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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-02

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 DAVID WIMHURST

ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, May 2, 2000

ANNAN PAYS OFFICIAL VISIT TO CAMEROON

Secretary-General Kofi Annan began his official program in Yaound&eacute;, Cameroon, today by meeting Foreign Minister Augustin Kontchou Kouomegni and Prime Minister Peter Mafany Musong&uacute;e. In both meetings, the Secretary-General emphasized the themes of good governance, human rights and transparency. The ministers briefed him on the Government's efforts to meet UN standards, particularly in the area of human rights.

The Secretary-General then went to the Presidential Palace, where he met privately for more than an hour with President Paul Biya.

After lunch, the Secretary-General met with the heads of UN agencies working in Cameroon, as well as with UN staff.

He then went to the University of Yaound&eacute;, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate in international relations. In his acceptance speech, he called on Africans to exploit the new information technology to make African economies more globally competitive.

"The main input is brainpower, the one commodity that is equally distributed throughout the human race," he said. He urged Governments to invest in girls' education, to control the growth of HIV infections and to work together to resolve conflicts so that economic growth could resume. "If conflict perpetuates poverty, poverty also makes conflict harder to avoid and to resolve," the Secretary-General said. "That is the vicious cycle we Africans have to break." He departed from his text to challenge African leaders to join in the fight against AIDS. "Silence is death," he said.

In the evening, he is to be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by President Biya.

On Wednesday, the Secretary-General will give a press conference before leaving Yaound&eacute; for Paris where he will meet with French President Jacques Chirac, as well as with other senior French Government officials, possibly including the foreign minister.

He is scheduled to leave Paris on Thursday and be back in New York on the same day. He is expected to be back at work on Friday.

UN PERSONNEL DETAINED BY REBELS IN SIERRA LEONE

In Sierra Leone, 12 personnel from the UN Mission are being held by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

The incident occurred Tuesday, when a group of about 100 RUF combatants appeared at the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration camp in Makeni, and demanded the return of a number of ex-combatants from the RUF who had recently disarmed, calling them "deserters". When the request was declined, the RUF forces surrounded the camp and fired several rounds into the air. In the ensuing confrontation, seven UN personnel were detained.

In the area of Kailahun, another group of RUF rebels set up a roadblock between the Military Observers' team site and the peacekeepers' compound and detained five others -- the civilian crew and passengers of a UN helicopter.

The UN Mission is seeking to obtain the rapid release of its personnel.

According to information received following the briefing, there has been an exchange of fire between the RUF and peacekeepers from the Kenyan battalion in Magburaka, Sierra Leone. The incident occurred Tuesday during an attempt by the RUF to seize the peacekeepers' weapons. Two peacekeepers are reported to be wounded, according to preliminary information received from the field.

Contrary to wire reports, the UN sergeant who was shot Sunday in the Occra Hills while on patrol, is in a critical but stable condition after being evacuated to Nigeria.

Asked about latest developments, the Spokesman said that the United Nations was trying to obtain the release of its personnel "as rapidly as possible and as safely as possible." He said there would be negotiations at "all levels," but added that recent events had created obstacles to the ongoing peace process and the fulfillment of the UN mandate.

PARTIES IN WESTERN SAHARA DISPUTE TO MEET IN LONDON

The Secretary-General has invited the parties in the Western Sahara dispute -- Morocco and the Polisario Front -- and the neighboring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, to meet with his Personal Envoy on Western Sahara, James Baker the Third, in London on May 14.

Baker intends to consult with the parties and the neighboring countries and, taking into account existing and potential obstacles, to explore ways and means to achieve an early, durable and agreed resolution of the dispute in Western Sahara.

ANNAN MARKS LOSS OF FORMER UN REFUGEE COMMISSIONER

The Secretary-General, in a statement issued today, said he had learned with "great sadness" of the death of his "friend, colleague and mentor Poul Hartling," the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"A distinguished political leader and a great humanitarian, Poul Hartling devoted his life to improving the condition of all refugees, and called on all peoples to be generous and humane towards the displaced in their midst," the Secretary-General said. "It was only fitting that he was the one to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1981 on behalf of UNHCR."

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS PROGRAM OF WORK WEDNESDAY

There is no meeting of the Security Council scheduled today. Instead, the President of the Council for the month of May, Ambassador Wang Yinfan of China, is holding bilateral discussions with other Council members today to agree on the agenda for the month ahead.

He plans to hold further bilateral consultations Wednesday, and then the Council is expected to hold informal consultations on its program of work for May later that day.

Today marks the start of the Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A delegation of seven Council ambassadors, led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States, is departing New York today on a mission to the DRC and the region, where they expect to meet with regional Heads of State. The mission is scheduled to return next Monday, May 8.

SPECIAL ENVOY TO MEET LEBANESE PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER

The Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, will meet with President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Salim el-Hoss on Thursday morning to discuss the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426, concerning the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.

During his three-day stay in the country, Larsen and his delegation will also meet with Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Parliament, and will spend two days visiting the operations of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the south of the country.

Prior to coming to Lebanon, Larsen met Israeli Government officials. He will also hold consultations in Damascus, Amman and Cairo before returning to UN Headquarters on May 10.

WFP WARNS 400,000 PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN NEEDS ASSISTANCE

The World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that some 400,000 people in Afghanistan will need assistance, requiring the distribution of some 30,000 tons of food over the next 12 months, to survive the second consecutive drought in Afghanistan in the past two years.

The drought particularly affects four southern provinces where more than four million people live, WFP says. The agency is already helping some 1.5 million people in Afghanistan, in a relief operation that will cost about 88 million dollars until the end of next year.

The UN Information Center in Islamabad added in a press release today that there is sufficient evidence that there is also a critical drought situation in most of Baluchistan Province, in southwestern Pakistan. UN Resident Coordinator Onder Yucer said today that the local and federal authorities are dealing with the situation, and the United Nations is providing some technical support.

Also, today's briefing notes from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) include information on the return last week of more than 4,500 Afghan refugees from Iran to Afghanistan, in a joint effort by the Iranian Government and UNHCR. Since April 8, 8,336 Afghans have returned home from Iran.

AGREEMENT SIGNED ON RETURN OF SERBS TO KOSOVO

In Gracanica today, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo Bernard Kouchner, Bishop Artemije of the Serb National Council, and Kosovo Force (KFOR) Commander Gen. Joun Ortuno just signed an agreement to ensure the ways and means for a safe and sustained return of Kosovo Serbs.

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) noted that this development was the first concrete step towards fulfilling the conditions of complete participation by the Kosovo Serbs in the joint administrative structure of Kosovo, and welcomed it as a step toward peaceful co-existence.

The Security Council delegation to Kosovo, which returned from Kosovo on Sunday, encouraged the return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme shows that, after several weeks of holding steady, the total value of humanitarian and oil sector contracts on hold has increased from about $1.7 billion to $1.95 billion. This is the highest level of holds since the "oil-for-food" program's inception in late 1996.

Trinidad and Tobago has become the 85th Member State to pay in full its contribution to the UN regular budget for this year. They made a payment of close to $168,000.

To mark the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, the Secretary-General issued a joint statement with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Koichiro Matsuura, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). They emphasize the need for independent and pluralistic reporting, and for the particular need that women's voices are heard.


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