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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-09

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 FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, May 9, 2000

ANNAN'S SPECIAL ENVOY MEETS WITH PEACEKEEPERS IN SIERRA LEONE

Freetown was reported to have been relatively quiet overnight with no incidents reported, one day after violence followed by looting rocked the Sierra Leonean capital. By mid-day today, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) had not reported any new incidents involving UN personnel in the rest of the country.

The Secretary-Generals Special Envoy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet, arrived last night in Freetown and went to visit troops from Guinea and Ghana and to demonstrate the United Nations' will to keep the peace process on track. The Spokesman noted that Miyet had brought with him one official who has experience with the administrative side of UN peacekeeping work

Special Representative of the Secretary-General Oluyemi Adeniji traveled to Abuja, Nigeria, for a summit meeting of nine African countries: Mali, Liberia, Guinea, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.

The Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General had said this morning that he intended to speak to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo following that meeting.

Two hundred and six non-essential civilian staff of the UN Mission were re-deployed to Banjul, Gambia, last night. All but 10 of UN humanitarian staff have also been relocated. In answer to questions, the Spokesman described the non-essential staff as personnel who were unable because of the security situation to do the jobs for which they had been sent.

The UN Mission reported in Freetown today that the number of UN personnel believed detained was still at around 500, and that there are a total of five missing -- two Kenyan and three Nigerian -- of which total two, one Kenyan and one Nigerian, are presumed dead. The total number of wounded personnel is 12.

UNAMSIL's human rights unit is attempting to gather reports of atrocities against civilians, but medical non-governmental organizations report that there have been no cases of civilians arriving in Freetown with mutilations or amputations.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that 265 Sierra Leoneans from Kambia have arrived by land and by sea in Guinea, which already host more than 300,000 Sierra Leonean refugees.

REBEL LEADER SANKOH'S WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN

The Spokesman noted that the United Nations does not know where RUF leader Foday Sankoh is. Asked about the incident outside Sankoh's home on Monday, he noted that the UN Mission has a presence there, but had nothing to do with Sankoh's departure from his residence. There are reports that he is in the Government's protective custody, he added, but the United Nations could not confirm that. "We would like to know where he is," Eckhard said.

He said the Secretary-General was unaware of any discussion to renegotiate the cease-fire or other related matters, such as an amnesty for Sankoh.

Asked whether the United Nations has failed Sierra Leone, the Spokesman responded that "Foday Sankoh has failed Sierra Leone." The United Nations, he said, was intended to deal with the implementation of the Lom&eacute; Peace Agreement. Now, he said, the Peace Agreement has broken down and the United Nations is "trying to put the pieces back together. If that can't be done, then the (Security) Council has to decide what to do."

Asked whether the United Nations' analysis of Sierra Leone had been faulty, given Sankoh's actions, the Spokesman said that UN analysis had taken into account the possibility of some resistance -- but not total resistance -- from any of the armed factions.

ANNAN STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF CONSOLIDATING SIERRA LEONE FORCE

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, upon entering the building this morning, told reporters that what he thought is important is "to consolidate the force, bring the force up to strength as quickly as possible and continue our efforts to tame Sierra Leone."

The United Nations confirmed that the United States has offered to provide logistical support to the Bangladeshi battalion that is intended to help bring the Mission up to its authorized strength of 11,100 troops. Bangladesh has announced that its troops are being readied, and Jordan and India have also announced their readiness to deploy battalions to the UN Mission faster than had been originally planned. Eckhard said the Bangladeshis are ready to move within the next week and the Indians and Jordanians could be ready within a week if they could also receive strategic airlift.

To that end, he said, the United Nations was talking with countries that might provide strategic airlift, including Russia. Given that Lungi has a small airport, it may take one week simply to fly in one battalion and its equipment, he said.

He noted that the United States had said that it would not provide troops, apart from its efforts to provide strategic airlift for the Bangladeshi battalion. Asked whether the United Nations was satisfied with that offer, he said other countries were also being approached for airlift of the other two battalions. "If we have strategic airlift for the two battalions, no matter where it comes from, we'll be happy," Eckhard said.

Asked about the shooting of a UN helicopter, the Spokesman said that one of two helicopters that was intended to fly in supplies to UN troops, in which bullets penetrated the fuel tank and rotor of one helicopter. That helicopter continued to fly for a short distance before being forced to land, and the passengers of the helicopter were picked up by the second helicopter.

Asked about the location of peacekeepers, the Spokesman said that "a certain amount of consolidation has taken place," with some troops grouped in larger numbers in more secure locations. The United Nations still has no contact with some 200 Zambian troops.

He noted that the Secretary-General has been in touch with a number of nations on rapid reaction capabilities but has so far received no offers. He added that the United States has been discussing with Nigeria the possibility of bringing in more troops. But even with the possibility of additional Nigerian troops, he said, "I don't think we're much closer to having rapid reaction capability."

