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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-05

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






Friday, May 5, 2000


The number of UN personnel detained by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has continued to climb, with the latest estimate of those detained reaching nearly 300. Of the 92 personnel reported detained as of Thursday, six crew and passengers of a helicopter were released earlier today.

In addition to the earlier detainees, a Zambian contingent of 208 troops on their way to Makeni in the north, with whom the mission had lost radio contact, was disarmed and detained by the RUF.

There has been no word of fighting in Sierra Leone today. However, the United Nations has received reports, which have yet to be confirmed, of military movement by the RUF, possibly involving the use of UN armored personnel carriers. In response to questions, the Spokesman said that 13 out of 16 armored personnel carriers used by the Zambian contingent had been reportedly taken by the RUF, and it was not known where they were now going.

Also, a 100-plus Nigerian contingent near Kambia in the northwest was detained and then later released, although without their weapons.

Earlier today, the four-man crew and two civilian staff who had been detained Tuesday in Kailahun in eastern Sierra Leone were released in the same city. They returned to Freetown around 10 a.m., and they appeared unharmed. In response to a question, the Spokesman said the crew had flown the helicopter back to Freetown.

The Secretary-General on Thursday afternoon said that President Charles Taylor of Liberia had informed him that Foday Sankoh had given assurances that the helicopter crew will be allowed to return today. The Liberian leader is among several leaders in the region who are at work to resolve the deteriorating situation in Sierra Leone.

The number of casualties remains at four UN soldiers missing and presumed dead.

In response to questions on the Zambian contingent, the Spokesman noted that they had been intended to reinforce Makeni. The contingent had left from Lungi to Makeni, but were stopped just short of Makeni by the RUF, detained and stripped of their weapons and the 13 armored personnel carriers. Various units have such vehicles for safe movement around the country, he added.

The Spokesman said that there is no change in the rules of engagement, which he said are confidential.

He noted that Foday Sankoh remains a member of the Sierra Leonean Government, and is believed to be at his residence in Freetown.

In response to several questions, Eckhard said he could not confirm that any towns have fallen to the RUF, but added that the United Nations at this time has no plans to evacuate.

The reports of violence in recent days have only concerned the RUF, he said.

Asked about the efforts to release the hostages, Eckhard called them "political in nature," and said they focused on having all parties who have influence with Sankoh convince him to comply with the peace agreements. "The emphasis is not at this point to go to war against the RUF," he said. "It's to try to find a political solution to a problem that is threatening the peace process at its core."

Asked if the diplomatic negotiations strengthen or weaken Sankoh's position, the Spokesman said that if the regional leaders, including those who had supported him in the past, tell Sankoh to stop making war on the United Nations, such a message could have the desired effect. He noted that President Taylor had told the Secretary-General Thursday that he had been "tough" with Sankoh.

He noted that the Mission is authorized by the Security Council under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter to use force if necessary to protect its personnel and the people and Government of Sierra Leone.

Asked about the role of the Indian Rapid Reaction Unit, the Spokesman said that it is not of a sufficient size to deal with the military movements by the RUF over the past few days. The unit, he said, is based in Freetown.


In a statement issued through his Spokesman, Secretary-General Kofi Annan deplored the escalation of the violence around Lebanon since last Wednesday, which has caused civilian casualties among both sides, including the deaths of two Lebanese women.

The Secretary-General "calls on both sides to desist from further violence, and in particular to cease all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure," the statement said.


The Security Council today began its work with closed consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on which Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi briefed Council members on reports of clashes in Kisangani.

The UN Mission in the DRC reports fighting at the Kisangani airport and in the area of Tshopo, north of Kisangani, which has involved Ugandan and Rwandan forces. The fighting started in the early hours of this morning.

The four-member UN observer team that is currently deployed in Kisangani was not harmed, but has not able to confirm independently media reports concerning casualties caused by the fighting.

Security Council members are considering a draft Presidential Statement on the hostilities in the Kisangani area, and went into a formal meeting later in the afternoon on that subject.

