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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-01-24

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:





Monday, January 24, 2000


In the Security Council this morning, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) "Africa's first world war," a recognition of how the conflict inside the country has drawn in so many of its neighbors. Albright presided over the opening of a week of meetings to reinvigorate the Lusaka peace process and find ways of ending the war in the DRC.

Seven African Heads of State and 10 representatives at the ministerial-level were on the list of speakers in today's session.

In his opening address, Secretary-General Kofi Annan cited the setbacks encountered since the signing of the Lusaka Accord last July. He said that there had been many cease-fire violations and obstruction of UN military liaison officers, undermining confidence in the implementation process.

The Secretary-General committed the United Nations to support for the peace process, but noted the United Nations' dependence on the compliance of the parties and their primary responsibility for keeping their commitments and creating conditions for progress. The United Nations currently has 79 unarmed military liaison officers in the DRC, of the 90 authorized by the Council.

The Secretary-General has proposed the deployment of 500 military observers, supported by some 5,000 troops.

Tuesday morning, at about 10:30 a.m., the Secretary-General will host a "mini-summit" at UN headquarters with the seven Heads of State from Africa, along with the Foreign Ministers of the Southern African Development Community. The Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, Salim Salim, will also attend that meeting, as will the Facilitator of the Lusaka Accord, former President of Botswana Ketumile Masire.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for safe and unimpeded access by humanitarian organizations to all people in need of food aid and other relief supplies in the DRC.

It is estimated that nearly one million people have been displaced by the conflict and many are still trapped in the country's interior, cut off from humanitarian assistance. Vast areas of that country have been inaccessible to WFP and other aid agencies because of continued insecurity.

Agencies estimate that 10 million Congolese are vulnerable to food shortages this year.

The Secretary-General in his latest report underlined the need for a major improvement in funding and resources to address humanitarian needs.

In response to questions about the duration of the DRC meetings, the Spokesman said that the President of the Security Council has planned meetings for the entire week. He added that so far, the Council has not considered a draft resolution related to this week's events.

Asked to respond to statements from DRC President Laurent Kabila about the Lusaka Agreement, the Spokesman said, "it's pretty clear that the factions to this war have not ceased fire, and that foreign troops have not withdrawn from the Congo." Those factors have also slowed the deployment of UN personnel, he said. The purpose of this week's meetings, he added, is to persuade the parties to the Agreement to abide by their commitments fully.


In Pristina today, Bernard Kouchner, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, swore in 102 judges and prosecutors, as well as 35 lay judges, to become part of Pristina's judiciary system.

The judges are among more than 300 who are to be appointed around Kosovo. They were interviewed and screened by legal experts from the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and appointed by Kouchner for one-year terms, which can be renewed later. Judicial appointments for Mitrovica are expected to take place in mid-February.

Also in Kosovo today, the Micro-enterprise Bank opened in Pristina, marking the first opening of a commercial bank in Kosovo since last year's conflict. Banks in Prizren and Pec are expected to open in the coming weeks.

UNMIK also released updates today on the law and order situation, with UN police reporting that there have been 1,034 serious criminal offenses reported so far this year.

According to the police, Pristina region is responsible for more than 40 percent of criminal activity in Kosovo. In recent weeks, major offenses -- including murders, arsons and looting -- have decreased, but the police also reported a large increase in weapons violations over the past week.


The experts group appointed by the Secretary-General to evaluate the effectiveness of the operation of both International Criminal Tribunals, for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia, has issued its report, as requested last year by the General Assembly.

The experts group, lead by Jerome Ackerman, a former President of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, concluded that "the operations and functioning of the Tribunals are, given the constraints to which they are subject, reasonably effective in carrying out the missions mandated by the Security Council."

However, based on estimates that it would take 10 years for the Yugoslav Tribunal to complete its work, and a minimum of seven to eight years for the Rwanda Tribunal, the experts group provided technical recommendations to speed up procedures.

They noted the unique character of the Tribunals, each of them administered by one Registry, compared to national structures where the prosecutor and the judges would have separate administrations, and they concluded that this situation can lead to friction.


The United States dollar is the new official currency of East Timor, under a regulation signed in Dili today by United Nations Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The regulation also establishes a Central Payments Office, which ultimately will become East Timor's Central Bank.

The Force Commander of the UN Mission, Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos of the Philippines, will arrive in Dili Tuesday. The UN peacekeeping force will take over from the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET), which has maintained order in East Timor since last September.

