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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-25

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 25, 2000

UN ENVOY MEETS LEBANESE PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Terje Roed Larsen met this afternoon with President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Selim el-Hoss of Lebanon. He said after the meeting that "all signs are encouraging."

In a statement, Larsen added, "After 22 long years, the southern part of the country is free of occupation and life can begin to return to normal."

Larsen plans to meet on Friday afternoon with Gen. Seth-Kofi Obeng, the UN Force Commander, to discuss the plan for UN confirmation of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

Earlier today, a UN team of cartographers and a military adviser went to Naqoura, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters in southern Lebanon, to discuss with Obeng the final practical arrangements for confirmation. The team intends to establish a "practical line" on the ground to correspond to the 1923 borderline between Israel and Lebanon.

On the ground today, the UN mission described the situation as relatively quiet, with UN troops and civilian officers patrolling extensively in an effort to maintain calm. The mood has been upbeat, with a national holiday declared today in Lebanon to mark the withdrawal of Israeli troops. Prime Minister Hoss visited southern Lebanon today, and the UN mission also reported that Lebanese authorities, including members of the gendermarie, are gradually moving into the vacated areas.

Asked about whether the United Nations will need assurances to fly over the border, the Spokesman noted that Larsen is seeking assurances by the relevant Governments that UN helicopters can have access to their airspace for the identification of the practical line.

Asked about the Shebaa Farms, the Spokesman noted the Secretary-General's report on Lebanon, which determined that the Shebaa Farms do not fall within the operational mandate of UNIFIL.

The Spokesman, in response to a question, said that the United Nations would confirm Israel's withdrawal and, over the longer term, assist the Lebanese Government in asserting its authority over its territory. He noted the gradual movement of Lebanese authorities into southern Lebanon.

UN TEAM VISITS SITE WHERE TWO JOURNALISTS KILLED IN SIERRA LEONE

A team from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone, including the Deputy Force Commander and military observers, today traveled to the site where two journalists, Kurt Schork of Reuters and Miguel Gil Moreno of APTN, were killed and two others injured in an ambush by suspected members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) near Rogberi Junction Thursday afternoon.

The four journalists were traveling in the company of Sierra Leone Army (SLA) troops in two vehicles. The two survivors were taken to hospital in Freetown and are reported to be in stable condition.

The Spokesman noted that four members of the SLA were killed in the same exchange.

The Secretary-General, in a statement issued Thursday evening, condemned the attack and the violence "that is tearing Sierra Leone apart."

The 29 freed detainees who had been in Liberian custody were flown back to Sierra Leone earlier today, bringing the total number of released detainees who passed through the Liberian town of Foya to 233. The 29 latest released were all Zambians and appeared to be in good health except for two who have malaria. The United Nations has no word on further detainees today.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sierra Leone Oluyemi Adeniji was on his way to Abuja, Nigeria, to attend a series of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meetings, which starts at the ministerial level Friday and continues through the weekend at a higher level.

Kenya has offered much-needed stress counselors to be on hand for the newly released detainees, but the United Nations still had no offers for forensic experts to help identify the remains found earlier this week at Rogberi Junction.

The Humanitarian Coordinator in Sierra Leone noted reports of large number of civilians leaving the Makeni-Magburaka area because of the shortage of food and fears of new fighting. Access to newly displaced people is limited by insecurity.

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON ETHIOPIA-ERITREA CONFLICT

The Security Council heard a briefing today by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast on the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict.

The Government of Eritrea has responded to the appeal by the current Chair of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, by agreeing to end hostilities and restore the status quo ante of May 6, 1998. Bouteflika is in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, today and visited Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening, in a statement attributable to the Spokesman, the Secretary-General welcomed the statement issued by the Eritrean Government and urged the Government of Ethiopia also to respond positively to the OAU appeal.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that more than 20,000 Eritreans have been registered at three refugee encampments along the Sudanese border, and thousands more are expected to move into Sudan if there is any further fighting. As an emergency measure, UNHCR will begin airlifts next week of tents from its stockpiles in the Balkans, including 1,000 tents from Kosovo and another 1,000 from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The World Food Programme also announced today that it will launch a $3.4 million emergency feeding program to feed approximately 50,000 Eritreans who have fled their homes during the recent fighting.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO HOLD OPEN BRIEFING ON EAST TIMOR

Prior to the briefing on the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict, the Security Council held informal consultations first on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, and then on the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, also called MINURSO.

