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United Nations Daily Highlights, 02-07-30

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

OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

ANNAN WELCOMES DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO- RWANDA ACCORD

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement released through his Spokesman, welcomed the renewed commitment of the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to a mutually agreed settlement process, including a cessation of hostilities, aimed at making concrete progress toward peace in the region.

The Secretary-General also extends his appreciation to the Government of South Africa, and President (Thabo) Mbeki in particular, for their role in bringing the two Governments together.

The United Nations stands ready, subject to the approval of the Security Council, to support the implementation of the agreement and looks forward to discussing the modalities with the parties concerned, following a detailed analysis of its content.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees today heralded the signing in Pretoria of the agreement as a milestone that could pave the way to peace and the return of tens of thousands of refugees. UNHCR said the humanitarian cost of the conflict in the DRC has been enormous, with up to 3 million dead and an estimated 2 million people displaced internally. An estimated 16 million people are currently in need of food aid. Forty percent of children are illiterate, and two out of five die in infancy.

U.S. AND AFGHAN AUTHORITIES HAVE UN REPORT ON URUZGAN BOMBING

The UN Mission in Afghanistan today said that its fact-finding report on the U.S. bombing of Uruzgan, Afghanistan, on July 1 was in the hands of the Afghan Government as well as of the U.S. authorities in Kabul.

Those two governments are conducting an in-depth investigation of the incident, in which a number of civilians were killed.

The UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, decided not to go public with this internal UN document, as the Afghan authorities and the Americans had already launched their investigation before the fact-finding report had been completed. He hopes it will be of help to them as they work to establish the facts.

Asked about this as he entered the building this morning, the Secretary-General said, "I hope the work the UN has done will help them move forward with the investigations speedily."

In a statement issued from Kabul today, the UN Mission called for an in-depth investigation to be carried out and added that the protection of civilian lives should become a primary concern in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Asked if the UNs report would be made public once the United States and the Afghan authorities had published their own findings, the Spokesman said both of those countries would have the option of appending the UN report to their own.

Asked why the report would not be made public by the United Nations, the Spokesman answered that a UN seal would not be put on a fact-finding report by humanitarian workers that passes judgment on matters that are more competently assessed by logistics, ballistics, human rights, police and military experts.

Asked why, if the report was never to be made public, was there a team sent in the first place, the Spokesman responded by saying the UN mission has a duty to look into the humanitarian needs of the population as they arise. In this case, he added, a large contingent of humanitarian workers, representing UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations, was sent from Kandahar, which was closest to Uruzgan. This group, he went on to say, were all humanitarian workers with no expertise in forensics, ballistics or human rights.

The Spokesman added that in the process of looking at the humanitarian situation, the UN fact-finders came across elements and eyewitness accounts which were not related to the humanitarian issue but which were forwarded to the UN mission in Kabul in an initial report.

Pressed for Lakhdar Brahimis reaction to that initial report, the Spokesman said that since some of the elements reported was beyond the competency of the UN team which was on the ground, he asked them to substantiate some of the information. In the final report, which was handed to over to the U.S. and Afghan authorities, some parts of the initial report were removed and others beefed up, the Spokesman said.

Asked why if the team was not competent, was it sent in the first place, the Spokesman answered that they had been sent to assess the humanitarian situation, i.e. the needs for blankets and food, which they were competent to do. However, they were not sent to look at forensics, human rights or ballistics issues.

Asked a number of times for details contained in the report, the Spokesman said he would not comment on the specifics contained inside.

Asked if the UN mission had a mandate to investigate human rights violations and U.S. military bombings, the Spokesman answered that the mission had the mandate to investigate human rights violations and, where necessary, recommend corrective action.

Asked why human rights officers were not sent, the Spokesman said that at the time the primary concern was humanitarian and that humanitarian workers were the closest to the site.

Asked why UN investigators with competency in ballistics and forensics were not later sent to the area, the Spokesman, said no mission would be sent because it would appear to compete with the ongoing investigations of the Afghan and U.S. governments. "We want to help them, not compete with them," he said.

Asked if they how they could help the US and Afghan investigation if they lacked the proper competency, the Spokesman said that what they collected were often fresh eyewitness accounts which could be of use of other investigations. But, the Spokesman added, the team did not have the competence to evaluate non-humanitarian evidence.

Asked if there were any phone calls from the U.S. military or the State Department to the Secretary-General or . Brahimi on the report, the Spokesman said there had been no contact between the Secretary-General and the U.S. authorities on this issue.

Asked if there was evidence of either U.S. or Afghan officials trying to influence the UNs reporting, the Spokesman said he had seen no such evidence.

Asked if the teams preliminary report had been sent to UN headquarters, the Spokesman answered that both reports had been sent to New York as part of routine communications from the mission.

Asked if any members of the humanitarian team had filmed the area, the Spokesman said he had not seen any reference to photo or video.

UN ENVOY BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON PROGRESS IN KOSOVO

This morning, the Security Council heard in an open meeting from the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, about recent developments there, and Steiner informed the Council that, although Kosovo has not yet achieved the standards demanded by its people or the international community, we can see progress.

Steiner said that Kosovo finally has in place a multi-ethnic government with Serb participation. The UN Mission and the Kosovo police have been cracking down on organized crime, by conducting several successful anti-smuggling operations.

The UN Mission has also been trying to establish its authority in northern Mitrovica, with the core of its strategy for that city based on effective policing.

