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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-12-19

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






Tuesday, December 19, 2000

The Secretary-Generals news conference substitutes for the daily noon briefing


Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the last time we shall meet in the Millennium year, and that is probably a relief to most of you. But I did not want to leave it behind without giving you all my good wishes for the holiday season.

It has been a difficult year, with a lot of pressures. We had the challenge of certifying the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, in implementation of Security Council Resolution 425; and for the first time in decades, the United Nations has been drawn into the heart of the Palestinian conflict.

We have also had to deal with crises in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Timor. We have just set up a new peacekeeping operation between Eritrea and Ethiopia. We face uncertainties in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. I'll be happy in a moment to take your questions on any of these issues.

As you know, we will also be working with a new administration in Washington. I have already spoken with President-elect Bush, with Secretary-of-State-designate Colin Powell, and with Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor-designate. It is early days yet, but I feel confidant that the United Nations will benefit from their understanding and support over the next four years.

I have no doubt that the United States, like all the other Member States, will want to build on the success of the Millennium Summit, at which national leaders from all over the world reaffirmed their belief in the United Nations, and adopted an action plan for tackling the worst problems that afflict our world in the early 21st century.

Indeed, my main hope for 2001 is that it will be the year when things really start to change, and that the world sees that the Millennium Declaration was not just words.

In the area of peace and security, I particularly hope to see the recommendations of the Brahimi Report put into effect, so that we are at last properly equipped to carry out the mandates given us by the Security Council.

But the part of the Declaration that will mean most to the people is the section on development and eradicating poverty.

Here the world leaders set themselves precise targets, to be achieved by the year 2015. None of these can be achieved unless there is real development throughout the world, especially in the poorest countries. And development cannot happen without resources.

That gives special importance to several things we will be doing in 2001: the conference on the Least Developed Countries; the special sessions of the General Assembly on AIDS and on Children; the preparations for the high-level meeting on Financing for Development; and the work of the Panel I announced last week, chaired by former president Zedillo.

We must ensure that all those efforts have down-to-earth and practical results, so that ordinary people begin to feel a difference in their own lives.

The same applies to the third theme of the Declaration - protecting our common environment.

Next year must be a year of intensive preparations for "Rio plus ten" - the follow-up event ten years after the Earth Summit. Somehow we have got to restore the sense of urgency about environmental problems, which prevailed when that summit was held.

We must also continue working on the other themes of the Declaration - promoting democracy and human rights, protecting the vulnerable, meeting the special needs of Africa, and - last but not least - strengthening the United Nations itself, as an instrument for pursuing those priorities.

For me, the key word of this millennium year has been "partnership" - with civil society, with the private sector, with foundations, with universities, and of course with Governments, and more recently with Parliamentarians as well. We are no longer trying to do everything by ourselves.

But Governments do often ask us to send our staff members to dangerous places, whether to keep the peace or to relieve the suffering of innocent people. When they do that, we should be able to give those people the same security they would expect if they were sent on similar missions directly by their own governments. I have made recommendations on this subject, which I believe represent the minimum compatible with responsible administration and human decency. I very much hope the General Assembly will approve them without further delay.

And now let me take your questions.

Summary of the Secretary-General's Answers to Questions from Reporters

On Afghanistan

In response to a question on how new sanctions against the Taliban, which are to be considered in a formal meeting by the Security Council this afternoon, would affect peace efforts in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General responded, "It is not going to facilitate our peace efforts nor is it going to facilitate our humanitarian work."

He said the Council had received adequate information about those views, but he noted that the decision on sanctions was the Council's to make. "Once they take that decision, we have to adapt and take the necessary measures required," he said.

On relations with the United States

The Secretary-General said that he intended to meet with U.S. President-elect George W. Bush early next year to "discuss some of the crisis spots in the world" and issues that would require cooperation between the United States and the United Nations.

In response to questions, the Secretary-General said he had met Bush briefly once, before the U.S. elections, and has had a "warm and friendly conversation" with Bush since the elections. He said he looked forward to working with Bush. The Secretary-General added that he had spoken with Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, whom he said he has known for some time, and that the two agreed to cooperate.

This morning, Annan added, he spoke by telephone to National Security Advisor-designate Condoleezza Rice on the U.S.-UN relationship and the challenges ahead, and they agreed to work closely together. Annan first met Rice in California several years ago, he said.

Asked about Powell's reported views on limits to intervention, the Secretary-General said that, although people may have their personal preferences, reality may force them to change their opinions. He doubted that it would be easy to abandon a military role in the Balkans. "We don't want these troops to stay there forever but we have to find the appropriate time," he said. "I don't think we're there yet."

Asked about whether the question of U.S. arrears could be resolved under a Bush administration, the Secretary-General said, "I have never given up the search for a solution. I think this is a problem that can be solved." He said he hoped that a solution could be found with the new administration.

