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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-09-24

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





UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK Monday, September 24, 2001


Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning addressed the General Assembly and noted that today was to have been the start of this year's general debate -- a schedule which was changed following the September 11 attack on the United States.

That attack, he said, struck at everything for which the United Nations stands: peace, freedom, tolerance, human rights and the very idea of a united human family. He added, "Let us respond by reaffirming, with all our strength, our common humanity and the values that we share. We shall not allow them to be overthrown."

He noted the need for a vigorous response to terrorism, a topic that the General Assembly will address in greater detail on October 1-2. He also said that the rule of law should be re-affirmed, asserting, "No effort should be spared in bringing the perpetrators to justice, in a clear and transparent process that all can understand and accept."

Other tasks, he added, remain to be done, including efforts to strengthen the international trading system as preparations begin for the World Trade Organization meetings in Doha this November, and the need to fulfill the pledges made at last year's Millennium Assembly.

He concluded, "Let us reject the path of violence, which is the product of nihilism and despair. Let us prove by our actions that there is no need to despair; that the political and economic problems of our time can be solved peacefully; and that no human life should be sacrificed, because every human being has cause to hope."

Asked whether the Secretary-General had indicated that the Security Council should approve any military response to the attacks, the Spokesman said that such a position was not in his speech.


In response to questions about the rescheduling of the General Assembly's general debate, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had asked New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani last week when the New York security team could handle an influx of heads of State and Government for the high-level debate.

The Mayor said it should not be before late October or early November at the earliest. He suggested they talk again in a few weeks.

The Secretary-General conveyed this information to the President of the General Assembly, who continues to consult with regional groups on possible dates.

Asked about the possibility that the General Assembly could hold its session outside of New York, the General Assembly spokesman said that the heads of the Assembly's regional groups had said they wanted the meetings to be held in New York.

In response to a question on security at UN Headquarters, the Spokesman noted recent efforts to improve security, including changes in the public address system, which some staff had said did not work well on September 11. He also noted expanded efforts to use metal detectors and to check cars entering the UN garage.

The Spokesman added that staff contributions to the UN Staff Relief Committee fund for the victims of the terrorist attack now stands at over $100,000.


The Spokeswoman for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan said today in Islamabad that Taliban authorities had entered UN offices in Kabul last Friday and locked up communications equipment. Similar operations took place over the weekend at some other UN offices throughout the country.

In Kandahar, also over the weekend, local authorities took over UN offices as well as those belonging to some non-governmental organizations.

On Friday, the United Nations had communicated with its local staff, advising it to comply with Taliban order to cease communications with the outside world since it is possible that non-compliance could put lives at risk.

The UN Coordinator has sent a letter to the Taliban requesting that one high-frequency radio be allowed to function in each location so that a form of communications would be possible. An answer has yet to be received.

Asked about UN efforts to protect the local staff, the Spokesman said the United Nations is not in a position to provide any protection, since its international staff have left Afghanistan.


Many UN activities in Afghanistan have been disrupted or have ceased entirely, but some are continuing.

The World Food Programme (WFP) continues to assist more than 1 million people with food aid inside Afghanistan under increasingly difficult circumstances. Since September 11, WFP has distributed 2,500 tons of food.

On the immunization front, the Fall Immunization Campaign against Polio began in Afghanistan Sunday, as had been scheduled. By Tuesday, it is expected that 5 million children will have received immunization vaccines. The work is being conducted by officials from the Taliban Ministry of Health and other volunteers.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that following talks with local authorities in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, it hopes to begin screening new Afghan refugees on Tuesday. UNHCR also reports large numbers of Afghan refugees blocked at the Chaman border crossing with Pakistan.

Asked about a meeting over the weekend between the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, and former Afghan King Zahir Shah, the Spokesman said Vendrell was continuing his regular efforts to stay in touch with all political actors concerned with Afghanistan.


The Secretary-General, in a statement, expressed concern at the announcement earlier today by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) that it has established a closed military zone in the northern part of the occupied Palestinian territory. The creation of such a zone will impose additional restrictions on the Palestinians' movement. It is a unilateral and provocative act, contrary to the signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and it can only undermine ongoing efforts to find a way out of the present crisis.

