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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-15
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.comHIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Monday, May 15, 2000
SIERRA LEONE: MORE THAN 130 UN PEACEKEEPERS FREED
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement issued through his Spokesman, said he "would like to acknowledge the important role played by President Charles Taylor of Liberia in the release of detained UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone." Approximately 139 peacekeepers are in Liberia today and will soon be brought back into the mission area in Sierra Leone.
The Secretary-General was scheduled today to talk with Taylor, who has been tasked by West African Governments to facilitate the release of the UN detainees.
"He is gratified by the progress made thus far and will encourage President Taylor to press on until the roughly 350 remaining detainees held by the Revolutionary United Front are freed and their weapons and equipment recovered," the statement said.
Of the 139 detained personnel from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), mostly Zambians, who were released, the first 15 have arrived in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. The rest are reported to be in the Liberian border town of Foya. Arrangements are in place to airlift the released detainees to Freetown, starting with the 15 who are in Monrovia. The precise numbers of those who were released still need to be confirmed.
UN aircraft are taking in food, clothing, medical supplies and other rations to Foya, where the United Nations is establishing a presence.
In addition to the 139, it was reported over the weekend another 18 UN personnel were released from detention and transported from Geima to Kailahun, where they had been based. They are "neither detained nor free to move," according to the UN spokesman in Freetown.
The release comes on the heels of a visit by the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Oluyemi Adeniji, to Monrovia Sunday to consult with President Taylor of Liberia on the detainee issue during which the President discussed the progress made so far.
The Secretary-General, upon entering the building, said he was relieved to hear the news of the release and that work was underway to get the rest freed. He said he had spoken to Adeniji as well as Force Commander Gen. Vijay Jetley and reported that morale on the ground was good. The Secretary-General said he had the chance to encourage Jetley and thank him for the leadership and the work he and his team have done in difficult circumstances. A statement over the weekend also paid tribute to Jetley and those serving under his command.
Bernard Miyet, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who was in Sierra Leone last week, briefed the Security Council on his mission today.
OVERALL SITUATION IN SIERRA LEONE "TENSE BUT IMPROVING"
On the ground, the overall situation is reported as tense but improving. Sporadic mortar fire was reported overnight in the Port Loko area, where insecurity has caused some new population displacements. Freetown is reported to be relatively calm. The mission conducted regular air reconnaissance flights.
The airlift of Indian troops by Canadian airbus and commercial aircraft is expected to ferry in about half of the battalion by the end of today,
The estimated 20,000 newly displaced who had moved into Freetown last week began returning over the weekend to the Waterloo area. New displacements, of between 7,000 and 9,000 people, were reported in the Port Loko area to Lungi. Insecurity continued to prevent an assessment of the Masiaka area.
Foday Sankoh's whereabouts remain unknown to the United Nations.
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 around Wednesday. Changes in the situation on the ground had delayed the report, he said.
Asked about the detainees, the Spokesman said that he believed that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commanders had been under instructions to treat the detainees well, and he hoped that that understanding had been upheld.
SECURITY COUNCIL TO MEET ON ERITREA-ETHIOPIA CONFLICT
At 4 p.m., the Security Council will again meet in closed consultations to discuss the latest developments in the conflict that resumed last Friday between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast will brief them on events over the past few days, during which there have been reports of heavy fighting along the border between the two countries.
The Council will also discuss the possibility of further action in that matter, and may discuss the possibility of a further draft resolution on the dispute.
Last Friday evening, Council members unanimously approved Resolution 1297, in which they resolved to meet again within 72 hours "to take immediate steps to ensure compliance with this resolution, in the event that hostilities continue."
The Secretary-General, on arriving at Headquarters today, told reporters, "It's unfortunate that this war had to break out. The differences between the two countries are relatively small, and I think with a bit of patience and effort and will, it could have been resolved peacefully." He added, "I hope they heed the call of the Security Council."
Asked about any further UN action, the Spokesman said that "every effort was made to talk these two leaders out of a return to a war that had erupted over a relatively minor border dispute." He noted that a Security Council delegation led by U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke visited both countries last week in an effort to prevent a return to fighting. Now, the Spokesman said, the Security Council would discuss what further steps to take.
JOURNALIST PLEADS GUILTY BEFORE ARUSHA TRIBUNAL
Georges Ruggiu, a journalist of Belgian and Italian nationality who worked in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, today pleaded guilty to two counts of incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
Ruggio, a journalist who worked in 1994 for Radio Television Libres des Milles Collines, had initially pleaded "not guilty," but later changed his plea after a period of reflection on the scope and consequences of his offenses.
The Prosecution has requested that Tribunal impose a prison sentence of 20 years in this case.
ANNAN PAYS RESPECTS TO FORMER JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER
The Secretary-General, in a statement read by the Spokesman, said he was "profoundly saddened" by the passing of former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.
"I knew him as a true and devoted friend of the United Nations," the Secretary-General said, adding that he appreciated his support and "tireless efforts" in the international field. "The strong multilateral vision of Prime Minister Obuchi will be long remembered by us and be an inspiration to all," he said.
PARTIES HELD WESTERN SAHARA TALKS ON SUNDAY
Morocco, the Polisario Front and the neighboring countries -- Mauritania and Algeria -- met for private face-to-face discussions in London on May 14 under the auspices of the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James Baker III.
The parties may meet again in June to continue the search for an early, durable and agreed resolution of their dispute in Western Sahara.
UN MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN OPENS OFFICE IN TEHERAN
On Sunday evening, the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan inaugurated its liaison office in Teheran, Iran, which will be headed by the Mission's Senior Political Affairs Officer, Jean-Pierre Castella.
At the reception to open the office, Francesc Vendrell, the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said that despite setbacks, the United Nations remains determined to move the parties to find an acceptable solution to the 20-year-old conflict. He urged that countries end any outside interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
Asked about the trial of former UN travel official Charles Kim, who was found guilty of defrauding the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina of approximately $812,000, the Spokesman said that Kim has been given 41 months in prison in the United States and a demand for full restitution of the missing funds. Some of the funds have been recovered, Eckhard said, and the United Nations expects to collect the entire sum. "We're obviously very pleased," he added.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), in a press release along with its partners, called for intensified efforts and additional resources for the areas of Africa and the Indian subcontinent where there would be continued transmission of the polio virus at the end of this year. The agency also noted that actress and UNICEF Special Representative Susan Sarandon began her first visit to the field to see firsthand the heavy toll of HIV/AIDS on children's lives in Tanzania.
The first session of the Preparatory Committee for "Istanbul Plus Five" concluded on Friday in Nairobi, Kenya. The review of the 1996 Istanbul Conference on Human Settlements, scheduled to take place June of next year, will review and assess progress made since that Conference. Klaus Toepfer, Acting Executive Director of Habitat, said, "It will be a chance to refocus the worlds attention on the state of our settlements, the problems of urbanization and the right of the poor to adequate shelter."
The regular status of contributions notes that, as of the end of April, Member States owed just over $3 billion to the United Nations, including $837 million owed to the regular budget, about $2.1 billion for peacekeeping and just over $86 million for the two international tribunals.
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