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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-17

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






Wednesday, May 17, 2000


Foday Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), was captured around 6 a.m. local time and is now in the custody of the Sierra Leonean police.

Asked how Sankoh's capture would affect the release of the roughly 350 UN detainees in Sierra Leone, the Spokesman said it was "too soon to tell." He noted that Sankoh is in the custody of the Sierra Leonean police, and that the country's Cabinet was meeting today to discuss the situation and might issue a statement once that meeting concludes. Sankoh, he said, had been arrested by the Sierra Leonean police.

Eckhard, in response to questions, said that UN Special Representative Oluyemi Adeniji may like to speak with Sankoh, "if only to move along the release of all of our detained UN personnel." The United Nations will continue to discuss the detainees' release with President Charles Taylor of Liberia and other officials, he added. The Secretary-General spoke with Taylor by telephone on Tuesday afternoon, he said.

"The political situation has been clouded by our not knowing the whereabouts of Foday Sankoh," he said, noting the RUF leader's status as a Government member and a signatory to the Lom&eacute; Peace Agreement. He recalled that, when the United Nations witnessed the Lom&eacute; Agreement last year, it entered a reservation saying that it would not recognize the extension of an amnesty to violations of international law.


Ninety-three former UN detainees, 14 Kenyans and 79 Zambians, arrived in Freetown late Tuesday night. They appeared to be in reasonably good condition. Two were suffering from malaria. The remaining 46 former detainees are still in the Liberian border town of Foya and are expected to be transported to Monrovia, the Liberian capital, and returned to Freetown today.

The United Nations is extremely concerned about reports that some of those remaining in Foya may be injured and may require urgent medical assistance. They are to receive the necessary care at the Lungi Reception Center, which has been set up to clothe, feed and look after the released detainees.

Asked about reports of injured soldiers, the Spokesman said he believed that President Taylor of Liberia, who mentioned a number of UN soldiers who had been injured, was referring to personnel who are among the soldiers still in Foya. "Until we get there and see these people, we really won't know what their condition is," he added.

The relative calm in Sierra Leone in recent days was shattered by renewed fighting, which was reported in Port Loko about 40 kilometers northeast of Freetown, and at Lungi Loi near Lungi International Airport.

The attack on Port Loko by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) on Tuesday evening resulted in the death of one Nigerian soldier, according to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). At least six other Nigerian soldiers were wounded and flown to Freetown.

There were no UN casualties reported from the attack earlier today at Lungi Loi.

The Spokesman said that the Lungi Loi attack involved about 40 RUF combatants, of whom about three were killed following clashes; no other casualties were reported. The Port Loko attack, he added, involved about 500 RUF combatants and the use of mortars. "In the end, the attack, which was a serious one, was repelled," he said.

The UN humanitarian agencies and their partners continue to provide assistance and assess the needs of newly displaced populations where security conditions permitted. A key humanitarian concern is the state of the country's agriculture programs, which were to begin this month to coincide with the planting season but are now severely threatened by the current instability.

Developments over the past day have further delayed the Secretary-General's report on Sierra Leone to the Security Council. The final version is expected to reach the Secretary-General by the end of today.


This morning, the Security Council began an open debate on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke of the United States, who led the seven-member Security Council delegation that visited the Central African region last week, opened the debate by discussing the report the team prepared on its visit.

Starting at 4 p.m., the Council will return to its closed consultations on Ethiopia and Eritrea, on which Council members have been considering a draft resolution. Following yesterday's consultations on that topic, Council members held "expert-level" talks this morning on the draft resolution. There is a possibility that, following this afternoon's consultations, the Council may proceed to a formal vote.

There continue to be reports of heavy fighting along the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, following the resumption of combat last Friday.

Asked about possible changes to UN deployment in Kisangani, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Spokesman said that it could be possible to change plans for the deployment of troops but that it would depend on the availability of troops.


The Spokesman announced that the proximity talks on Cyprus between Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash would resume in Geneva on July 5.

The talks will be opened by the Secretary-General.


Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for Special Assignments in Africa, has begun a weeklong visit to Angola. On Tuesday afternoon, he arrived in the capital, Luanda, and met later in the day with Angolan Foreign Minister Joao Miranda.

Over the coming week, Gambari is expected to hold discussions with the Angolan Government on a variety of issues, including the prospects for a negotiated peace settlement in that country and for elections intended for next year, and the role of the UN Office in Angola.

On Thursday, he is scheduled to meet President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and on Saturday he is expected to travel to Huambo, to see firsthand the conditions of internally displaced persons there.

The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme today issued their findings of a joint crop and food supply assessment mission, which ended a two-week visit to Angola on May 3.

According to the mission, the number of internally displaced persons in Angola is now nearly 2.6 million, of whom 1.9 million need urgent humanitarian assistance. The two agencies estimate that some 333,000 tons of emergency food assistance will be needed from other countries during the yearlong period from last month through March 2001.


The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today responded to reports that the Yugoslav Defense Minister, Dragoljub Ojdanic, was in Moscow last week by asking for clarifications from the Russian Government. Tribunal President Claude Jorda sent a letter today to the Russian embassy in The Hague seeking clarifications as to why a person indicted by the Tribunal was not arrested. The Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte said she is alarmed by reports of Ojdanic's trip and is seeking clarification.

Ojdanic was indicted on May 26 of last year, along with President Slobodan Milosevic and three others, for crimes committed in 1999 in Kosovo. He was indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war.

The Tribunal is not aware of any other travel abroad by any of the five indictees.


In a letter sent today, the Secretary-General called upon all Member States to use the Millennium Summit scheduled in September to rededicate themselves to the international legal framework and actively to contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law by signing, ratifying or acceding to any of the 500 treaties deposited with him. The Secretary-General has particularly identified 25 core treaties reflecting the United Nation's major policy goals.

At 6 p.m., the Secretary-General is scheduled to go with Nane Annan to the Cancer Society, in midtown Manhattan, to attend the inauguration of a garden there, which is to be called the "Kofi Annan Peace Garden." The Peace Garden includes a mosaic inspired by the experiences of children from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Children from the UN International School helped lay the tiles that comprise the mosaics.

Andrew Crockett, Chairman of the Financial Stability Forum, the main international committee dealing with reform of the global financial architecture, will meet Thursday with the UN preparatory committee for an upcoming global meeting on "Financing for Development." Crockett, the General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements, based in Basel, Switzerland, will hold a briefing at 11 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

On budget matters, Cambodia has become the 88th Member State to pay in full its dues for this year's regular budget, with a payment today of close to $10,500.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Ambassador Peggy Mason of Canada, chair of the Expert Group on Small Arms, who discussed the Expert Group's current meeting, which began on Monday.
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