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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-06-05

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

Monday, June 5, 2000

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION ON WOMEN BEGINS

The General Assembly began a one-week special session to review progress on women's issues since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, five years ago. It convened this morning for its 23rd Special Session, entitled "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century." Over the next five days, Member States will review and appraise the progress made towards implementing the Platform for Action adopted at the Beijing summit.

Addressing the Special Session, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said there had been progress in the five years since the Beijing Conference, but much remained to be done. All the many challenges could be met only if women were enabled to build on the best this new world has to offer, rather than condemn them to suffer the worst of it, he said. That meant, above all, that women must be educated and enabled to play their part in the global economy.

At the conclusion of the Special Session this Friday, governments will adopt an outcome document containing further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The Secretary-General was among the guests at an opening ceremony hosted by the "Beijing Plus Five" NGO Host Committee at 11:30 today in the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. The gathering also featured Queen Noor of Jordan, U.S. Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke.

KIDNAPPED UN PERSONNEL IN GEORGIA RELEASED

Today, a UN helicopter traveled to the Kodori Valley in Georgia's Abkhazia region to pick up four persons -- two Danish UN military observers, a British member of "Halo Trust," a non-governmental group specializing in mine clearance, and an Abkhaz national who was the group's interpreter -- who had gone missing on Thursday. The four boarded the UN helicopter, and are believed to all be in good condition.

On Saturday, the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) determined that the group -- which had comprised five members, including another Abkhaz who was released on Saturday -- had been kidnapped by members of a local militia group.

Today, the Mission was allowed to pick up the remaining four, who were to be transported by helicopter to a nearby town, Senaki, and fly from there on a fixed-wing aircraft to the Georgian capital. Tblisi. After that, the four expect to return to the UN base in Sukhumi for debriefing.

The United Nations did not negotiate with the kidnappers, nor did it pay any ransom. The United Nations thanked the efforts of the Government of Georgia, which helped to obtain the release of the five people.

WORK ON CONFIRMING WITHDRAWAL NEARING END IN LEBANON

Today in Lebanon, the United Nations is at the final stages of marking portions of a "practical line" for the purpose of confirming Israel's withdrawal, in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426.

The UN experts -- including cartographers and legal and military advisers -- are on the ground today conducting the task of identifying the withdrawal line, and are currently meeting at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), at Naqoura.

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Terje Roed Larsen, has arrived back in Lebanon this morning after visiting Israel, and he is still conducting intensive contacts with all concerned parties. Yesterday, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and also attended a joint UN-Israeli meeting of cartographic, legal and military experts that was held in northern Israel.

There remain a few issues to be resolved regarding the withdrawal line, but the Secretary-General, upon entering the building today, told reporters that he expected to be able to confirm Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon within the next few days.

Asked about when Israel's withdrawal could be confirmed, the Spokesman said the confirmation would depend on how quickly the work on the ground can be completed. He said that, probably within 24 hours of resolving the issues of identifying the practical line on the ground, the Secretary-General should be able to confirm Israeli withdrawal.

The Spokesman said that there had been three issues, basically technical in nature, which needed to be resolved before the confirmation of withdrawal could be concluded.

UN TROOPS RETAKE KEY JUNCTION IN SIERRA LEONE

UN peacekeepers have retaken the strategic crossroads at Rogberi Junction, about 60 kilometers northeast of Freetown and built up troop strength there to 700.

The takeover took place Friday afternoon. Two companies of Indian peacekeepers encountered two roadblocks, one about 3 kilometers south of Rogberi and the other about 800 meters away from the same town. The troops broke through both roadblocks, causing the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to resort to sporadic fire.

The RUF also fired at a UN helicopter, which retaliated by machine-gun fire. The RUF vanished into the bush, according to the UN Mission. No casualties were reported on either side, and the UN troops are reported to be in full control of the situation.

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) is now planning daily aggressive patrols on a key route between Freetown and Lunsar, and back to Lungi.

Meanwhile, in Kailahun, a supply convoy of five trucks was detained by the RUF. One truck was allowed in over the weekend to re-supply more than 200 UN personnel encircled there. Negotiations continue for the release of the four other trucks.