Asked about the possibility that the General Assembly might vote to reduce the U.S. share of the scale of assessments for UN dues, the Secretary-General said that, if such a reduction were passed, he would hope "it would settle and remove a long-standing irritation between the United States and the United Nations." He said that the relationship between the United States and the United Nations is good but could be even smoother if the dues issue were settled.

On Iraq

Asked about the impasse over Iraq sanctions, the Secretary-General noted plans for talks between the UN Secretariat and the Government of Iraq in early January.

Asked about responses to U.S. President-elect Bush's comments on Iraq, Annan said that he would have to wait and see how the Iraqis react to them once they arrive in January for talks at the United Nations.

In response to a question on whether, by the end of his term, sanctions against Iraq will be lifted and inspections resumed in Iraq, the Secretary-General said that Iraq remains a challenge to the United Nations, and has been so for the past 10 years. "We know that, to some extent, elements of the sanctions are fraying at the edges," Annan said, adding that he hoped that when the Iraqi delegation arrives next month, they will discuss the issues openly.

On the Middle East

The Secretary-General was asked whether he had tried to discourage members of the Security Council from voting in favor of a draft resolution on the creation of an observer force in the Palestinian territories, which failed to attract sufficient votes to pass on Monday night. (The Council vote was eight in favor with seven abstentions, with nine votes required for passage.)

The Secretary-General responded by noting that the Security Council is "the master of its own deliberations; they follow their own instructions and their own conscience." He noted that, when he spoke to the Council last Friday, he had told them that private contacts between Israelis and Palestinians seems to be yielding results, which could lead to a resumption of the peace talks.

The Secretary-General added that he had also appealed to the Council that on difficult issues, like the Middle East, the Council should act together. The Council, he said, achieves better results when it is united, whereas a divided Council on difficult issues doesn't always help the situation.

Asked whether the United Nations could be engaged as a full partner in the Middle East peace process, the Secretary-General said that he was in touch with both parties and with all the leaders around the region and the world who are engaged in the peace process. He said he would have to discuss the topic with the new U.S. administration, and would bring up the question of U.S.-UN cooperation on the Middle East peace process with the incoming Bush administration.

[In a statement issued through his Spokesman following his press conference, the Secretary-General said he is encouraged by the resumption of talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives under U.S.auspices. The Secretary-General said he believes that the parties must fully implement all the understandings reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, most notably a cessation of violence and disengagement from points of friction. This will give the negotiations the best chance of success, the statement said. The Secretary-General is concerned that, otherwise, it will become increasingly difficult to persuade embittered and disenchanted populations in the region of the benefits of peace.]

On the Balkans

Asked about his main concerns in Balkan region, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations has made considerable progress in the Balkans but still has a long way to go. In Bosnia, he said, the United Nations was trying to stabilize the situation, rebuild the economy, and encourage the refugees to come back. He voiced the hope that more refugees would return over the next year and that an atmosphere to encourage more investments would be established.

Speaking about Kosovo, the Secretary-General noted that, with the removal of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic, "the dynamics in the region have shifted." He noted anxieties among Kosovo Albanians, among others, that international focus may shift away from them. In the coming year, he said, the constitutional arrangements surrounding Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro would need to be examined so that tensions can be reduced.

He said, "In my judgment, I think the ideal situation would be to work out some sort of confederation embracing the three territories." Annan added, "If we do not settle that issue, we will live with a period of tension in the region which I think can be unhealthy."

On UN reform

Asked about the follow-up to the report by the Panel on UN Peace Operations chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General said, "We've already had some difficulties but I'm not discouraged." He noted the first phase of the follow-up to the report's recommendations was underway, and said that he had asked for more posts than he was likely to get.

He said he saw the current process in the General Assembly as an initial step, and said the UN Secretariat would continue to push for the full implementation of the Brahimi report next year. "If we are going to avoid some of the mistakes of the past, we need the resources," he said, adding that the United Nations has put forward very clear, defensible and sound proposals to obtain those resources.

He noted that he had joked with the leaders gathered for the Millennium Summit last September that he didn't want them to be overruled by their Permanent Representatives or other delegates on their UN Missions. "In some cases, that is happening," he said.

Asked about Security Council reform, the Secretary-General said that despite the amount of discussion on reform this year, he was not encouraged that Council reform could be achieved within the next six months or next year. He added that he believed that it would be healthy to have Security Council reform. "It would strengthen the Organization, it would make it more democratic and the Council would gain legitimacy," he said, adding that the decision was up to Member States.

On Cyprus

Asked about a resolution passed by the Turkish Cypriot Assembly expressing a lack of support for the Cyprus proximity talks, the Secretary-General said that the Cyprus process is a long one and that "we are still at very early stages of the process."

He said that his Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, may visit the region in January, and travel to Istanbul and Athens as well as Cyprus. The Secretary-General added that he told the parties that he wanted to meet them early in the new year. "I hope my invitation will be accepted; my good offices are open," he said.

