRIVES IN LIBERIA

The United Nations received confirmation over the weekend that Col. Sam Bockarie, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) faction leader known as "Mosquito," had arrived in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, for talks with Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Bockarie had previously resisted calls from the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, to disarm and demobilize his fighters in compliance with the provisions of the Lom&eacute; peace accord. However, his and Sankoh's presence in Monrovia now allows President Taylor to help mediate differences between them.

The United Nations hopes that Bockarie's arrival in Liberia will help to relieve some of the tensions in Sierra Leone and to speed up the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

According to a press release from the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), former South African President Nelson Mandela has announced that he will serve as a patron to the Cities Without Slums initiative, which was unveiled in Berlin last week. Mandela called the initiative "a creative and daring response to urban poverty." The initiative aims to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020 through community-based upgrading programs, and it is co-sponsored by the World Bank and Habitat.

This evening, the Secretary-General will attend the "Sons and Daughters" event at the Council on Foreign Relations, at which he will be the principal speaker. He added that talk-show host Charlie Rose would open the event with a few questions, and then members of the Council would follow. The event is off the record.

Asked about the process to select a new head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General has held another round of interviews of candidates recently, but had no announcement yet on a selection.

In response to questions about U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke's comments on problems in the UN bureaucracy, the Spokesman said that the flow of information between the Secretary-General and the Security Council has improved during Kofi Annan's term. "My impression was that we were cooperating pretty well," he said. Annan has limited authority in dealing with UN specialized agencies, but has also improved their cooperation, the spokesman added, noting the efforts by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


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