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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-12

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

Friday, May 12, 2000

ANNAN REPORTS RELATIVE CALM IN SIERRA LEONE

Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported as he walked into the building this morning that the situation in Sierra Leone seems relatively calmer today, as efforts continue to stabilize the situation.

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) reported that Jordanian parachute companies arrived at Lungi airport a short while ago. Prior to the arrival of the roughly 300 Jordanians, the number of UNAMSIL personnel was around 8,900.

This afternoon more than 100 civilian personnel are expected back from Banjul, Gambia, against the backdrop of an improved security situation and the extra support required by the incoming peacekeepers.

At UN headquarters Thursday night, the Security Council held an open debate during which the Secretary-General appealed for the world not to abandon the people of Sierra Leone in the hour of their greatest need.

He noted that West African leaders had called for a revision of UNAMSIL's mandate, and cautioned that the first priority for the Council must be to ensure that the United Nations has the capacity to carry out the tasks that its mandate implies.

Recommendations to the Security Council, in a report by the Secretary-General, will be worked on over the weekend for presentation next week. At UN headquarters in New York, the Sierra Leone Crisis Action Team will continue to meet over the weekend, as will the Troop Contributors.

The most recent humanitarian assessment showed that some 20,000 to 30,000 people arrived in Freetown since the beginning of the week. Most of them came from Waterloo, approximately 25 kilometers south of Freetown, and from villages situated on the axis Songo-Masiaka where fighting has been reported these past few days. It was noted on Thursday that only a small number of people are still coming into Freetown, and many internally displaced persons are now returning to areas near Waterloo. Today, the World Food Programme was to start food distributions.

The deployment of the rest of the Jordanian battalion, as well as the Indian and Bangladesh peacekeepers, will be carried out by a mixture of commercial and military aircraft. The deployment of the Indian battalion is scheduled to start on Monday.

The United Nations has requested military load teams in order to increase the number of heavy-lift flights into Lungi airport.

Asked about the whereabouts of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh, the Spokesman said the United Nations still has no information on where he is. He noted, in response to questions about the appointment of Jesse Jackson as a special US envoy, that the Secretary-General spoke to US President Bill Clinton on Thursday. They discussed Sierra Leone and AIDS, he added.

The Spokesman added that the United Nations has been able to deploy, to send out military observers and to carry out patrols and aerial reconnaissance. "I think Freetown is calming down," he said.

He noted, in response to questions, that there is no specific agreement between UNAMSIL and British troops deployed in Sierra Leone. Eckhard said the troops have secured Lungi airport, as well as the UN Headquarters compound. Asked about Lungi airport's capacity for flights, the Spokesman said it can only handle some two to three flights per day.

ANNAN DEPLORES FIGHTING BETWEEN ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA

The Secretary-General, in a statement issued through his Spokesman, deplored the resumption of large-scale fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. He appealed urgently for both countries to cease hostilities immediately and to return to the process of negotiation to find a peaceful solution.

"The Secretary-General stresses that the differences between the two countries cannot justify in any way the great loss in human lives they have already suffered and stand to suffer further," the statement said. "He is further concerned that the renewed fighting will worsen the already grave humanitarian situation" in the Horn of Africa.

The World Food Programme (WFP) today added its concern that the renewed fighting will further hamper relief efforts, and especially the emergency operation to assist internally displaced persons in Ethiopia. WFP reported that there is some movement of people into Mekele from areas closer to the border. The agency is assessing the needs and the condition of the newly displaced persons.

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES HORN OF AFRICA, DR OF CONGO

The Security Council this morning began its closed consultations considering changes in a draft resolution, submitted Thursday in the Council, on the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The draft was circulated Thursday afternoon following a report by French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte on the Council delegation's trip this week to both countries, in which he warned that any resumption of fighting would be "particularly deadly."

Council members agreed to consider revising that draft resolution in light of the reports today of renewed fighting along the border. That discussion is expected to take place this afternoon.