The transition will begin officially on February 1, when the troops from 19 nations that make up INTERFET begin "changing hats" to put on the blue berets of UN peacekeepers. They will be joined by troops from four additional nations to make up the 8,500-member UN force. The transition will be complete by the end of February.

Peter Galbraith, the former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, has joined the UN Mission as its Director of Political Affairs. Negalingam Parameswaran, Malaysia's former Ambassador to Vietnam, is the new Chief of Staff.

Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), who is on a visit to East Timor, today visited West Timor where UNICEF conducted a survey that found extensive malnutrition among children under five.

Asked about the previous Timorese currency, the Spokesman said that the Indonesian rupiah had been the official currency before. He noted an earlier decision by the United Nations that any currency could be used in East Timor; however, he added, as of today, the official currency is the dollar, and UN offices will deal in dollars. Eckhard added that other currencies could be exchanged for U.S. dollars at a slight transaction fee. These measures, he noted, apply only to the UN transitional period.


On Saturday, four inspectors and one technician from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began an inspection of low-grade enriched uranium and natural uranium at a storage site in Iraq. They had arrived in Iraq on Friday.

This inventory control is part of the Cooperation Agreement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iraq has ratified. Under this agreement there should be annual inspections, although there had been no inspection since weapons inspectors left Iraq in December 1998.

The IAEA says its inspectors are receiving full cooperation from the Iraqi authorities and expect to complete their work and to leave Iraq around the end of this week.


The Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), issued as a document today, recommended a further six-month extension of the Mission. The current mandate expires at the end of this month, and a vote in the Security Council is expected this Friday.

The report noted that the 101 military observers in the mission have a new chief. Maj. Gen. Tariq Waheem Ghazi has been succeeded this month by Maj. Gen. Anis Ahmed Bajwa; both are from Pakistan.


Pino Arlacchi, Head of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, flew to Japan this morning for a two-day official visit to that country, the second since he took office. In Tokyo he signed an agreement with Japanese singer Tetsuya Komuro and with Sony, for an anti-drug musical campaign.

During his visit, he is scheduled to meet with Japanese officials and sign an agreement for a contribution of $400,000 to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme from a Japanese non-governmental organization, the Drug Abuse Prevention Centre, to be used for drug abuse prevention. Tomorrow, Arlacchi will leave Japan to go to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum.


The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) confirmed today that, since January 18 it has received 10 Ugandan adults and 43 Ugandan children (18 girls and 25 boys) in the Sudan. The Ugandans, some of whom UNICEF says had been abducted from Northern Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army, are currently in the care of UNICEF and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.

UNICEF welcomed the returns of more than 100 people who had been abducted from northern Uganda since the Governments of Uganda and Sudan signed an accord last month, and UNICEF officials said they remain hopeful that more adults and children will be released.


In response to the current turmoil in Ecuador, the Spokesman noted, in a statement issued on Saturday, that the Secretary-General is closely following the evolving situation there. The Secretary-General is firmly convinced that the best interests of its people can only be served through the maintenance of Constitutional order and the rule of law.

Talks aimed at the conclusion of an international treaty on the safe use of biotechnology resumed for a one-week session this morning in Montreal. Talks on a "Bio-safety Protocol" to the Convention on Biological Diversity first began in 1996 and were expected to result in an adopted text last February at a session in Cartagena, Colombia. However, that session was suspended pending the resolution of several outstanding issues, including the scope of the treaty's regulatory powers.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland told the opening session of the WHO Executive Board meeting this morning that AIDS is the "most dramatic" of the world's health problems and calls for "unprecedented responses" from the world community. She told the 32-member Board that WHO must capitalize on the new attention AIDS has garnered, including the recent Security Council debate on AIDS in Africa. She added that WHO would focus on three areas: care for the more than 30 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS; reduction in mother-to-child transmission; and access to HIV/AIDS-related drugs.

A meeting scheduled for today between the Secretary-General and the President and Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, to discuss business contributions to the Millennium Assembly, has been postponed until Wednesday. Annan is expected to meet the Chamber's President, Adnan Kassar, and its Secretary-General, Maria Cattaui, at 12:30 p.m on Wednesday.

Five more countries -- Kuwait, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Thailand and Vietnam -- today made their full payments to the UN regular budget for this year, bringing the number of Member States which have done so to 29.

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