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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-01-15

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 FROM THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, January 15, 2001

UN TEAM ASSESSING NEEDS FOLLOWING EL SALVADOR EARTHQUAKE

A six-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team has arrived in El Salvador and is assisting the Government and the UN Disaster Management Team, following the severe earthquake that devastated parts of El Salvador on Saturday and resulted in more than 380 deaths, 780 injuries and some 1,300 missing persons.

Within 24 hours of the earthquake, the World Food Program (WFP) began distributing food to more than 13,000 affected people. The WFP is also conducting an emergency food assessment mission in order to launch a larger appeal for relief and rehabilitation later this week. The agency says it has enough food in country from development programs to feed 15,000 people for two weeks.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that 40 to 50 percent of the population does not have access to potable water due to damage to the water system. The UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) is collaborating with PAHO to provide safe water and sanitation to affected areas.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement over the weekend expressing his deepest condolences to the Government and people of El Salvador and emphasizing that the United Nations would work to help the populations of all the countries affected by the earthquake.

UN MOUNTS NEW ASSESSMENT EFFORTS IN MONGOLIA AFTER CRASH

Efforts to assess the humanitarian impact of severe weather conditions in Mongolia will continue, despite a tragic crash of a Government helicopter on Sunday, in which nine of 23 passengers, including four members of a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team, were killed.

The helicopter was ferrying the 10-member team to the Province of Uvs, about 600 miles west of the capital, Ulan Bator, close to the Russian border. They were preparing a needs assessment after the second consecutive year of summer droughts followed by heavy winter snows was decimating the livestock population, posing a serious threat to the largely nomadic population of the country.

Also killed was a member of the Mongolian Parliament and two other Mongolians -- a photographer and a helicopter technician -- as well as a two-person crew from NHK television of Japan.

Carolyn McAskie, the acting Emergency Relief Coordinator, cut short her visit to China in order to proceed to Ulan Bator today. Additional staff from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), accompanied by a stress counselor from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, will arrive in Mongolia Tuesday to finish the assessment mission begun before tragedy struck and to comfort the survivors.

The Secretary-General, in a statement issued Sunday, said he was deeply saddened by the event and saluted the dedication of the members of the Disaster and Coordination team. He also called on the international community to respond generously to the appeal that the United Nations will make once the assessment is completed.

The team members who were killed were its leader, Sabine Metzner-Strack of Germany; Matthew Girvin of the United States who was with the UN Children's Fund; Gerard Le Claire of the United Kingdom, a volunteer disaster expert and B. Bayarmar of Mongolia, a local employee of the UN Population Fund.

Asked about the reasons for the crash, the Spokesman said that they had not yet been determined, but a full investigation would take place. He added that the 14 survivors, although all hospitalized, were in relatively good condition, belying earlier reports that they had suffered serious burns.

NEW UN SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BEGINS WORK IN KOSOVO

In Kosovo today, Hans Haekkerup took up his duties as the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General, meeting with the staff of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and with senior Kosovar officials.

He discussed his general priorities for Kosovo, noting in particular the task of creating a legal framework so as to schedule general elections as soon as possible. He said, "We have to know what powers an elected assembly and provisional government should have before we call elections. Work is already ongoing, but we need to speed it up."

A World Health Organization (WHO) team is scheduled to travel to Kosovo on Thursday, to set up a research and testing program at Pristina Hospital on the effects of depleted uranium.

The Spokesman, in response to questions about depleted uranium, noted that the previous Special Representative in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, announced last week that the UN Mission would be marking the sites in Kosovo where depleted uranium ordnance was found. The Mission also offered screening to Kosovars through the Pristina Hospital.

In response to a question on ethnic Albanians detained in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Spokesman said that the United Nations continues to hold a dialogue with the Yugoslav Government in an effort to win the release of the prisoners. So far, about half of roughly 1,500 Albanian detainees have been released by both the Milosevic and Kostunica administrations.

Also, the current Government of the FRY is working on an amnesty law to deal with the remaining cases.

The Spokesman added, in answer to another question, that the United Nations was also continuing to monitor the situation in the Presevo Valley, as was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

ANNAN TO BEGIN FIRST LEG OF 17-DAY TRIP

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is leaving today for Cameroon, where he will attend the France-Africa summit in Yaoundé.

He will also visit China, Japan, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as well as Sweden during his travels, which last until January 31.

ANNAN WARNS IN REPORT OF CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC TENSIONS

In his latest report to the Security Council on the work of the UN Peace-building Support Office in the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General noted the tensions in recent months between the ruling party and the opposition in that country.

The Secretary-General called the lack of dialogue between the country's main parties "a serious obstacle to the sustainability of the democratic institutions established barely a year ago," and he expressed his hope that President Ange-Felix Patassé will take the necessary measures to reduce tensions between the Government and the opposition.

He also noted the impact of the conflict in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, from which some 8,000 refugees have fled to border towns and villages in the Central African Republic.

UN MISSION OPENS AIR ROUTE BETWEEN ADDIS ABABA, ASMARA

The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) today opened a direct high altitude air access route between Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Asmara, Eritrea. The air route was established with flights between the two capitals by UN G-222 fixed-wing aircraft.

This air access route is in addition to three helicopter access routes that were opened on December 18 in each of the Mission areas three sectors with the agreement of both the Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities, and two additional air routes that were opened on January 11. The United Nations has also opened five land access routes since November 28.

NEW UN REPRESENTATIVE IN LEBANON MEETS WITH PRESIDENT

Staffan de Mistura started his work today as the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon by meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. The meeting between the President and De Mistura took place in a warm, constructive and friendly atmosphere and covered political issues, as well as economic and social development work in the south and concerns about landmines.

De Mistura, who replaces Rolf Knutsson, today took charge of coordination of UN activities in Southern Lebanon and regular diplomatic and political liaison with the Lebanese Government.

The Personal Representative is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Tuesday and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday, before visiting the Headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon on Friday.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In response to a question on reports that Cambodia's Senate has approved a draft law on the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders, the Spokesman said that the United Nations had not yet received a text of that legislation to see whether changes suggested by UN legal experts in the draft law passed earlier by the lower house of the Cambodian Parliament had been incorporated. UN Legal Adviser Hans Corell would be in contact with his Cambodian counterpart, Sok An, to discuss the matter, he added.

The Security Council is not meeting today. However, on Tuesday morning, the Council will hold a public meeting, to be chaired by the Foreign Minister of Singapore, S. Jayakumar, on ways to strengthen cooperation with troop contributing countries.

Singapore became the 16th Member State to pay its regular budget contribution for 2001 in full with a payment of over $4 million.

The latest update on the number of UN peacekeeping troops shows that, at the end of December 2000, a total of 37,733 military and police personnel from 89 countries were serving in 16 peacekeeping operations.

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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