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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-22

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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

Monday, May 22, 2000

SECURITY COUNCIL RECEIVES ANNAN'S REPORT ON SIERRA LEONE

The report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Security Council on Sierra Leone has been formally released today.

The Secretary-General noted as immediate concerns the safe return of UN personnel still being held, an end to hostile acts by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and its full cooperation in retrieving the dead, wounded and missing. He called on those with influence with the RUF to continue to work towards this end.

In this context, he said the Council might wish to consider a strengthening of the sanctions regime, including measures that would prevent RUF commanders from reaping the benefits of their illegal exploitation of mineral resources, particularly diamonds.

He singled out RUF leader Foray Sanko for his role in the recent events and said the international community should hold him accountable for his actions.

To stabilize the situation under the present mandate, the secretary-general recommended an increase of UNAMSIL's strength to a level of 16,500 military personnel. Once these additional forces have arrived and countered the threat posed by RUF to the peace process, it would be appropriate to consider additional steps, possibly to include a strengthening the force above the new proposed ceiling.

Annan noted that the United Nations would have to draw lessons from the experiences in Sierra Lone. The force, which he said had been designed, equipped and deployed as a peacekeeping force, was quickly forced into actual combat with one of the parties that had pledged to cooperate with it.

The Secretary-General said in the course of events, many problems emerged within the Mission, including with regard to command and control, cohesiveness of the force, the flow of information, equipment and preparedness of troops and coordination between and within the mission's various components. The Secretariat is taking urgent steps to assess these problems and to address recognized equipment shortfalls, in close coordination with the troop-contributing countries, he said.

Meanwhile, humanitarian concerns focused on concerns about the food situation in the Makeni area. Road access has been restricted, forcing the price of rice to increase some four-fold and increasingly limiting the civilian diet to mangoes.

Asked about the UN Mission's mandate, the Spokesman said that there is "robust language" in the existing mandate, and that the main problem has been the lack of existing resources to enforce that mandate.

MORE PERSONNEL FROM UN MISSION IN SIERRA LEONE FREED

On Sunday night, 54 more UN personnel who had been under detention in Sierra Leone, comprising 42 Zambians, 10 Kenyans and two military observers, one each from Malaysia and Norway, arrived in Freetown. Most of them were in good shape, but three Kenyans were wounded.

The latest group of freed detainees had been transported Sunday afternoon to Monrovia, Liberia, from the Liberian border town of Foya, where another helicopter was dispatched today.

The Secretary-General, upon entering the building this morning, said he expects more UN detainees, now believed to number around 300, to be released this week.

The overall security situation in Sierra Leone was reported calm, but the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) reported that two Nigerians were killed and another wounded in an attack in the middle of the night on a Nigerian post in Freetown. An investigation is underway into the incident.

Asked about reports that the bodies of six UN soldiers have been found, the Spokesman noted reports of some badly decomposed bodies wearing UN uniforms. However, he said, since the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has taken some UN uniforms, a deeper investigation is needed to determine whether the bodies are those of UN personnel. The location of the bodies was reportedly near Rogberi Junction, site of recent fighting.

ANNAN SAYS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR ETHIOPIA-ERITREA WAR

In a statement issued through his Spokesman, the Secretary-General voiced his concern at the fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Annan was "immensely saddened at the resumption of what is an increasingly incomprehensible war," the statement said.

"There can be no justification for such large-scale death and suffering, especially at a time when both countries are wracked by drought and hunger," the statement said. It noted that the parties have already agreed to restore the status quo ante as of May 6, 1998, as well as a sequence of mutual withdrawal from occupied territories.

The Secretary-General was working closely with the Organization of African Unity and fully supported the efforts of its Chairman, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. He urged the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea to cease fighting immediately "to give peace a chance."

Reporters interested in flying to Eritrea could join a World Food Programme (WFP) flight leaving Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday morning for Asmara, by contacting Brenda Barton in the WFP's Nairobi office at 254-2-622-594.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS LEBANON TODAY

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Middle East at 4 p.m. today, to be briefed by the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, on Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

Today, upon entering the building, the Secretary-General responded to a question from a reporter on Lebanon by noting that his report to the Security Council on Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon will be issued today. The report was further revised today and is expected to go to the Security Council in all languages by Tuesday.

The Secretary-General added, in response to a question on reports about splits in the de facto forces called the South Lebanon Army (SLA), that he heard reports of events on the ground but hoped that what is happening "will not unduly affect the plans" detailed in his report.

On the ground in Lebanon today, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported firing incidents involving the armed factions and the Israeli Defense Force at several locations today, but it did not report any casualties among its personnel.

The Spokesman, in response to questions, said that the Secretary-General had several telephone discussions today on Lebanon. Larsen, he noted, was at UN Headquarters today. Eckhard said he was not prepared to discuss any travel plans by Larsen at this point.

In response to a question on Israeli complaints about UN peacekeepers, the Spokesman said he had not seen any direct complaints by Israel to the Secretary-General on Lebanon.

NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY PARTIES REACH CONSENSUS

On Saturday afternoon, the 187 States Parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) agreed to a consensus statement, following several days of negotiations to clear up deadlocks on the text.

A statement issued by the Spokesman on Saturday emphasized that, for the first time in 15 years, the States Parties were able to reach a historic consensus on several key issues. The Secretary-General in particular emphasized a consensus on new efforts toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons and to halt the global spread of such weapons.

Among other key accomplishments, the consensus statement included steps by all nuclear weapons states to lead to nuclear disarmament, including further efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals and non-strategic nuclear weapons.

DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO RISE FROM WEST TIMOR FLOODS

The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) reported that the death toll from the floods in West Timor has risen to 98 confirmed deaths, with 11 people reported missing.

Initial reports indicated that between 100 and 200 houses have been swept away. The Mission noted that it is not possible to assess damage precisely because bridges have been washed away and many roads remain impassable.

ANNAN URGES NGO MILLENNIUM FORUM TO ADDRESS GLOBALIZATION

The Secretary-General addressed the opening session of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Millennium Forum in the General Assembly Hall this morning, and urged the civil society representatives gathered there to include the world's poor among the beneficiaries of globalization.

"I believe the overarching challenge of our times is to make globalization mean more than bigger markets," he said. He urged civil society leaders to urge Governments to open access to their markets, to unlock "the shackles of debt," and to address the decline in official development assistance to the developing world. He also asked those gathered for the Forum to help "translate the goals of the Millennium Report into practice."

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

This morning in the Dag Hammarskj&ouml;ld Library Auditorium, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet opened a session of the UN Senior Management Seminar 2000, which is being organized by the UN Secretariat and the Norwegian Government. The seminar, which is to last until May 26, is intended to prepare civilian and military personnel for top leadership positions in UN-mandated peace operations. For further information, please see the Seminar's web site (www.fokiv@mil.no/unsmas).

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the General Assembly will hold informal consultations for an exchange of views on the Secretary-General's Millennium Report, and the Secretary-General himself will address the meeting.

El Salvador has become the 89th Member State to pay its regular budget dues in full for this year by making a payment of just over $126,000.


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