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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-05-26

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 26, 2000

UN TEAMS IN LEBANON WORKING TO CERTIFY ISRAELI PULLOUT

On entering UN Headquarters today, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters that the situation is calm on the border between Lebanon and Israel, and that UN troops are now patrolling the region and had moved close to the border.

The Secretary-General said he hoped that the certification of Israel's withdrawal could be done "in the next few days," and that work on such certification has already begun. After that, he added, he hoped to bring in several thousand more troops to bolster the UN peacekeepers.

Earlier today in Beirut, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, said that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is actively engaged in a process of confirming, by both aerial surveillance and verification on the ground, whether Israel has withdrawn from Lebanon in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 425.

Larsen told reporters in a news conference in Beirut, "The people of southern Lebanon will be seeing a lot of UNIFIL teams in the coming days." Already, he said, the UN peacekeepers have started checking throughout the south whether Israel and its allied South Lebanon Army have left the area entirely.

Larsen then went to Naqoura, where UNIFIL has its headquarters, and he and the UN Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Seth-Kofi Obeng, are discussing today with cartographic experts how to proceed with the technical issues toward confirming Israel's withdrawal.

The UN team intends to mark a "practical line" on the ground to conform to the 1923 international boundary line between Israel and Lebanon, after which the UN Force can determine whether Israeli forces have withdrawn to that line.

The UN mission in Lebanon also confirmed that more Lebanese police and civilian administrators are arriving in southern Lebanon. The Secretary-General said that he hoped that once Israel's withdrawal is certified, the Lebanese Government would also begin sending in army elements to the south.

Asked whether Israel is providing maps of landmines laid in southern Lebanon, the Spokesman said that Israel has been cooperating in making such maps available to the United Nations.

BODIES FOUND IN SIERRA LEONE MAY BELONG TO UN PERSONNEL

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) said today that there were indications that the bodies found in UN uniforms at Rogberi Junction earlier this week were those of UN personnel.

UN Spokesman David Wimhurst said in Freetown that on May 6 there was a battle with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) at the site where the bodies were found. He said that the Zambians had reported four of their soldiers missing from that battle and at least two Nigerians had also been reported missing from the same fight.

A UN team visited the site this week but was not able to identify the bodies, which were in an advanced stage of decomposition. A more vigorous investigation, including forensic experts, still needs to be pursued. Forensic experts are being sought by the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the UN mission in Sierra Leone said the human rights situation is extremely precarious and may deteriorate if fighting continues. Human rights investigators do not have a complete picture yet, but based on sites visited over the past three weeks, they reported on violations against civilians and prisoners. The RUF continues to hold thousands of persons abducted in previous years, many of them child soldiers and forcibly recruited civilians. Children, some as young as 10, are also to be found among Government-allied forces.

A new group of up to 10,000 people fleeing fighting was reported on Tasso Island, in the estuary between Lungi and Freetown. They were found in deplorable condition without adequate water, sanitation, medicine and shelter.

In Lungi yesterday, the United Nations rendered ineffective 4,000 rounds of ammunition, 30 hand grenades and nine rocket-propelled grenades collected from combatants.

Asked about how the people found dead at Rogberi Junction had been killed, the Spokesman said the United Nations did not know, but had speculated that the deaths could be linked to the May 6 battle. He noted that, although the bodies had been clothed in UN uniforms, that was not conclusive evidence of their identity since the RUF had taken many UN uniforms.

Although the United Nations has now concluded that some of the bodies belong to UN personnel, he said, "we can't exclude that there might also be some RUF among them. What we really need is forensic experts now."

He noted, in response to a question, that the Secretary-General spoke with President Charles Taylor of Liberia, who has been facilitating the release of the detainees, by telephone earlier today and was expected to talk to him later today, as well.

ANNAN VOICES DISMAY AT PROPOSAL TO REPLACE FIJI GOVERNMENT

The Secretary-General has voiced his dismay at the recommendation by Fiji's Grand Council of Chiefs to replace the democratically elected Government of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

In a statement issued through his Spokesman Thursday afternoon, the Secretary-General appealed to President Ratu Mara to resolve the crisis on the basis of Fiji's 1997 Constitution and noted the necessity of upholding the democratic process.

The Prime Minister and many senior Government officials continue to be held hostage in the Fijian Parliament by a group of men led by businessman George Speight.

The Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, met with the hostages and with Speight on Wednesday, and both said the international community would not accept an unconstitutional transfer of power.

Speaking to reporters at the John Quincy Adams Society in Washington on Thursday, the Secretary-General said he would submit a report to the Security Council, based on a report he received from Vieira de Mello, and that the Council would decide what to do next to handle the current crisis.