Joachim H&uuml;tter, Director of the Peacekeeping Department's Asia and Middle East Division, briefed the Council on UNDOF and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi briefed the Council on the Secretary-General's report on Western Sahara.

The Secretary-General has recommended that the Council extend the Western Sahara Mission by two months, until the end of July, and the Disengagement Observer Force by six months, until the end of November; both have current mandates that expire on May 31.

The Security Council is considering draft resolutions to extend both mandates, which it expects to take up next Tuesday, May 30.

The Council also heard a briefing by Annabi on recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That update included information on the cease-fire violations in Equateur Province and an agreement on the withdrawal of troops from Kisangani.

This afternoon, at 3:30 p.m., the Council will go into a formal session to hear an open briefing on East Timor.

ANNAN VISITS UNIVERSITY, REPUBLICAN SOCIETY IN WASHINGTON TRIP

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Washington today.

He was to attend a luncheon hosted by the John Quincy Adams Society, an informal grouping of moderate Republicans from the House of Representatives. More than 70 members of the House are expected to attend the luncheon, at which the Secretary-General will make remarks and then take questions.

This afternoon, the Secretary-General will go to the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University to deliver a commencement address. In that address, which is on the theme of the UN role in maintaining peace and security, the Secretary-General addresses some of the peacekeeping issues, raised most recently by the UN Mission in Sierra Leone.

He is to argue that the United Nations can do more than just keep the peace between those who are willing to abide by it. With a robust and credible presence, it can also deter and discourage potential violators of peace agreements.

Annan is also to call for a reconsideration of some of the basic assumptions about peacekeeping, including neutrality, the good faith of the parties and non-use of force.

The Spokesman, responding to a question, noted that a previously scheduled meeting between the Secretary-General and US National Security Adviser Samuel Berger was cancelled because of personal reasons.

TALIBAN BOMBING KILLS UN FIELD WORKER IN AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban bombardment of Taloqan in northeastern Afghanistan on the night of May 20 killed a UN field worker who devoted much of life to taking care of disabled people.

A bomb landed directly on the home of Bashir Ahmad of the UN-supported Comprehensive Disabled Afghans Programme, in the room in which his children were sleeping, killing him and six of his seven children. Although severely injured, his wife and their sole surviving child, a six-year-old daughter, are recovering in the Taloqan provincial hospital.

UN Coordinator for Afghanistan Erick de Mul said, "This is not the first time that indiscriminate aerial bombardment or rocketing has killed Afghan civilians. Inflicting such suffering is unconscionable."

The United Nations has repeatedly called for all military and political authorities in Afghanistan to respect the rights of non-combatants to be treated as civilians and to refrain from military activity that targets or results in avoidable harm and suffering of civilians.

Asked about risks to UN staff in Afghanistan, the Spokesman said he was not aware of any change in UN risk assessment to staff following the bombing.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In response to questions, the Spokesman reiterated that the Secretary-General viewed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's latest letter on the Khmer Rouge trials as a "positive development" but that some clarifications are needed. UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell will accept the Cambodian Government's invitation to return to Phnom Penh, he added.

Eckhard, when asked about the arrest of an employee of the UN Federal Credit Union, confirmed that a Credit Union employee had been arrested this week and charged with stealing funds. No further details were immediately available.

From May 29-31, the world's environment ministers will meet in Malmo, Sweden at the first Global Ministerial Environment Forum. The meeting, which is being organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is intended to bridge information and policy gaps on environmental issues through informal discussions with global leaders from academia, business and industry, and civil society groups.


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