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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-06-23

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





Friday, June 23, 2000


Secretary-General Kofi Annan today concluded his visit to Syria, as well as his Middle East tour. He visited the UN offices in Damascus to address the staff of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors the zone of separation between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights. He thanked the staff for their support during the recent developments in southern Lebanon.

The Secretary-General then held a final session of meetings with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, after which they gave a joint press conference at Damascus Airport.

Concerning the Lebanese complaint about Israeli incursions along their southern border, the Secretary-General said that a UN-Israeli team was on the border today and he hoped by day's end that he would receive a report that all alleged violations had been cleared up.

He added that he had instructed the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to report on the status of the border issues this Sunday, June 25, and every Sunday thereafter so that the Security Council could be regularly briefed on any subsequent violations by either side.

In the afternoon he flew to Basel, Switzerland, where he will begin a four-nation European tour tomorrow.

The Secretary-General also noted, in an exchange of letters with the President of the Security Council made available today in New York, offers by the Governments of Ukraine and Sweden to provide contingents to UNIFIL. Ukraine has offered an engineering battalion, and Sweden is offering a unit specialized in destroying ammunition and explosives.


The Security Council this morning began an open meeting to hear a briefing by Carl Bildt, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Balkans.

Bildt said that the reality of the Balkans is that the United Nations currently operates three peacekeeping missions in the area and, he added, "we know that if these troops were to be withdrawn today, there will in all probability be war tomorrow."

He urged the need to protect minorities, particularly the Serbs, in Kosovo; the need for functioning common institutions, refugee returns and economic reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and the importance of addressing the present structures of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The Council meeting began with a series of procedural voters over whether Member States and interested individuals could participate in the debate without the right the vote.

Fourteen Member States asked to participate in the debate under Rule 37, as did two individuals under Rule 39: Bildt and Javier Solana, the High Representative and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union. Also, Ambassador Vladislav Jovanovic requested permission to participate.

By a vote of four in favor, 10 against and one abstention, the Council rejected a proposal by Russia to approve all the requests in one vote. The Council then agreed without objection to approve the requests of all those who wanted to participate under Rules 37 and 39. However, the request by Ambassador Jovanovic to participate was rejected, by a vote of four in favor, seven against and four abstentions.


The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today announced that it is suspending all humanitarian activities in northern Mitrovica for an initial 48-hour period, which began at midnight on Thursday.

Because of the suspension, all UNHCR vehicles and staff have been relocated to the southern part of Mitrovica and the UNHCR office in North Mitrovica has been closed. The agency will review the suspension after 48 hours, taking into account the views of field staff, the UN Mission and police, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR).

The suspension follows the riot in northern Mitrovica on Wednesday night. In one incident that night, KFOR soldiers had to fire several rounds of shots in the air to halt the stoning by a crowd of Kosovo Serbs of a UNHCR vehicle. No injuries were reported.

The UN Mission also reports that, on the same evening, there were at least six separate reports of burglaries and other attacks on UN residences.

Dennis McNamara, UNHCR Special Envoy, said in a statement today that the level of attacks and damage in northern Mitrovica has been "totally unacceptable." He added, "We are not prepared to continue to have the safety of our own staff and our agency partners put in constant jeopardy."

UN police are continuing to investigate the Wednesday riot, which began after the police tried to arrest a group of Serbs who had been throwing stones at vehicles.

According to a background note, the Kosovo War and Ethnic Crimes Court, which is being created to try persons for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other serious crimes committed since January 1, 1998, will be within the Kosovo judicial system with the participation of international judges and prosecutors. It will not be an international court.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will have primacy over the Kosovo court, and both bodies will have concurrent jurisdiction. The Kosovo court is expected to begin its work by the end of the summer.


In Sierra Leone, the 21 Indian peacekeepers detained at Pendembu by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have been moved to the compound of the International Committee of the Red Cross in that town. However, there has been no other change in their condition.

Also, there is no change in the situation of the 222 Indians and 11 military observers who are surrounded by the RUF at Kailahun.

The situation in the country remains largely calm, although unpredictable.

Humanitarian agencies and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) remain concerned by the situation at Mile 91, where some 35,000 internally displaced persons have gathered. The UN Mission in Sierra Leone hopes to strengthen its presence at Mile 91 in the coming days in order to allow for increased aid deliveries to the internally displaced there.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that the number of Sierra Leonean refugees in Guineas Kalako camp has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, to 4,281. The increase in arrivals is attributed to aerial bombing in the Kambia area of Sierra Leone.

In Sierra Leone itself, UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have registered approximately 92,000 newly displaced persons since the fighting resumed in May. The largest concentrations are found in the Port Loko District, Tonkolili District and the Western Area.


UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sadako Ogata concludes a two-week, six-nation mission to Africa tonight.

