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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-01-17

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





Wednesday, January 17, 2001


There are many reports that have pointed to the death of President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), although the Government has not officially confirmed it.

According to the latest reports from the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC), the city of Kinshasa is calm, and all United Nations personnel are safe and accounted for.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who just arrived in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to attend the France-Africa Summit, is being informed of developments and may issue a statement once the situation becomes clearer.

At UN headquarters, the Security Council heard a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi to update them on the latest developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Asked about UN response, the Spokesman said, "We're hunkering down," and noted that UN staff have been asked to stay in their homes. The Secretary-General's Special Representative, Kamel Morjane, is in contact with DRC officials, but there is still no clear sense of what is taking place.

The Spokesman noted that, outside Kinshasa, the UN Mission has personnel in 13 locations, and they so far have not reported any signs of increased military activity resulting from Tuesday's events. [There are some 400 UN personnel in the country, including more than 200 in Kinshasa.]


The interim report of the Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been transmitted to the Security Council by the Secretary-General.

The report said one of the most serious problems facing the Panel is the paucity of detailed and reliable information, including statistics, as to the nature, extent, location, yield and value of the natural resources of the Congo. Decades of government neglect, mismanagement and corruption makes it almost impossible to establish a precise and impartial picture. Mines and other sources of natural wealth are remote and heavily guarded and cloaked by an atmosphere of lawlessness, violence and fear, it said.

The report also lists the countries the panel members visited and the people they met.

The panel requests a three-month extension to complete the report by mid-June 2001, citing a number of challenges such as the complexity of the situation, the vast territories involved, the multiplicity of the actors involved, the difficulties of travel and communications, the lack of cooperation and security risks.


Today, the UN Office of Human Resources Management sent a letter to all United Nations staff advising them of the potential health risks of exposure to depleted uranium and advising them not to handle any remnants of armaments.

The Organization is carefully monitoring the situation, it says, and will review the World Health Orgaization (WHO) report when it comes out next month, at which time it will take whatever additional action may be required.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has reported that early laboratory results have confirmed that debris found at sites targeted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosovo in 1999 contained Uranium 236 (or U-236). Some 340 samples of depleted uranium are being analyzed for toxicity and radioactivity in five European laboratories.


This morning, the Security Council began its work with closed consultations on the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), on which it received a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi on the Secretary-General's latest report, which was issued Tuesday.

The UN Mission announced today that it is at present unable to make further flights on the high-altitude air access route between Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Asmara, Eritrea, which had been opened on Monday. Instead, the Mission had had to resume its previous practice of using flights that cut across Djibouti, following difficulties in obtaining an agreement by both Governments on a direct route it can use between both capitals.

After the consultations on Ethiopia and Eritrea concluded, the Council heard a briefing by Annabi to update them on the latest developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Council then resumed its discussion of Angola, begun last Friday, in which it had received a briefing from the Secretary-General's Special Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa, Ibrahim Gambari.

In response to a question on the Ethiopia-Eritrea flight clearance issue, the Spokesman noted that the United Nations had briefly received approval from the two Governments for a direct air access route between the two capitals, which was opened on Monday, but objections had been raised since then and further flights were not possible. He said the United Nations hoped that both parties would agree to a permanent air access route.


In his latest report on the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), covering events involving that Mission since last July, the Secretary-General notes that the UN Mission will be fully responsible for the conduct of elections in East Timor. He outlines a political transition there that would include the formation of a Constituent Assembly, which could become the first legislature of the independent State of East Timor.

He also draws attention to the concerted effort over the past six months to accelerate the transfer of authority to the Timorese, including the work of the all-Timorese National Council and the Timorese-majority Cabinet.

Although he says that the goal of reaching independence before the end of this year is "ambitious and leaves little room for technical and political delays," the Secretary-General adds that the United Nations will do all it can to achieve it. He notes that, even after independence, East Timor will still require international support, including the possible maintenance of what is now the UN Mission's military component until an East Timor Defence Force can be fully established.

The question of security remains a matter of concern, with the Secretary-General reiterating the need by the Government of Indonesia to disband militia groups and to ensure safety and security in the refugee camps in West Timor.

The Transitional Cabinet for East Timor today approved two draft regulations: the first would provide for the creation of a Defence Force for East Timor and the second would establish an interim registry for political parties and rules by which parties may nominate candidates to be elected to the Constituent Assembly.


A UN interagency assessment mission began its work today in El Salvador. The mission will work closely with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team and the Salvadoran Government to quantify the level of needs and the number of beneficiaries following last Saturday's earthquake.

The World Food Programme (WFP) continued to provide food aid, including cooked meals, to the most vulnerable victims of the earthquake. It has supplies sufficient for 15 days and will shortly launch an appeal for the food and rehabilitation needs for the next three to six months.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is mobilizing to assist national authorities in coping with the effects of the earthquake on the agricultural sector. In cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and other agencies, the FAO is helping to identify the needs of farmers affected by the disaster and to provide the assistance needed to get them back on their feet.


The United Nations made an emergency flight to Afghanistan Tuesday to evacuate an injured Afghan de-mining expert from Khost, in the east of the country. The Office of the United Nations Coordinator for Afghanistan reports that the de-mining expert was following standard procedure in removing an anti-personnel mine containing 210 grams of high explosives, when it exploded, causing serious injuries to his face and head.

The de-mining expert was evacuated when his condition deteriorated. Paramedics accompanying the de-mining team originally diagnosed the injuries as serious but not warranting emergency evacuation. The flight to Zhost was the first by a United Nations plane in two years.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been distributing supplies to various health facilities throughout the country and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has distributed improved wheat seed and fertilizer to farmers in the Khandahar and Helmand provinces. Also, in response to the drought situation, the United Nations Commission on Human Settlement has assisted in the repair of the water supply network and has improved 20 wells in Kabul.


Asked about the proximity talks for Cyprus, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General's Special Adviser for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, has been asked to travel to the region to determine the parties' views prior to another round of talks. There are no dates yet for his travels.

Carolyn McAskie, the acting Emergency Relief Coordinator, said today in Ulan Bator that the appeal for victims of drought and severe weather in Mongolia, scheduled for Friday, would now take place next week. She said she was grateful to the Government of Mongolia for the support in the aftermath of the helicopter crash that took place on Sunday.

This morning, five more Member States paid regular budget contributions in full. Australia made a payment of over $16 million, the Czech Republic over $1.1 million, Malta more than $155,000, Nauru more than $10,000 and Slovakia more than $424,000. Twenty Member States have now fully paid their regular budget dues for this year.

The Secretary-General has thanked the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kensaku Hogen, who has been recalled to the service of the Government of Japan, for his invaluable contribution to the work of the United Nations and wished him every success in the future. Upon Hogen's departure from New York on January 25, the Secretary-General has asked Shashi Tharoor, Director of Communications and Special Projects in his Executive Office, to assume charge of the Department of Public Information until a permanent successor is appointed.

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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