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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-03

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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 MARIE OKABE

ASSOCIATE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, May 3, 2000

SECRETARY-GENERAL DEMANDS HALT TO VIOLENCE IN SIERRA LEONE

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement read by the Spokesman, expressed his outrage at the "continuing deliberate attacks" on UN personnel in Sierra Leone by members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

The United Nations confirmed the deaths of seven soldiers from the Kenyan battalion by mid-day, while others have been reported injured. A large number of personnel of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) are still under detention or unaccounted for.

"The leader of the RUF, Foday Sankoh, is responsible for their actions," the statement said. "He has ignored repeated appeals by UNAMSIL to stop these attacks." The Secretary-General demanded the immediate cessation of hostile acts and condemned the "flagrant violation" by Sankoh of the Lom&eacute; Agreement.

"The Secretary-General believes that all those responsible for this unacceptable and criminal behavior, especially leaders with authority, must be held accountable for their actions," according to the statement.

The Spokesman said that the Secretary-General has been in contact with regional leaders in seeking a prompt resolution to the problem.

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES FIGHTING IN SIERRA LEONE

The Security Council today held closed consultations to hear a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet on the latest developments in Sierra Leone.

He briefed the Council on the options available to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) following the violent incidents of the past few days and the detentions of UN military and civilian personnel.

Following the fighting that took place yesterday and earlier today between UN troops and the Revolutionary United Front in the northern areas of Makeni and Magburaka, he confirmed that seven UN soldiers had been killed.

The United Nations also confirmed that about 50 UN personnel are being detained by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) -- including at least 21 in Makeni and Magburaka, and 28 in the eastern area of Kailahun. The detainees in the Makeni-Magburaka area include three military observers. Those held in Kailahun include eight military observers and six civilians: four members of a helicopter crew and two civilian personnel of the UN Mission.

Miyet told the Council that one UNAMSIL peacekeeper, from India, had been released so far.

After the briefing, the President of the Council, Ambassador Wang Yinfan of China, read a statement to the press condemning the attacks and offering condolences for those who had died.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Council heard an emergency briefing on the situation in Sierra Leone by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi. Following the briefing, Ambassador Wang read a statement on behalf of the Council condemning the actions by the Revolutionary United Front and calling its behavior "criminal."

The Secretary-General, in addition, will submit a report to the Council by the end of the week, containing recommendations on the future course of action in Sierra Leone.

Earlier this morning, the Security Council this morning met in closed consultations to discuss its program of work for the month of May.

Asked about UNAMSIL's rules of engagement, the Spokesman noted Resolution 1289 (1999), which authorized UNAMSIL to take "the necessary actions" under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to fulfill its mandate. She said that the UN forces could return fire if attacked.

Because of the fluidity of the situation and security concerns, Okabe explained, she could not provide breakdowns by nationality of those detained, or the specific details of the killings of the seven UN soldiers.

She declined to comment on the specifics of UN negotiations on the detainees, but noted that the Secretary-General and UN officials were negotiating "at all levels" on the matter.

In response to questions about troop levels on the ground, she noted that there are roughly 8,700 UN troops deployed.

Asked about UN contacts with Foday Sankoh, the Spokesman said that he is in Freetown, surrounded by UN troops.

ANNAN CONCLUDES FIVE-NATION WEST AFRICAN TRIP

The Secretary-General this morning met about a dozen opposition members of the National Assembly of Cameroon, including representatives of that country. They shared with him their grievances, and a few submitted documents.

The Secretary-General then gave a press conference before leaving the country, concluding his five-nation West African tour.

He will stay in Paris tonight, where he is expected to have a working dinner with French President Jacques Chirac. He will return to New York Thursday, and is expected to return to work at UN Headquarters on Friday.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE IN CAR

The Secretary-General has sent a letter to the Security Council informing them of his intention to appoint Cheikh Tidiane Sy of Senegal as his new representative in the Central African Republic.

Sy, who is currently the Secretary-Generals representative in Burundi, will head the Peace-building Support Office established in Bangui last February. He is expected to take up his new functions in late May.

UNICEF ISSUES APPEAL FOR HORN OF AFRICA

In an urgent appeal for generosity to drought victims in the Horn of Africa, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that, the sooner aid is forthcoming, the greater its impact will be. UNICEF emphasized that seven countries are involved in the drought crisis and that the emergency is "not just a repeat of the mid-1980s."

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The United Nations made available a transcript of a press conference given on Sunday in Baghdad by the new UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Tun Myat.

The weekly humanitarian update for Afghanistan focuses on the drought in southern Afghanistan, which it calls the country's worst drought since 1971. Moderate drought is also affecting the rest of the country, and may lead to a new influx of people from rural Afghanistan to Kabul, according to the update. The report says that short-term interventions to provide drinking water and other support to the affected population will require some $1.8 million. Additional resource needs are to be announced at the end of this month.

The Bahamas has become the 86th Member State to pay its full contribution to the UN regular budget for this year. They made a payment of close to $158,000.


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