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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-01-28

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MARIE OKABE

ASSOCIATE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Friday, January 28, 2000

SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS ACTING RUSSIAN PRESIDENT

Secretary-General Kofi Annan had his first meeting in person with Russia's Acting President, Vladimir Putin. The meeting lasted one hour and ten minutes.

The Acting President gave a detailed briefing on why Russia had taken military action in Chechnya and his intentions to push for a military victory.

The Secretary-General replied that the world understood the terrorist challenge that Russia faced in Chechnya, but was concerned that the force being used was not proportional to the threat. The result, he said, was massive displacement and suffering. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Annan said, "I made my point on the need to protect to civilians and pleaded, urged, that the war should be brought to an end as soon as possible."

He added later, "We should be very careful to avoid a situation where violence is visited on innocent civilians, because such situations often risk violating international humanitarian law."

At the same briefing, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev said that the argument on proportionality was academic. "The sooner we achieve military victory over the terrorists, the easier it will be to resolve the Chechen problem," he said.

Other items discussed in the Secretary-General's meeting with the Acting President included the debate on national sovereignty and humanitarian intervention, the conflict in Afghanistan, drug trafficking and the wars in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and between Ethiopia and Eritrea. They also discussed the appointment of Dr. Hans Blix to lead the new United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq.

At night, Annan had dinner with Avdeyev and other senior ministry officials.

LIVES OF DISPLACED IN INGUSHETIA MORE MISERABLE, UNHCR SAYS

In other news on Chechnya, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) reported today that fighting in and around Grozny is driving more and more people from their homes.

UNHCR also reports that harsh winter conditions have made the lives of the displaced in Ingushetia more miserable, especially for people living in spontaneous makeshift settlements and tented camps. While winterized tents and stoves keep the people relatively warm, the lack of water, baby food and medicine are widespread. Some 2,000 babies have been born over the last four months. There is acute need for baby clothes and diapers.

Some camps are totally infested with lice and scabies. The local 300-bed tuberculosis treatment clinic is full, with 192 beds being taken by the displaced.

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON UN MISSIONS IN GEORGIA AND LEBANON

The Security Council this morning began informal consultations on the mandates of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), both of which are set to expire at month's end. In both cases, the Secretary-General has recommended a six-month extension, until July 31.

After those consultations wrapped up, the Council took up the request by Tuvalu, the small Pacific Island chain, to be admitted as a Member State of the United Nations. The Council then held a formal meeting on the subject of Tuvalu's inclusion and referred the application to a Council committee as the start of the process of admission.

On Monday, the Council is expected to hold formal meetings on the UN Missions in Georgia and Lebanon. For reports, click here.

Also Monday, the Council will conclude its "month of Africa" with an open briefing. Among the scheduled speakers at that session will be Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr&eacute;chette, President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, South African Foreign Minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma and Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim of the Organisation of African Unity.

ANNAN APPOINTS HANS BLIX TO HEAD UNMOVIC

The Secretary-General, in a statement issued Thursday afternoon, said he had been advised that the Security Council has formally approved his nomination of Hans Blix of Sweden as Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq (UNMOVIC). The Secretary-General has therefore appointed Blix, and the appointment will formally take effect once Blix assumes his duties.

SIERRA LEONE MISSION WARNS HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION WORSENING

A human rights team from the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has issued an alarming report after completing an assessment mission to Port Loko in the Northwest of the country and Kabala in the North.

They found that in Kabala, the systematic attacks on villages have subsided in the last three weeks, although disarmed former rebels searching for food and shelter still roam in and around Kabala, harassing civilians. However, in Port Loko, the human rights situation has deteriorated in recent weeks. There have been daily reports of the looting of villages, arson, harassment and abduction of civilians, rape and sexual abuses by former rebels from Occra Hills.

In both sites, most women abductees arriving in the camps for displaced persons had suffered from rape and sexual abuses. According to health care workers, cases of rape-related pregnancies among women are so frequent that they "cannot be counted". The health care workers report that women and girls often feel forced to marry their abductors or to live as their wives, because they fear the social stigma attached to rape and resulting pregnancies.