In New York today, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet is scheduled to meet with the Permanent Representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to discuss troop contributions.

On the humanitarian front, a 15-day campaign to vaccinate some 160,000 children under five and 225,000 women of child-bearing age began in Freetown.

Asked about the need for blue helmets in Sierra Leone, the Spokesman said that some previous units, of around 2,000 troops, came without blue helmets and flak jackets, so that some 4,000 helmets had to be brought in from the UN storage facility in Brindisi, Italy. He said he could not confirm the story in the media today.

UN MISSION STOPS PUBLICATION OF KOSOVO PAPER FOR EIGHT DAYS

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has ordered an Albanian daily to stop publication for eight days for hate content which led to the murder of a Serb UN staff member.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, noted that an article published in the newspaper "Dita" on April 27 had put the staff member's life at risk from vigilante violence by including such personal details as his name, family details, place of work and movements. It even showed a photograph of him and his address.

The 25-year-old staff member, Petar Topoljski, went missing about a month ago and was found murdered a week after his disappearance.

The editor of the daily said after the murder that his paper would continue to publish the names of individuals it considered to be "involved against Albanians."

Also over the weekend, the Serb National Council of Kosovo announced that it would boycott meetings of the UN-led interim government this week in protest over an upsurge of violence.

Kouchner expressed his regret over the decision and said he would present the case of the Serbs to the United Nations in New York, where he is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Friday.

Asked about whether the suspension amounted to censorship, the Spokesman noted after the briefing that Kouchner derived his authority from Security Council Resolution 1244, which confer upon the Special Representative the power to protect human rights, including the right to life.

The Spokesman said that when Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines was issuing hate messages in Rwanda in 1994, there was a debate on whether it should have been shut down or jammed. In this case, he said Kouchner decided that "hate media would not be tolerated in Kosovo; the stakes are too high."

SECURITY COUNCIL RECEIVES REPORTS ON IRAQ, ETHIOPIA-ERITREA

The Security Council, which on Saturday ended a weekend retreat with the Secretary-General near Tarrytown, New York, on peacekeeping, is not holding any meetings today.

The Council has received a number of reports by the Secretary-General in recent days, including the first quarterly report on the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) on Iraq. The report noted that the Commission's Executive Chairman, Hans Blix, is currently engaged in reviewing potential staff members and that appointments have already been offered to fill a number of senior positions.

In the latest report on the "oil-for-food" program, the seventh phase of which expires on Thursday, the Secretary-General noted that revenues from oil exports earned under Phase VII are estimated to reach some $8.4 billion, of which about $5.64 billion will be available for the humanitarian program.

The Secretary-General also issued a report on the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. He noted that, since Ethiopia declared the end of the war on May 31, "no major combat has been reported," although there continue to be reports of some fighting, with both sides accusing each other of attacks.

The Secretary-General said that proximity talks, held under the auspices of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), have been going on between the two sides in Algiers, Algeria, since May 30, and he urges the two parties to cooperate fully with the OAU.

Last week, the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council also exchanged letters on the establishment of a UN Peace-Building Support Office in Tajikistan, for a one-year term starting June 1.

Asked about the Security Council retreat, the Spokesman said that discussion on Sierra Leone was a major element on the agenda, in terms of lessons that could be learned for future missions. They explored challenges to UN missions today, a subject which will also be the focus of the report by a panel on UN peace operations chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi. He said that representatives of the 15-member Security Council had attended the retreat, as well as the Secretary-General and two senior aides.

UN ISSUES RANKINGS FOR HEALTHY LIFE EXPECTANCY

The Japanese have the longest healthy life expectancy among 191 countries in the world, with an expectancy of 74.5 years. By contrast, Sierra Leone -- at the bottom of the rankings -- has a healthy life expectancy of only 26 years, according to new rankings issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) today.

Previously, life expectancy estimates were based on the overall length of life based on mortality data only. For the first time, WHO has calculated healthy life expectancy for babies born in 1999 based on an indicator, Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE), developed by WHO scientists.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Today is World Environment Day, with international observances held in Adelaide, Australia, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). To observe World Environment Day in Afghanistan, children in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul City are planting kenaf seeds made available through a joint effort of the UN system worldwide and in Afghanistan.

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