A Rapid Reaction Force, Eckhard said, would be "a military force equipped and structured to carry out military operations," unlike a peacekeeping force, which is not equipped to fight except in a defensive mode. "The idea is not to go to war against the RUF," he said. "The Security Council hasn't authorized us to do that."

Asked about the British troops deployed at Lungi airport, the Spokesman said that the United Nations understands those troops are there to protect British nationals and to evacuate them if necessary. The Secretary-General acknowledged, he said, that the presence of the well-armed British troops has helped the situation; in addition, Eckhard added, the deployment of the British at the airport freed UN troops to perform other tasks.

Asked about the impact of the recent events on UN peacekeeping, he said that the United Nations has faced a problem because one faction has refused to disarm and turned its weapons on the UN troops. "Maybe in the future, rapid reaction backup could be part of the basic planning" of UN operations, he said.

The mission could also have an impact on other UN operations in Africa, he noted, citing the Secretary-General's concern about the effect of the Sierra Leone Mission on decisions to deploy more UN troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Everyone's looking to see whether this can be put back together again," he said.

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES CONGO, SIERRA LEONE, BOSNIA

The Security Council began its work today with closed consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on which it heard a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi.

He noted that the UN Mission there was intending to send additional military observers to Kisangani, where there had been reports of fighting between Ugandan and Rwandan forces in recent days.

Monday, the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda, along with the Security Council delegation led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States, signed a joint declaration on withdrawing their forces in and around Kisangani and allowing the UN Mission to be deployed in the demilitarized area that would result from their withdrawal.

However, earlier this morning, the UN Mission reported signs that the airport at Kisangani had been shelled during the previous night.

Following that briefing, Annabi also updated the Council on the latest developments in Sierra Leone.

The Council then went into a formal meeting to hear an open briefing on Bosnia and Herzegovina, delivered by the High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch.

He discussed Bosnia's continuing economic problems, but also noted the peaceful holding of municipal elections on April 8, which he said had contributed to making Bosnia more pluralistic. Petritsch added, "In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

In response to a question on why Bosnia's Ambassador did not speak at the open briefing, the Spokesman noted that the members of the Security Council on Monday decided that only Council members would speak at today's open briefing.

Asked about the Council's briefings on Sierra Leone, the Spokesman said that the Council was being briefed daily on that subject. Also, a report by the Secretary-General on Sierra Leone, due earlier this week, was delayed for a few days because of the events unfolding on the ground, but is due shortly.

ANNAN EXPRESSES CONCERN AT SRI LANKA FIGHTING

In a statement read by the Spokesman, Secretary-General Kofi Annan voiced concerned about the possible humanitarian consequences of the recent escalation of fighting in Sri Lanka.

"Thousands of civilians are in danger of being displaced," the statement said, adding that the Secretary-General appealed to all parties to avoid placing the lives of civilians at risk, and to ensure humanitarian access to all who need it.

"The Secretary-General strongly believes that a political solution is necessary to the conflict in Sri Lanka," it said. "He welcomes the offer by the Government of Norway to facilitate such a solution."

SPECIAL ENVOY IN EGYPT FOR TALKS ON LEBANON

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Terje Roed Larsen, has been in Cairo today for further talks on the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426 (1978), which call for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

He met today with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Esmat Abdel-Maguid. Later today, Larsen was expected to meet with Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestine Authority. On Wednesday, he is expected to finish his trip to the region -- which also took him to Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan -- and to return to New York.

Larsen is scheduled to brief the Security Council on his trip next Thursday, on May 18.

ANNAN MARKS 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF DECLARATION ON EUROPE

This afternoon in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, the Secretary-General will deliver a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, in which Robert Schuman first devised the concept of European integration.

To mark today as "Schuman Day," the Permanent Mission of Portugal and the European Commission are holding a conference, beginning in the Trusteeship Council at 3 p.m., on the theme of "Fifty Years of European Integration." At about 3:30, the Secretary-General will address the conference.

In that speech, the Secretary-General notes what he calls "the decisive innovation" of European integration, but adds that Europe's work is not done "as long as the countries to its south and east remain mired in economic and political stagnation."

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights on the situation in Afghanistan, Kamal Hossain, issued a statement today expressing his concern at reports that preparations are underway for a military offensive by both sides in Afghanistan. For the text of his statement, click here.

UN Radio went on the air Monday with live news bulletins in French, English and Spanish, with five-minute bulletins being broadcast from radio stations in the Secretariat at 1, 1:30 and 2 p.m., from Monday through Friday. Broadcasts are available through the telephone MX system (on channel 700) and, on Time-Warner cable channels in Manhattan, on channels 78 and 97.

According to the monthly summary of troop contributions, as of April 30, 31,324 military personnel were deployed in UN field operations, with 85 Member States contributing troops to UN peacekeeping.


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