UN MISSION TIGHTENING SECURITY IN EAST TIMOR

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) is taking a number of measures to improve the law and order situation there, including increased patrols by UN Civilian Police in the market area of Dili and in other areas of the capital where there has been recent violence.

Police officers have been instructed to confiscate on the spot all weapons being carried without a justifiable reason. Also, 50 police officers are being trained and equipped to deal with public disorder, as an interim measure until a larger Rapid Response Unit is deployed in early March.

Given the importance of maintaining order, the United Nations is concerned that only 900 of the authorized strength of 1,640 police officers have been promised so far by Member States. By the middle of February, UNTAET expects to have only 632 police deployed in East Timor.

BOSNIAN SERB ENTERS PLEA AT THE HAGUE

At his first appearance this morning in The Hague, Mitar Vasiljevic pleaded "not guilty" to the charges brought against him by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Mitar Vasiljevic, who was arrested by the Stabilization Force (SFOR) last Tuesday in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is charged, among other counts, with extermination for the murder of "a significant number of Bosnian Muslim civilians, including women, children and the elderly." He is also charged with murder, inhumane acts and violence to life and person for his alleged involvement in the mass murder of approximately 135 Bosnian Muslim civilians who were locked inside two houses and set on fire. In one of the incidents, 46 members of one family were killed. More details on the charges are available in the press release issued at the moment of his arrest.

UN LAUNCHES APPEALS FOR ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA

The United Nation today launched simultaneous appeals to the international community for humanitarian assistance needed this year, to assist destitute persons in Eritrea and Ethiopia.

An appeal $42.7 million was launched today in Asmara, Eritrea. It solicits assistance with food and non-food items in favor of some 583,000 people of whom 372,000 are war-affected and over 211,000 are drought-affected.

An appeal for $190 million launched today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, requests relief assistance to some 8 million Ethiopians and 250,000 refugees from the Sudan and Somalia for this year. Of the Ethiopians, some 7.7 million are affected by drought and related natural disasters while 350,000 are war-affected internally displaced persons.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

A food assessment mission by the World Food Programme (WFP) has found grave food shortages among tens of thousands of displaced people in the Moluccas islands, the WFP announced in a press release today.

The Office of the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in its Friday briefing in Geneva, reported on the logistical challenges of assisting refugees arriving from Angola into Zambia's neighboring Western province.

UNHCR also reported that, following increasing violence in the Prizren area of southwestern Kosovo over the last months, several hundred new arrivals from the Prizren area have been recorded in the Novi Pazaar region of Yugoslavia in the first three weeks of this year, according to Serbian authorities and the Serbian Red Cross. In response to questions, the Spokesman added that UNHCR and the Belgrade government's Commission on Refugees will start a registration of refugees and internally displaced persons from Kosovo beginning in February.

The Human Rights Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy, today expressed grave concern over developments in Pakistan with regard to the issuance of the Oath of Office calling upon all judges to take a fresh oath of allegiance to the Provisional Constitutional Order. The Special Rapporteur noted from reports that the Chief Justice and some judges refused to take this fresh oath and as a result instantly lost their office. "An independent judiciary can never be seen to be an adjunct or subservient to the Executive" the Special Rapporteur said. He indicated that he would raise the matter before the Commission on Human Rights, which begins its session on March 20 in Geneva. Click here for the complete text of his statement.

The General Assembly is scheduled to hold a plenary meeting on February 1, at which it will appoint a new member for the 16-member Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. Fumiaki Toya of Japan had resigned, and the Government of Japan has nominated Juichi Takahara to serve the remainder of Toya's term, which expires at the end of December 2001.