Also this morning, the Council heard a briefing by Ambassador Arnold Peter van Walsum of the Netherlands on the visit by the Security Council delegation, led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and other countries in the Central African region.

Van Walsum noted that the Council team met with the Presidents of the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as several faction leaders, in an effort to see if the conditions exist for the wider deployment of the UN Mission to the DRC.

The team noted that the Secretary-General's decision on that deployment would be complex. But it added that, although the events in Sierra Leone inevitably cast a shadow over the dispute in the DRC, "Sierra Leone should not be allowed to cloud the international community's responsibility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

At 3:30 p.m. today, the Council will hold a formal meeting on Tajikistan, in light of the end of the UN Mission's mandate there on May 15.

Following that meeting, the Council will resume consultations on Ethiopia and Eritrea, and may vote on a text later today.

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES UNDERSTANDING ON ACEH

The Secretary-General, in a statement read by the Spokesman, welcomed the announcement of the conclusion of a Joint Understanding on Humanitarian Pause for Aceh, agreed between the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement.

The Secretary-General commended the two parties for "the important first step they have taken towards the resolution of the problem in Aceh" and hoped that the strict terms of the Joint Understanding would contribute to finding a mutually acceptable solution.

SPECIAL ENVOY ON CYPRUS TO REMAIN AT UN HEADQUARTERS

The Secretary-General has asked Alvaro de Soto, his Special Adviser on Cyprus, to remain based at UN Headquarters for the time being, "in order to give priority to the good offices effort underway," the Spokesman said.

However, the term of the Secretary-General's Acting Special Representative in Cyprus, James Holger, comes to an end on May 31. Accordingly, the Secretary-General has appointed Zbigniew Wlosowicz of Poland to succeed Holger as Acting Special Representative and Chief of Mission in Cyprus, effective on June 1.

Asked about the planned proximity talks on Cyprus, the Spokesman noted that they were postponed from the initial date, for May 23, following the illness of Glafcos Clerides, and the United Nations was in discussion with the parties for a new date and venue.

SECRETARY-GENERAL, ENVOY TO MEET ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER

Terje Roed Larsen, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General who just completed his trip to the Middle East, met at noon with the Secretary-General to discuss that trip, in which he discussed the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426, which call for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon. Larsen briefed the Secretary-General on his visits to Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

The Secretary-General, along with Larsen, will also meet Friday afternoon with the Foreign Minister of Israel, David Levy, in an appointment expected to last about an hour.

The tentative date for Larsen's briefing to the Security Council is May 18.

UNMIK NOTES HUNGER STRIKE IN MITROVICA

Today's briefing notes from the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo report that there are currently 36 prisoners -- 31 Serbs and five Roma -- on hunger strike at the detention center in Mitrovica. The hunger strikers have refused all food since Orthodox Easter, to protest delays in their trial proceedings.

In response, and at the urging of the UN Mission, the President of the District Court of Mitrovica has rescheduled their trials, the first of which will start on June 6. Meanwhile, the hunger strikers are being cared for by four doctors to monitor their health during the ongoing strike.

UN MILITARY OBSERVER DIES OF ILLNESS IN EAST TIMOR

UN flags were flown at half-mast today across East Timor after a UN military observer from Malaysia died in a hospital in Darwin, Australia, Thursday morning after being admitted a week ago with symptoms of malaria. The final medical report on the cause of death is still to be released by hospital authorities.

This is the third victim from the UN Mission to die from a disease since its deployment last October.

SECRETARY-GENERAL PRESENTS DISABILITY AWARD TO HUNGARY

The Secretary-General this morning greeted the President of Hungary, Arpad Goncz, and then, in a ceremony at the Trusteeship Council, conferred upon him -- and on Hungary as a whole -- this year's Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award.

He said, "Today we pay tribute to Hungary for its efforts to create a society for all, a society free of discrimination that gives real meaning to the rights of persons with disabilities." He added that many people with disabilities continue to lack access to services worldwide, with 80 percent of the disabled population living in the developing world.