Annabi also briefed the Council on the latest developments in Sierra Leone.

The seven-member Security Council delegation led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States, which has been visiting the DRC this week, was on hand to witness the signing Thursday of a Status of Forces Agreement designed to give UN observers free access throughout the country. That agreement was signed by Congolese Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia and by Kamel Morjane, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

President Laurent Kabila, who met with Ambassador Holbrooke for two hours of talks yesterday on the UN Mission, also attended the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement.

The Spokesman, in response to a question, noted that the Agreement dealt with a range of legal issues involving the rights of UN personnel, including freedom of movement, in the DRC.


Francesc Vendrell, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), today completed a visit to India in which he held consultations on Afghanistan, as part of his process of consultations in the region. During his visit, which began May 2, Vendrell held discussions with senior officials, including Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh.

Following the conclusion of that visit, Vendrell will represent the Secretary-General at the meeting with the Afghan parties in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference contact group on Afghanistan, which is to begin Sunday. He will subsequently visit Iran and will inaugurate on May 14 the UNSMA liaison office in Tehran.


Next Monday, Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), will address the Eighth World Salt Symposium, also called SALT 2000, taking place at The Hague from May 8-11. Salt iodization protects 85 million newborns each year from a 10 percent loss in learning ability, and iodine deficiency is the world's single greatest cause of preventable severe mental retardation, according to UNICEF.

In a press release, the Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan noted that almost all Afghan children under the age of five have been immunized against polio following the anti-polio campaign from May 1-3. All sides participated in a cease-fire from Monday until today to allow for the distribution of vaccines and for immunization programs.



Francesc Vendrell, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan, will represent the Secretary-General at peace talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that will be attended by the Afghan warring factions. The talks, held under the umbrella of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, will last through May 11.


The Security Council delegation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo will return to New York after its visit to the region.

The Secretary-General will mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the UN Relief and Works Administration for Palestine Refugees in the Near East by delivering remarks at a ceremony at UN Headquarters.

The Investments Committee will meet today and Tuesday.

The Fifteenth Meeting of Experts on the UN Programme in Public Administration will begin, and continue through Friday.

In The Hague, Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), will address the Eighth World Salt Symposium, which is to last until May 11.

In Vienna, the Programme and Budget Committee of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors will meet.

In Nairobi, the Commission on Human Settlements will meet through the week to act as the preparatory committee for the General Assembly special session to review the Habitat Agenda. That session, expected for next year, will review progress in the five years since the 1996 Habitat Conference in Istanbul.


The Security Council will hold an open briefing on Bosnia and Herzegovina, following which Wolfgang Petritsch, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, will give a press conference.

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed Larsen, is scheduled to end his visit to the region and to return to New York to report to the Secretary-General.


The Security Council has scheduled consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which it will hear a briefing on the results of the visit by the seven-member delegation led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States to the region. It will also hold consultations on the Central African Republic.

At 10:30am, a press conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will be given by representatives of seven states members of the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden).


The Security Council will hold an open meeting on Kosovo.

At 10:30 a.m. in the Dag Hammarskj&ouml;ld Auditorium, there will be a panel discussion on responses by non-governmental organizations to the Secretary-General's Millennium Report.


At 11 a.m., Hungarian President &Aacute;rp&aacute;d G&ouml;ncz will accept the fourth annual Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award on behalf of his country at UN Headquarters. The Secretary-General, actor and disability advocate Christopher Reeve, and President Roosevelt's great-grandson, David Roosevelt, will be among those presenting the Award to President G&ouml;ncz.

The Security Council will hold an open meeting on the UN Mission in Tajikistan, the final mandate of which is to expire on May 15.

"Ministers of African countries unite to fight corruption in public service" is the theme of a 2 p.m. press conference sponsored by the Economic and Social Council.

There will be a 2:45 p.m. press conference, sponsored by the Canadian Mission, on "Greed and Grievance - economic agendas in civil wars."

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