The Secretary-General reiterated the need for a decisive effort to reach a peaceful settlement to the conflict in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. An early and productive meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would be an important step in this direction.


The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is facing a financial crisis at a time when it is needed more than ever as a force for stability in the Middle East, said Commissioner-General Peter Hansen at a meeting of donor and host nations in Amman, Jordan, today.

The donors meeting, which was attended by representatives of 25 countries and the European Union, began with a minutes silence for the victims of the attacks on the United States on September 11.

The meeting was opened by Jordanian Foreign Minister Adbul Ilah el-Khatib, who urged the donor countries to a "collective effort to support UNRWA politically, financially and morally at this crucial time".


The Security Council met in closed consultations this morning to continue its discussion of the pricing mechanism for Iraqi crude oil sold under the "oil-for-food" program.

Council members received a briefing from the UN oil overseers on this issue.


The Secretary-General over the weekend issued a message at a memorial ceremony for Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh who was killed in Arizona just after the September 11 attacks, in what police are investigating as a "hate crime."

The Secretary-General, in his message, conveyed his deepest sympathy to the Sikh community and said, "Essential to the global response to the terrorist attacks is a recognition that the perpetrators are not, are never, defined by religion or national descent." To allow divisions for people to be exacerbated by acts of terrorism, he added, would be to do the terrorists' work for them.

[After the briefing, the Secretary-General also met with Mian Zahid Ghani, a reporter for News Network International who is the brother-in-law of a Pakistani who had been killed in Texas following the attacks, in another attack that is being investigated as a "hate crime."]


The East Timor Council of Ministers of the Second Transitional Government today held its formal meeting in Dili, the East Timorese capital.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello, attended todays meeting, invited by the Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri.

Vieira de Mello said, "We are about to initiate something that has never been done before: an administration that is still the United Nations, but in which the executive power is in the hands of an East Timorese Government with democratic legitimacy. This phase is perhaps the most demanding one so far."


In a letter to the Security Council and General Assembly, the Secretary-General notes a request made in July by Judge Navanethem Pillay, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), asking for a pool of "ad litem" (or short-term) judges to be set up to speed up the Tribunal's work.

Such a pool of ad litem judges has already been set up for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, (ICTY) and the Secretary-General notes that the Rwanda Tribunal is seeking 18 ad litem judges to handle work both in trials and pre-trial proceedings. The preliminary estimated cost of establishing a pool of nine ad litem judges for the 2002-2003 biennium, he adds, would be about $23.6 million.


Asked about reports that UN staff had been evacuated from Somalia, the Spokesman noted after the briefing that UN security officials decided today to withdraw all UN international staff from that country. That decision was made after the insurance company covering all UN flights withdrew all coverage of war-risks insurance.

Asked about a meeting expected to take place today between the Secretary-General and Pino Arlacchi, head of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, the Spokesman said the meeting had been rescheduled because of scheduling problems.

The Secretary-General is meeting this afternoon with Dr. Chrispus Kiyonga, the chairman of the transitional working group that is setting up the new Global AIDS and Health Fund. The purpose of the meeting is to update the Secretary-General on progress achieved so far in the creation of the Fund.

The Office of Internal Oversight Services today issued a report on the policies of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations concerning the recruitment of international civilian staff for peacekeeping and other special missions. The report identifies shortcomings in the recruitment process, including the absence of benchmarks and proper analysis of workloads, and it makes a number of recommendations to strengthen the process and enhance transparency.

The twelfth report of the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) says that a large part of the population, mostly indigenous people, women and poor peasants, have yet to feel the benefits of that nation's peace agreement.

The report of the Secretary-General on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters recommends that an inventory of the ways that countries can respond to disasters should be established. It adds that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) should take the lead in that effort.

[The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced after the briefing that it had received a formal proposal from the Italian Government to hold its World Food Summit, scheduled for November 5-9, in Rimini, Italy. A decision is expected on the request next week.]

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that the World Health Report 2001 will be launched in Geneva on October 4. The report will highlight the year-long mental health campaign and will focus on the impact of mental and neurological disorders on society.

This morning, Madagascar became the 101st country to sign the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and Austria and Jordan signed the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. This afternoon, Indonesia will also sign that Convention, along with both Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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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