Canada, Iceland and South Africa have become the 34th, 35th and 36th Member States, respectively, to have paid their full assessed contribution to the UN regular budget for this year. Canada made a payment of close to $28.7 million, Iceland around $336,000 and South Africa $3.8 million. Member States have until midnight Monday, the 31st of January, to pay their full contribution to the UN regular budget before falling into arrears. (For the "Honor Roll 2000" click here.)

THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29

The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet Patriarch Alexi II in Moscow. He is then expected to leave Moscow and arrive in Geneva on Sunday.

MONDAY, JANUARY 31

In Geneva, the Secretary-General will open the next session of proximity talks on Cyprus. His Special Representative on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, will also attend.

The Security Council will hold formal meetings on the extensions of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), both of whose mandates expire today.

The Security Council will also hold an open briefing to wrap up its month-long discussion of African issues. Among the participants will be President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim of the Organisation of African Unity and South African Foreign Minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma. The President of the Council for the month of January, United States Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, will also host a reception to mark the close of the US Council Presidency.

The report of the Commission of Inquiry on East Timor is expected to be issued.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr&eacute;chette will address the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, which opens its fourth session in New York. The current session, which will last until February 11, will include discussion on financial resources, trade and the environment and transfer of environmentally sound technologies.

A press conference will be held at 11:15 a.m. by Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bosnian Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey to announce the establishment of an International Interfaith Centre in Brcko.

The guests at the noon briefing will be Andre Roberfroid, recently appointed as United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Director for Programme and Strategic Planning, and Dr. Ciro de Quadros, Director of Vaccines and Immunisation at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). They will launch the "Children's Challenge," a new global initiative to conquer vaccine-preventable diseases.

In Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of the Child's pre-sessional working group will meet until February 11.

Also in Geneva, a two-day session of the Preparatory Committee for the Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments will begin.

The Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters will meet in New York through February 2.

In Montreal, the fifth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity will meet through Friday.

In Vienna, working group B of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization will meet through February 11.

In Davos, Switzerland, the World Health Organisation will launch a global campaign to vaccinate children at the World Economic Forum meetings.

In The Hague, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia will announce its decision in the contempt proceedings against Dusko Tadic's former counsel, Milan Vujin.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1

Ambassador Arnaldo Manuel Listre of Argentina takes over from US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the President of the Security Council for the month of February.

The Secretary-General is scheduled to return to New York from his visit to Moscow and Geneva.

The Economic and Social Council will hold its organizational session until Friday.

The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions opens its new session.

At 11:15 a.m., there will be a press conference to discuss the United Nations Workshop on Energy Efficiency, Global Competitiveness and Deregulation. Speakers are to include Joseph Connor, Under-Secretary-General for Management; Toshiyuki Niwa, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services; David Barram, Administrator of the United States General Services Administration; Eugene McGrath, Chairman and CEO of Consolidated Edison, Inc.; Clem Palevich, President of NewEnergy, Inc.; and John Boyd, President and CEO of ConEdison Solutions.

At 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Makarim Wibisono of Indonesia, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is expected to hold a press conference to discuss his vision for the upcoming sessions of ECOSOC.

In Geneva, international football star Ronaldo will be appointed a Goodwill Ambassador in the fight against poverty by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Ronaldo and UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown will participate in an appointment ceremony and question-and-answer ceremony at 2 p.m.

Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, will be in New York today and Wednesday for meetings.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 2

The Secretary-General will speak to the Advisory Board on Disarmament, which concludes its current session today.

Sven Frederiksen, UN Police Commissioner in Kosovo, is expected to speak at the noon briefing.

In Geneva, Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), will attend an 11:30 press conference on UNCTAD X.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3

The Secretary-General is scheduled to speak to the Palestinian Committee.

At 11:00 a.m., Judge Claude Jorda, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), on his first visit to New York since his appointment, will hold a press conference to discuss his plan of action for the next two years.

UN Transitional Administrator for East Timor Sergio Vieira de Mello will brief the Security Council on the situation in East Timor.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Georg Kell of the Secretary-General's office, who discussed the launching of the United Nations website on the Global Compact.
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