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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-11

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

Thursday, May 11, 2000

MORE UN TROOPS ON THEIR WAY TO SIERRA LEONE

The United Nations is beefing up its mission in Sierra Leone.

Two Jordanian parachute companies, comprising about 240 troops, supported by a 31-strong medical unit are expected to fly to Lungi airport in Sierra Leone within 48 hours. The remainder of the Jordanian battalion is expected to be ready to deployed by the end of the month.

A second Indian battalion is now ready for deployment on Monday. The Indians have also offered one mechanized unit, one special forces unit and one attack helicopter unit.

The Bangladesh battalion is also expected to be deployed next week.

The airlifts are being arranged with the assistance of Canada, the Netherlands, Russia and the United States.

Supplies are also on their way as part of efforts to reinforce the mission.

There are additional troop offers coming in, the Spokesman said, which would, if accepted, take the UN Mission above its authorized strength of 11,100 military personnel.

In response to questions about the role of UN peacekeepers, the Spokesman noted that the UN Mission has the authority under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter to defend itself, the Government and the people of Sierra Leone. "Our posture is to be in a better position to carry out the most robust elements of the mandate, as already authorized," he said.

He said that discussions on whether to make the mandate more robust are also being discussed now.

He added that the United Nations had to be careful on the question of "fighting alongside the elements there that we went in to disarm." However, Eckhard acknowledged that the Sierra Leonean Army has re-armed in order to deal with the actions taken by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

He added that when UN troops have been fired on, they have fired back, and indicated that UN troops twice repelled attacks from RUF forces on Wednesday night.

Asked about southern Sierra Leone, Eckhard said the situation there has been quiet, with no reports of attacks against UN units.

He said, in response to a question, that UN military observers are unarmed, and are still monitoring the situation on the roads. There has also been an effort to synthesize the reports of the observers at the UN Mission Headquarters in Freetown.

Eckhard said that the armored personnel carriers used by UN troops, a number of which have been taken by the RUF, are equipped with heavy machine guns. He also noted an incident in which a number of weapons collected at a UN disarmament camp fell into RUF hands.

He also noted that the UN Mission had confirmed today that there had been a breakout several days ago, involving the Indian Rapid Reaction Unit and some Kenyan troops, whose movements had been curtailed by the RUF. These troops, he clarified, were not counted among the detainees. There was a successful breakout, in which there were some Kenyan casualties.

Afterward, one Kenyan unit travelled in a different direction from the others, and on Wednesday night came across Government troops which did not recognize them and fired upon them. As a result, Eckhard said, some Kenyan casualties resulted.

Asked about the whereabouts of RUF leader Foday Sankoh, the Spokesman said the United Nations had no firm information where he is. He noted some reports that RUF elements have been crossing the border from Liberia into the Kenema area.

Aerial reconnaissance efforts do not show the RUF in an organized position ready to capture Freetown, the Spokesman said. "The tension in Freetown has reduced somewhat," he said.

Asked about U.S. assistance, Eckhard said the United States "has made it clear that it will not send troops." He noted that the Secretary-General continues to discuss the possibility of Rapid Reaction troops, although the United Nations has no offers for such troops, except for talk of an African-led force that would need to be equipped and transported.

"We're not going in there to fight the RUF," he said. "Were going in there to try to stabilize the situation so that the peace process can get back underway."

UN STAFF RETURNING TO SIERRA LEONE

The United Nations is recalling back to Sierra Leone some of the civilian and humanitarian staff relocated to Banjul, Gambia, and Conakry, Guinea, in light of new humanitarian requirements. Exact numbers of returning staff are not yet available.

On the humanitarian front, personnel from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are again travelling to Waterloo today to determine the numbers of people on the move and their requirements.

The mission yesterday reported that the estimated local population in settlements along the road to Waterloo was about 20,000, with another 10,000 to 20,000 people in the center of Waterloo town. There are also reports of population movements towards Freetown.

The only people who are able to move towards Freetown are the groups from the Waterloo area; populations in Masiaka and Rogberi are not able to move past the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and are presumed to have dispersed into the bush, according to the mission.