This morning, she left Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to visit Goma. She travelled there to look at UNHCRs return operation for Rwandan refugees. Some 45,000 people who had been residing in camps in Goma have returned to Rwanda since January 1, 1999.

In Kinshasa yesterday, she met President Laurent Kabila and senior Government officials and urged them to take into account the human costs of the conflict in the DRC, including the plight of an estimated 1.8 million internally displaced persons in that country.

She also met with Kamel Morjane, the Secretary-General's Special Representative to the DRC, who had just returned from a trip to New York and Geneva.

UNHCR is currently assisting some 200,000 refugees in the DRC.


The donors meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, for East Timor concluded today with a reaffirmation of pledges by donors for the reconstruction and development of East Timor and the new East Timorese administration.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN Transitional Administrator for East Timor, said that "the responses received from Member States and international organizations constitute a vote of confidence and a clear indication that donors appreciated the responsible and realistic budget submission made by the East Timorese and the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET)."

Xanana Gusmao, leader of the National Council for Timorese Resistance, added that the conference had endorsed a concrete work program for East Timor's reconstruction and development, with substantial East Timorese participation. He added that the process should include all East Timorese, including those who are still living in West Timor.

Donors recognized the importance of the East Timor consolidated budget and indicated their support for closing the financial gap of $16 million for the next financial year.

De Mello will be in New York next week, where he will address the Security Council on Tuesday.


The special session of the General Assembly, entitled "World Summit for Social Development and Beyond: Achieving Social Development for All in a Globalizing World," also known as "Copenhagen Plus Five," will be held in Geneva from June 26-30.

The global conference will follow up on 10 international commitments made in Copenhagen in 1995 aimed at eradicating poverty, achieving full employment and strengthening social integration. It is expected to culminate in the adoption of an outcome document, which addresses such issues as worker rights, good governance, the role of civil society and proposals for financing social development.

On the opening day of the session, the Secretary-General will launch a landmark report on poverty reduction entitled "A Better World for All," co-authored by the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Ian McFarlane, Policy Specialist at the UN Development Programme, will be the guest at the noon briefing on Monday to discuss the report.


United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today expressed deep regret over the execution on Thursday night in Texas, of Gary Graham, a prisoner who had been convicted of a crime committed when he was still a juvenile. She added that she acknowledged the seriousness of Mr. Grahams crime, but reiterated her view that "abolition of the death penalty contributes to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights."

The Human Development Report 2000 will be launched next Thursday, June 29, with a focus on the link between development and human rights and recommendations for achieving the goal of "all rights for all."



The Secretary-General will arrive in Geneva, where he is to meet with his Special Representative for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello.


The Secretary-General will open the Geneva 2000 Forum, and will also attend an interreligious service at St. Peter's Cathedral in Geneva.


The 24th Special Session of the General Assembly entitled "World Summit for Social Development and Beyond: Achieving Social Development for All in a Globalizing World," also known as "Copenhagen Plus Five," begins in Geneva. To mark the occasion, the Secretary-General is to launch a report on poverty reduction entitled "A Better World for All, " which was produced by the UN Development Programme, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Ian McFarlane, Policy Specialist at the UN Development Programme, will be at the noon briefing to talk about the report.

The Security Council will hold consultations on Angola.

Monday is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This years theme is "Facing Reality: Denial, Corruption and Violence."

It is also the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. At 11 a.m., a press conference will be held with Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and others. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson will open an exhibition at the Palais Wilson in Geneva at 2:30 p.m.


One day after arriving in Warsaw, the Secretary-General will meet with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and will attend the "World Forum on Democracies" conference.

The Security Council will hold an open meeting to hear a briefing by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

At 11:15 a.m., Ambassador Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan of Mongolia will hold a press conference on the effects of the drought in Mongolia. A Department of Public Information-produced video on the subject will be screened at the briefing.

Today and Wednesday, the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will meet in The Hague.


In Warsaw, the Secretary-General will meet with Polish Foreign Minister Bronislav Geremek and other senior officials before leaving for Budapest, Hungary.

The Security Council will hold consultations on Burundi.

The guest at the noon briefing will be Ambassador Makarim Wibisono, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), who will discuss the development of information technology in a knowledge-based global economy, which is the theme of this year's high-level segment of ECOSOC.


In Hungary, the Secretary-General will meet with President Arpad Goncz, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and other senior officials, as well as with UN and agencies staff based in Budapest.

The Security Council will hold an open meeting to hear a briefing by the Secretariat on Somalia.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for East Timor, will give a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.


The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with Hungarian President-elect Ferenc Madl, Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other senior officials in Budapest.

The Security Council will wrap up its work for the month of June, ending the month-long Council Presidency of French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte. The Council President for the month of July will be Ambassador Patricia Durrant of Jamaica.

The Secretary-General's reports to the Security Council on Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic are expected.


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