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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-04

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

OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, May 4, 2000

NUMBER OF DETAINED UN PERSONNEL RISES IN SIERRA LEONE

The number of UN personnel detained in Sierra Leone by members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has risen to at least 69. More than 39 are believed to held in the Makeni area and another 30 in Kailahun. In addition, a 23-man unit of the Indian battalion is reported to be surrounded by members of the RUF in Kuiva near Kailahun.

In addition, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has lost contact with some units.

The casualty figures were revised earlier today, following the most recent information from the field. The numbers of UN peacekeepers still missing and presumed dead is four -- down from the toll of seven reported to the Security Council Wednesday by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet. No bodies have been recovered yet.

In addition, she noted, the latest reports cite that eight UN troops have been wounded.

Shortly before the noon briefing, the UN Mission reported the situation in Freetown as quiet, but tense, and said there has been was no firing in Sierra Leone today.

There were reports of firing Wednesday night in Kambia, in the Northwest, but that firing was reported to have died down before midnight. The United Nations has no further information on that incident.

Force Commander Gen. Vijay Kumar Jetley reported that reinforcements have been sent to Makeni and Magburaka.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan continues to be in touch with those involved in the peace negotiations and all those who can put pressure on RUF leader Foday Sankoh to pull his men so that the peacekeepers can do their work.

The Security Council heard an update on the situation in Sierra Leone by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet. Council members were presented with a draft Presidential Statement on Sierra Leone, which the Council agreed to discuss further in the afternoon.

In a statement, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) deplored the violence in Sierra Leone, and urgently appealed for action by all parties there to ensure successful completion of the third round of National Immunization Days for polio, scheduled to take place on May 20-21.

In response to questions, the Spokesman noted that Sankoh had signed a press release, issued in Freetown Wednesday, on the detentions but added that, as of this morning, there were no reported releases of detainees. There are still a number of personnel who are unaccounted for.

She declined to give details of negotiations but noted that the Secretary-General had mentioned efforts to communicate with Foday Sankoh and various leaders to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

Okabe noted that there have now been at least four incidents of confrontation in recent days, and that the Secretary-General held Sankoh accountable for those acts. She noted Jetley's comments on the recent surge in attacks and detentions, and said there appears to be a pattern. She also noted the Secretary-General's concern about the effect of the recent events on troop contributions to other areas in Africa, notably the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The UN Mission has lost contact with some units, but Jetley, she noted, is trying to reinforce troops in Makeni, Magburaka and Kailahun. The total troop strength in Sierra Leone is nearly 8,700, with three additional battalions expected by mid-June, she said.

Asked about reports that a Rapid Reaction Force is being discussed, the Spokesman noted that various proposals are being considered including the strenghthening of the Rapid Reaction Unit, which already exists, to expediting the deployment of the additional peacekeepers that are expected.

Asked about the disarmament camps at Makeni and Magburaka, she noted that when reinforcements arrived there, they noted that the bases there were looted and "trashed."

In response to repeated questions on the status of Foday Sankoh, the Spokesman noted that, as a senior member of the Government, Sankoh is provided security by the United Nations. Given the current situation, which included a brief incident of firing in Freetown Wednesday night, there has been a need for peacekeepers to monitor events, including the movement of key persons, she said. She noted past reports that peacekeepers had been placed outside Sankoh's residence, and that "the movements of various personnel in Freetown are restricted." She also responded "no" to a question about whether Sankoh was under house arrest.

ANNAN MOURNS LOSS OF CARDINAL O'CONNOR

The Secretary-General, in a statement, said he had learned "with great sorrow" of the death of John Cardinal O'Connor, whom he called "a staunch supporter of the United Nations."

He recalled the inter-faith services held every September at the United Nations Parish of the Church of the Holy Family, at which Cardinal O'Connor joined in prayer for the success of each new session of the General Assembly.

"His strong advocacy on behalf of the poor and vulnerable of our world, and his deep belief that politics ought not ignore the spiritual side of life, complemented the work of the United Nations," the Secretary-General said, adding that the entire UN community would mourn his loss.

&nbsp;

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES GEORGIA, AFGHANISTAN, SIERRA LEONE

The Security Council began its work today with closed consultations on Georgia, on which Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi briefed the Council on the recent report of the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General's report noted the work of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), saying that the situation in its area of responsibility was "generally calm although unstable" over the past three months. The Observer Mission's current mandate lasts until the end of July.

After the consultations on Georgia, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo T&uuml;rk briefed the Council on developments over the past few weeks in Afghanistan. He noted that there have been few developments in the military area during the past month, although the warring factions appear to be continuing preparations for major offensives.

&nbsp;

UN SPECIAL ENVOY MEETS LEBANESE PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Terje Roed Larsen, continued his current visit to the Middle East today when he met with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Salim el-Hoss.

Upon arriving in Beirut Wednesday, Larsen made a statement to the press, which we issued in the afternoon, in which he noted that he will report to the Secretary-General next week on his discussions concerning the implementation of resolutions 425 and 426, concerning Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

Larsen noted that "at this point, no positions have been taken and no decisions made by the United Nations."

He thanked Lebanon for extending full cooperation to the UN's chief cartographer, and noted, in response to what he described as confusion on the United Nation's role on border matters, that "demarcating borders is a matter for States." The United Nations, he said, is working with the parties in a "technical exercise" to identify the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon, to determine whether a full withdrawal has occurred.

On Friday, Larsen will visit southern Lebanon to inspect the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. He is scheduled to conclude his trip to the region and return to New York by May 10.

&nbsp;

ADVISER SAYS NO CHANGE IN SCHEDULE FOR CYPRUS TALKS

In response to a question on the health of Glafcos Clerides, the Spokesman noted that the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, talked with Clerides by telephone on Wednesday.

De Soto conveyed the Secretary-General's best wishes for a prompt recovery. Clerides, he noted, still hopes to come to New York for the May 23 talks. Accordingly, there is no change in the date for the talks.

However, de Soto, who also spoke with Rauf Denktash today, has put off for the time being his planned visit to Cyprus and to Greece and Turkey.

PLEDGES AT ROME CONFERENCE NETS $450 MILLION

The pledging conference held in Rome for assistance to Mozambique ended today with total pledges of $452.9 million to fund a reconstruction program to respond to this year's floods, nearly $3 million more than what had been sought by the Government of Mozambique.

Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the UN Development Programme -- which convened the conference along with the Government of Mozambique -- said that today was "a good day for Mozambique and a good day for development cooperation." He said that Mozambique's reputation for political and economic reform had led to extraordinary donor confidence.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Secretary-General has returned to New York, after flying from Paris earlier today. He is expected to be at headquarters in the afternoon for internal meetings.

The latest media briefing notes from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) notes the approval today by East Timor's National Consultative Council of a regulation on the establishment of representative offices of foreign Governments to UNTAET. Once East Timor is fully independent, those representative offices will become embassies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a press release, stating that mental disorders are becoming more common, often beginning during a person's teenage years.


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