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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-27

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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 27, 1999

  • The UN daily noon briefings will be suspended between Christmas and New Year's. Highlights of UN news from around the world will be posted daily.

    UNITED NATIONS OFFERS ASSISTANCE FOR HIJACKED INDIAN PLANE

    Over the weekend, at the request of the Government of India, the United Nations offered help on the humanitarian aspects of the hijacked Indian airliner that touched down in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Saturday. India did not request that the United Nations mediate with the hijackers.

    United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Erick de Mul flew from Islamabad, Pakistan to Kandahar on Sunday morning, where he remains today.

    Indian Government negotiators arrived in Kandahar today.

    Despite reports of a request for a Security Council meeting on this issue, no meeting was scheduled by noon today.

    UN POLICE ARREST MURDER SUSPECT IN KOSOVO

    United Nations police in Kosovo have arrested a 27-year-old ethnic Albanian man in connection with the 28 November murder of an ethnic Serb and the beating of his wife and mother-in-law.

    The assault took place on Albanian Flag Day, when a Serb family drove into an area where there were a large number of Albanians celebrating the holiday. The man was shot dead, and his 51-year-old wife and 76-year-old mother-in-law were dragged from the car and beaten.

    The arrest was made on 22 December, on the basis of information received from witnesses.

    This is the first time that witnesses to a serious crime have come forward to volunteer information to the UN police in Kosovo.

    ANNAN RECOMMENDS EXPANSION OF SIERRA LEONE FORCE

    At the end of last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, in which he recommends that the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) be expanded to "close to ten thousand military personnel."

    The Secretary-General notes that President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria had confirmed on 21 December that Nigeria would gradually withdraw its troops from the regional Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). The Nigerian repatriation from Sierra Leone would be completed in February 2000, the Secretary-General says, while Ghana and Guinea are also preparing to withdraw their soldiers from ECOMOG.

    "I am very much concerned that the repatriation of ECOMOG troops in the immediate future, without adequate security protection provided by other peacekeepers, would create a dangerous security gap in the key areas of Lungi and Freetown," he says in the letter.

    The Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council authorize as soon as possible the expansion of UNAMSIL by an addition of up to four infantry battalions and support personnel, and also recommends that UNAMSIL be given the mandate to provide security at Lungi airport and at key institutions in the capital, Freetown.

    He adds that a more detailed concept of operations for an expanded UNAMSIL will be provided in his next report to the Council on UNAMSIL, which is due on 20 January 2000.

    SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS COUP IN COTE D'IVOIRE

    The UN Resident Coordinator in Cote d'Ivoire has reported a return to normalcy in the streets of that country following the overthrow of President Henry Konan Bedie over the weekend.

    On Friday, the Secretary-General, in a statement issued by his Spokesman, voiced dismay at reports of the coup d'etat in Cote d'Ivoire.

    "He condemns the use of armed force to subvert the country's legal institutions and calls for an immediate return to the constitutional order in Cote d'Ivoire," the Spokesman said. Annan also reiterated that "the use of violence to disrupt a country's political process is unacceptable at a time when there is a universal trend towards establishing or strengthening the democratic system in all countries."

    The Secretary-General is continuing to monitor events in Cote d'Ivoire closely, the Spokesman added.

    The President of the General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, also issued a statement over the weekend condemning what he called "a brutal act of nullification," and he called for the speedy restoration of the legitimate government and the strict observance of human rights and civil liberties. He also urged the release of all detainees being held against their will.

    ANNAN PRAISES PROGRESS IN GUINEA-BISSAU

    In his latest report to the Security Council on Guinea-Bissau, issued on Monday, the Secretary-General calls the 28 November legislative and presidential elections in that country "an important step forward in the ongoing transition to democracy and the restoration of peace and normalcy."

    He adds, "It is my hope that the results of the legislative elections signal the emergence of an era of pluralistic democracy." In those elections, he notes, the Party for Social Renewal won 38 out of 102 seats in the National Assembly, followed by Guinea-Bissau Resistance with 29 seats; no party gained an absolute majority.

    He notes that, since no clear winner emerged from the presidential race, a runoff election between the two leading candidates will be held on 16 January. Annan urges Member States and interested organizations to provide assistance for the organization and conduct of the second round of voting.

    Because of the need for assistance during the runoff from the United Nations Peace-Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), which had been scheduled to end its mandate on 31 December, the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Security Council, agreed to extend the mandate of UNOGBIS until 31 March 2000.

    He has also informed the Council of the request by the Government of Guinea-Bissau for the extension of the UN Office's mandate until the end of December 2000.

    OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

    Kyrgyzstan made a full payment of more than 80,000 dollars today, making it the 123rd Member State to pay its 1999 dues in full.

    This evening, the west side of the UN Headquarters, which faces First Avenue, will be lit up to read "UN 2000," in honour of the millennium and of next year's Millennium Assembly. The lighting will begin at approximately 5:30 p.m.; tomorrow evening, the east side of the Headquarters, which faces the East River, will be lit in the same fashion.

    Ambassador Sven Jurgenson of Estonia signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a ceremony at the Signature Room of the UN Treaty Section today. Estonia becomes the 92nd country to sign the Statute, which has so far been ratified by six nations. The Statute requires 60 ratifications before it can enter into force.

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