On Sierra Leone

Asked when the UN Mission in Sierra Leone might be able to attain the maximum authorized troop strength of 20,500, the Secretary-General said that Member States would have to provide the needed troops. He noted that the Indian and Jordanian contingents of the Mission are withdrawing, and that he has approached other Governments for troops. He said the target of 20,500 troops would not be met within the next three or four months.

He noted the meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, in which the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) agreed to a ceasefire that the United Nations has been monitoring, and he added that the United Nations would need more time to verify whether that ceasefire is holding. He urged the RUF to disarm and demobilize, and allow the Government of Sierra Leone to expand its authority throughout the country. "I do not see a return to the blind implementation of the Lomé accords," Annan said

He said he hasn't given up hope on Sierra Leone, adding, "We've made progress, and we will continue to do our job."

On Development

Asked what the United Nations can do to bridge the resource gap, the Secretary-General stressed the need to find creative ways and incentives to do that. He noted that even though foreign direct investment has increased, most of it goes to about 12 countries, with the bulk of developing countries excluded.

He said that the United Nations is pressing for increased access by developing countries to world markets, so that they can use trade to get out of poverty, and also to encourage Governments and private corporations to invest in them. He emphasized that the right conditions, including the right regulatory systems, had to be established to encourage such investment.

The Secretary-General noted that next year, at a conference for the least developed countries in Brussels, there are "strong indications" that the European Union may lift all tariffs and quotas against least developed countries. "That would be a big boost if that were to happen," Annan said.

Other Issues

Asked about prospects for more effective UN role in new year, the Secretary-General noted the plan of action developed by Heads of State and Government when they met at the Millennium Summit, which emphasized such goals as the elimination of poverty, the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the question of the environment.

In response to a question, the Secretary-General said that he believed the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea would be a success, noting, "We're off to a good start." He praised his Special Representative and Force Commander there, and said he said that the recent peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea was encouraging.

Asked about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said he believed the Heads of State of the region were trying to implement the Lusaka Accords. Nevertheless, there have been continuing violations of the agreement. He expressed his hope that the parties would respect the commitments they have undertaken.

The Secretary-General declined to comment on a detained Cuban prisoner, Oscar Biscet, saying, "Some of these things have to be done discreetly."

Asked about whether the United Nations has to compete with regional groups, the Secretary-General said he didn't see any need for competition, and noted that the UN Charter itself envisions a role for regional organizations.


The Security Council held consultations on Kosovo, to discuss the Secretary-Generals report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, which was issued today. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi briefed the Council on the report. The Council members then went into a formal session to discuss Kosovo and southern Serbia, in which it will hear from the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Goran Svilanovic. In the afternoon, at 4 p.m., the Council will hold a formal meeting to consider a draft resolution calling for an arms embargo against the Taliban, as well as the tightening of other sanctions against the Taliban.

Last night, the Security Council failed to adopt the draft resolution, sponsored by the Non-Aligned Movement, on the creation of an observer force for the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The resolution received eight votes in favor and seven abstentions, failing because it did not gather the required nine votes.

According to the weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme, three oil loadings were completed at Mina al-Bakr terminal last week ending on December 15, following Iraqs resumption of oil exports on 13 December under the United Nations oil-for-food programme. Oil exports during the week earned an estimated $60 million from the sale of three million barrels of oil. There were no oil liftings at Cehyan terminal and no vessels were scheduled for loading in the near future.

The Secretary-Generals third report on missing Kuwaiti and third country nationals as well as Kuwaiti property seized by Iraq is published today. The Secretary-General reports on the work of, Yuliy Vorontsov, the high level Coordinator he appointed to work on this issue. The Secretary-General pointed out that Iraq continues not to cooperate with Vorontsov in his work on this issue.

The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) for the first time flew helicopters across the frontlines between the two countries. UNMEE opened air access routes on December 18 in each of the Mission areas three sectors with the agreement of both the Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities. The newly opened air access routes are to be used for the logistical and medical needs of the 4,200 UN peacekeepers being deployed between the two sides forces. The routes are solely for the use of UNMEEs international personnel.

UNHCR welcomes reported plans by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to deploy troops along Guineas borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia. More than 13,000 Ethiopian refugees in Sudan have volunteered for repatriation. UNHCR will repatriate 4,500 of them before the end of the year. The first convoy, carrying about 1,000 returnees, leaves Sudan tomorrow.

President Navanethem Pillay of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in a letter sent by the Secretary-General to the Security Council, suggests that the Council may consider a mechanism for compensation of victims of crimes committed in Rwanda.

This morning, Uruguay became the 120th country to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and this afternoon the Netherlands will become the 49th country to sign the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations.

Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, Chair of the Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, will brief journalists in Room 226 of UN Headquarters following a Security Council meeting on the just concluded reported by a Panel of Experts on Sierra Leone, including the issue of conflict diamonds.

The guest at the noon briefing Wednesday is scheduled to be Hans Haekkerup, Special Representative-designate of the Secretary-General for Kosovo.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055

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