STATES URGED TO SIGN NEW TREATY BANNING CHILD RECRUITMENT

The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, welcomed the adoption Thursday by the General Assembly of a new treaty, which prohibits the compulsory recruitment of children under 18 and their participation in combat. Otunnu today urged member states to sign and ratify the agreement as swiftly as possible.

The Optional Protocol will be open for signature by member states from June 5-9 in New York, at a special session on gender equality, known as "Beijing+5". After that, it will be available for signature at a social development summit in Geneva (June 26-30) and at the Millennium Summit in New York (September 6-8).

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The United Nations clarified an article in today's New York Post, which said that the organization had rejected a gift from the Government of Albania of a statue of Mother Teresa. The UN Arts Committee has discussed the presentation of a statue of Mother Teresa, but that no formal proposal for such a gift has been discussed. The United Nations is waiting to hear from Albania about a gift which, according to established practice, should be representative of the culture or art of the State presenting it. The Post incorrectly reported that Mother Teresa was born in "Skopje, Albania." Skopje is the capital of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

On June 1, new partnerships between UN agencies and corporations will be unveiled during a conference organized for the business community by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). The two-day high-level conference and workshop series will take place at the Jacob Javits Center in New York on May 31 and June 1.

The Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity ended a two-week session today at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi. In addition to the signing earlier this week of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety by 64 Governments plus the European Community, a series of decisions were taken by the 156 participating countries on such issues as protecting the world's drylands and other particularly vulnerable ecosystems and the impact of tourism.

Today, the Secretary-General met with the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty Organization, Wolfgang Herrmann, to sign an agreement regulating the Commission's relationship with the United Nations. This is the first relationship agreement to be concluded between the United Nations and a preparatory commission.

Today is the last day of the Non-Governmental Organization Millennium Forum. There will be a program in the General Assembly Hall, starting at 3 p.m., to mark its closure, which will include presentations by several civil society leaders and a report on the status of the Millennium Forum Declaration, which the NGOs gathered here have been working on this week. At about 5 p.m., Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr&eacute;chette will attend the closing session of the Forum.

Today's briefing notes from Kosovo noted that fire units from all over the province were called in to fight a fire in a former battery factory of the Trepce zinc mining complex in Mitrovica.

Mozambique became the 90th Member State to pay its regular budget dues in full for this year with a payment of just over $10,000. By May 15, Member States owed $2.98 billion to the United Nations, with just over $822 million owed for the regular budget, just under $2.1 billion for the peacekeeping budget and around $82.5 million for the two international tribunals.

THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS

Saturday, May 27, 2000

In Paris, tennis player and World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador Martina Hingis, and Thierry Caillier, the former French wheelchair tennis champion, are to participate in a public awareness campaign called "Match Point Against Polio." They will urge tennis fans to support the global effort to eradicate polio during the weekend before the French Open.

Monday, May 29, 2000

Monday is the Memorial Day holiday in the United States; UN Headquarters in New York will be closed.

In Geneva, the UN Conference on Trade and Development's Commission on Investment, Technology and Related Financial Issues meets through Friday.

The first-ever Global Ministerial Environment Forum will take place from today until Wednesday in Malmo, Sweden, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). More details on the meeting can be found at www.unep.org/malmo.

Tuesday, May 30, 2000

The Security Council has scheduled formal meetings to vote on the mandates of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and the UN Disengagement Observer Force, both of whose current mandates are set to expire on May 31.

The Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly to review the World Summit for Children will be held in New York through Friday.

Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni Slade of Samoa and Alan Simcock of the United Kingdom's Department of Environment, Transport and Regions, will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. to discuss the UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Ocean Affairs.

In Geneva, the General Conference of the International Labour Organization begins its 88th session.

Wednesday, May 31, 2000

This is World No-Tobacco Day.

At 1:30 p.m., Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Mehr Khan, Director of UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre, will launch a new global digest on domestic violence at the Danny Kaye Visitors Center in UNICEF House.

"The World's Woman 2000: Trends and Statistics" will be launched at a press conference at 11:00 a.m.

Thursday, June 1, 2000

The President of the Security Council for the month of June, Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France, will take over from the President for the month of May, Ambassador Wang Yingfan of China. Ambassador Levitte is scheduled to hold bilateral consultations with other Council members on the program of work.

The Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1283, concerning Cyprus, is due. Also, the report of the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to the Security Council, following his consultations with the Commissioners, is expected.

Friday, June 2, 2000

The Security Council is expected to discuss its program of work for the month of June. After that, the Council begins a weekend retreat, which the Secretary-General will attend.

Acting Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie is expected to return from a weeklong visit to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, to examine humanitarian assistance efforts throughout Yugoslavia.


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