ANNAN TO ADDRESS SEVERAL UNIVERSITY COMMENCEMENTS

The Secretary-General will be giving commencement addresses at four universities in the United States in coming weeks.

On Saturday, he travels to North Carolina to speak at Wingate University, which is U.S. Senator Jesse Helms's alma mater, and he will be introduced by the Senator.

Then on Sunday, May 21, he addresses the students at Notre Dame University in Indiana at their commencement. The following Thursday, May 25, he will be the commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. Last, on June 11, he will be the keynote speaker at the commencement at Stanford University in California.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about a security incident in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Spokesman noted after the briefing that the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina reported Thursday that 22 people had been arrested in an incident in Bratunac, in which a bus carrying Bosnian Muslim women was stoned.

Asked about tensions between Uganda and Rwanda, Eckhard noted the United Nations' concern at reports of troop buildups along the two countries' border. He said that the Presidents of both countries planned to talk, in meetings scheduled this Sunday in Tanzania, and he hoped that tensions would ease at the border.

THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS

Saturday, May 13, 2000

The Secretary-General will deliver a commencement address at Wingate University, North Carolina.

Sunday, May 14, 2000

The Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, James Baker, will hold talks in London with the parties to the Western Sahara dispute -- Morocco and the Polisario Front -- as well as with the neighboring countries, Algeria and Mauritania. The talks will be held at the ministerial level.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson begins an official visit to Brazil, which will last until May 18.

Monday, May 15, 2000

A special two-day donors meeting on security and development in the Central African Republic will begin at UN Headquarters, with Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr&eacute;chette opening the meeting and Central African Republic Prime Minister Georges-Anicet Dologu&eacute;l&eacute; leading his country's delegation.

From Monday through Saturday, the World Health Assembly, the meeting of the World Health Organization's 191 Member States, will take place in Geneva.

The final mandate of the UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) will expire.

The Secretary-General will issue a message to mark the International Day of Families, which is designed to increase awareness of family issues.

The first session of the Group of Governmental Experts on small arms will take place through May 19. The Group, comprising 20 experts from Governments, will be chaired by Peggy Mason, Adviser on Small Arms and Light Weapons in Canada's Foreign Affairs Department.

In Vienna, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) will meet through May 26 for its 68th session, to review measures that Member States have taken to comply with the international drug control treaties in the past six months.

The Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity will take place from today until May 26, at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi. The Treaty's 177 Parties will examine recent progress on biological issues, and the recently concluded Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety will be opened for signature.

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations meets through Friday.

In Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of the Child will meet through June 2.

Working Group B of the Preparatory Commission for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization will meet in Vienna through May 26.

In The Hague, the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will last through the week.

In Arusha, Tanzania, a two-day hearing will begin at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the case of Georges Henry Joseph Ruggiu, a former broadcaster for Radio Television des Milles Collines, who is charged with two counts of incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

The Secretary-General will issue a message of solidarity with the people of non-self-governing territories.

Through May 26, the Executive Council of the World Meteorological Organization will meet in Geneva.

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

The Security Council is scheduled to hold an open meeting to discuss the trip this month by a seven-member Council delegation led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighboring countries.

The Secretary-General will issue a message for World Telecommunication Day.

Thursday, May 18, 2000

The Security Council expects to hold consultations on the situation in the Middle East, including a briefing by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Terje Roed Larsen, on his recent trip to the region to discuss Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

At 10:30 a.m. in the Dag Hammarskj&ouml;ld Auditorium, there will be a briefing on "Families -- Agents and Beneficiaries of Development and Social Progress," following the International Day of Families, which takes place on Monday.

Friday, May 19, 2000

The Security Council has scheduled consultations on Sierra Leone.

The Secretary-General is expected to deliver remarks at the BBC World Service Millennium Concert.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria, President of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which will conclude on May 19.
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