On the economic front, Steiner warned, Kosovo took a serious hit ten days ago with a disastrous fire, caused by a bolt of lightning, which hit one of the two main power plants ensuring power shortages in the months ahead.

He noted that the number of minority returns to Kosovo now exceeds the outflow from it, although he cautioned that the returns process has been too slow.

Steiner added that it is difficult to say right now what Kosovos future status would be, but added, There will be no partition, no cantonization and no return to the status quo ante of 1999.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS WESTERN SAHARA AND MIDDLE EAST

This afternoon, members of the Security Council are scheduled to meet in closed consultations to discuss the mandate of the UN mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara which ends tomorrow.

Council members is also expected to discuss a draft resolution on the situation in the Middle East..

The Security Council will also have to vote by the end of the day tomorrow on the UN mission in Lebanon and the UN mission for Referendum in Western Sahara when their mandates expire.

The Council on Monday extended the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia by six months, until the end of January 2003.

IRAQ SANCTION COMMITTEE LIFTS HOLD ON SOME $7 MILLION WORTH OF CONTRACTS

The Office of the Iraq Programme in its weekly update notes that the first batch of 14 humanitarian supply contracts, worth over $7.62 million, that had been previously placed on hold by the Security Councils 661 sanctions committee, were approved last week following their re-assessment under the new procedures detailed in Security Council resolution 1409.

The full implementation of the new procedures began on July

15.

For this past week Iraq exported 8 million barrels, down from the previous weeks total of 9.8 million barrels.

The weeks exports netted an estimated $189 million in revenue.

UN REPORTS LARGE GAPS IN WORLDWIDE INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT

The UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) today launched its first Industrial Development Report, which shows the wide gap that still exists in levels of industrial development worldwide.

The report includes an index to measure the competitive performance by industries that is, the ability of countries to produce and export manufactured goods that are competitive.

Under its rankings, Singapore is first in its competitive industrial performance among 87 countries studied, followed by Switzerland, Ireland, Japan and Germany; East Asia leads all developing regions in its competitive industrial performance.

Major improvements have been made since 1985 among several middle-income developing economies, including China, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand. But developing economies also face a key challenge in meeting intense global competitive pressures while avoiding the low road of reduced wages, depreciated exchange rates and low labour and environmental standards.

UNHCR REPORTS ON REFUGEE RETURN MOVEMENTS TO ERITREA AND ANGOLA

This Thursday the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will conduct a registration for voluntary repatriation of Eritreans living in urban centres in Sudan whose refugee status will expire at year's end. Estimates of the number of Eritreans living in Sudan's towns and cities outside of refugee camps are believed to be several hundred thousand.

UNHCR also reports that nearly 8,000 Angolans have spontaneously returned to their homeland from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since the beginning of the year.Another 4,500 have returned from Zambia. The absorption capacity in Angola for the return of an estimated 4 million internally displaced persons and some 470,000 refugees is extremely weak, says UNHCR.

The refugee agency says it has distributed food, water and blankets to 56 passengers of a Sri Lankan boat, which docked last Sunday at Dili harbour in East Timor. UNHCR says it is ready to assess possible asylum claims from the group, should they be allowed to disembark and if they wished to seek asylum. Most of the boat's passengers appeared to be male Sri Lankan Sinhalese.

WHO MOBILIZES AGAINST POLIO OUTBREAK IN BURKINA FASO

The World Health Organization has organized a mop up campaign of polio vaccination along the Burkina Faso-Niger border following a reported case of the disease in Burkina Faso.

A family from Niger brought a sick child to the nearest clinic, which happened to be in Burkina Faso. As a result of this case and as part of the standard procedure for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the mop up campaign was planned, targeting 294,000 children in Niger and 218,000 in Burkina Faso.

Wild polio virus cases are rare, just 483 cases worldwide in 2001, and mop up campaigns are an important part of the campaign to eliminate polio.

RIGHTS OF DISABLED DISCUSSED AT UN MEETING

An ad hoc committee dealing with the protection and promotion of rights for people with disabilities began Monday at UN Headquarters, and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai told that committee that the protection of disabled persons perhaps should be reflected in a new international convention.

He said that work on proposals for a treaty had witnessed a shift in focus from care, social welfare and medial support to an emphasis on the human rights framework necessary for disabled persons to participate fully in economic, social and political life.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In a letter which was published today, the Secretary-General informed the President of the Security Council of his intention to appoint Maj. Gen. Tan Huck Gim of Singapore to the post of Force Commander of the UN Mission of Support in East Timor, with effect from 31 August 2002.

A press release was issued today on the media arrangements for next weeks soccer match between Real Madrid and Roma, which will benefit the United Nations and the Global Fund Against Aids.

Today, Mexico became the 89th Member State to pay its 2002 regular budget contribution in full. That is with a payment of more than $12 million. At this time last year, 100 Member States had paid in full.

  • The guest at the briefing was Dr. Derek Yach (YAK), Executive Director of the World Health Organization's Cluster on Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, who discussed the effects of illicit tobacco trade. The International Conference on Illicit Tobacco was held at UN headquarters today. The illicit trade in tobacco is one of the topics discussed as part of global negotiations conducted by the World Health Organization on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

    Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

    United Nations, S-378 New York, NY 10017 Tel. 212-963-7162 - press/media only Fax. 212-963-7055

    All other inquiries to be addressed to (212) 963-4475 or by e-mail to: inquiries@un.org


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