In Freetown, some of the newly arrived people are believed to have moved in with friends and family.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of new refugees in Guinea is 326.

WFP said that in the Southern region, it continues to provide food to children and will proceed with food deliveries to those already registered in the camps or holding registration cards from Waterloo camp or Grafton. The WFP-chartered vessel "Salvator II" has arrived off Freetown and is now available to support humanitarian operations in Sierra Leone.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DEBATE SIERRA LEONE TONIGHT

The Security Council decided to hold an open debate on Sierra Leone at 8 p.m. tonight at the request of the African Group. The Secretary-General is expected to deliver a statement. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, is returning to New York from Sierra Leone later today and has been invited to the evening Council session.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in response to questions about Sierra Leone upon entering the building this morning, said if the international community were to fail in Sierra Leone, the impact on broader efforts by the international community on the African continent would be very serious.

The Secretary-General spoke today by telephone with President Charles Taylor of Liberia, who has been asked by regional leaders to try to win the release of the UN detainees, the Spokesman said. He declined to provide further details.

Asked whether the United Nations can still deal with Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh, the Spokesman said, "Clearly the action he has taken against UN peacekeepers is so contrary to the peace agreement that it's hard to say that he is still part of the peace efforts. He is the main obstacle to the peace efforts."

The hostages are "virtually all military," the Spokesman said, with most of them Zambian. One unit of more than 200 Zambians is believed to have been located at the eastern town of Koidu while another group of more than 200 is still out of contact with the UN Mission.

He noted that two UN military personnel -- one Nepalese soldier, who had been ill, and an Indian -- were released from detention and arrived in Freetown today. He added that the UN Mission was unable to provide firm casualty figures for now.

Asked about the delayed report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on Sierra Leone, the Spokesman said it was expected to be issued after Miyet's return.

UN ANNOUNCES POSTPONEMENT OF CYPRUS TALKS

In a statement issued through his Spokesman, the Secretary-General announced that, because of the time needed for the recovery of Glafcos Clerides following his recent surgery, the proximity talks on Cyprus, scheduled for May 23, have been postponed.

Alvaro de Soto, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, discussed postponement Wednesday with representatives of the parties.

The United Nations hopes to discuss dates and a location for the resumption of the talks shortly.

UN AND FIVE DRUG COMPANIES DISCUSS AFFORDABLE AIDS CARE

This morning in Geneva, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced that a dialogue had begun between several UN agencies and five major pharmaceutical companies to make care and treatment for AIDS more accessible and affordable in developing countries.

Each of the five companies -- Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Glaxo Wellcome, Merck &amp; Co., Inc., and F. Hoffmann-La Roche -- has indicated a willingness to broaden access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS. UN organizations involved in discussions with those companies, in addition to UNAIDS, have included the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

These discussions follow the call by the Secretary-General to the private sector to engage in partnerships to respond to the AIDS crisis and to support the International Partnership against HIV/AIDS in Africa.

On entering the building today, the Secretary-General said that "the fact the drugs will be available is a positive and really strong indication to the patients that they are not being abandoned." But he added, "Let's not kid ourselves -- the drugs alone will not do it," noting that health systems, delivery capabilities and follow-up activities also need to be improved.

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON GEORGIA, KOSOVO

This morning, following its consultations on Sierra Leone and subsequent decision to hold an open debate on that subject at 8 p.m. tonight, the Security Council went into two formal meetings, first on Georgia and then on Kosovo.

On Georgia, the Council issued a Presidential Statement, available upstairs, expressing "deep concern" over the continued failure of the parties to reach a comprehensive political settlement of the Abkhazia dispute, but noting that the situation remains "generally calm, although unstable."

Council members then held an open debate on Kosovo, concerning the trip at the end of April by an eight-member Council delegation led by Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, who opened today's debate.

At 4 p.m., the Council will discuss another recent Council mission -- led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States -- which Wednesday wrapped up a week-long series of trips, first to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbors and then to the Horn of Africa.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who discussed his recent visit to Sierra Leone.

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