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United Nations Daily Highlights, 03-12-16

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, December 16, 2003

HUSSEINS CAPTURE PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY FOR IRAQ, ANNAN SAYS

The capture of Saddam Hussein, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Security Council members in an open meeting this morning, creates an opportunity for a new beginning in the vital task of helping the Iraqi people to take control of their destiny.

The task is urgent, he said. While there may not be time, he went on to say, to hold credible elections before the restoration of sovereignty, it is essential that the process of setting up a transitional government be fully inclusive and transparent. No Iraqis should feel excluded, he added.

As he presented his latest report on Iraq to the Council in its open meeting, the Secretary-General said that for the United Nations, the challenge has been to find creative ways of intensifying the organizations engagement despite a diminished capacity on the ground.

He told Council members that he could not say with certainty when circumstances would permit the return if international staff to Iraq. In the meantime, he added, there is much being done from outside Iraq, including reconstituting the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, which will be headed on an interim basis by Ross Mountain.

Furthermore, greater clarity is needed, he said, on what is expected from the United Nations by the Iraqis and the Coalition in terms of assistance for the political transition. I have called for clarity, he stated, because in taking the difficult decisions that lie ahead, I need to weigh the degree of risk that the UN is being asked to accept against the substance of the role we are being asked to fulfill.

The process of transition, he said in conclusion, must be made to succeed, for the sake of the millions of Iraqis who have endured decades of suffering and the memory of those have given their lives to help the people of Iraq.

The Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari, also addressed the public meeting. Immediately afterwards, the Council moved into a closed meeting to continue its discussion.

Also on the Council agenda today was a formal meeting to adopt a resolution on the Somalia arms embargo.

Also, the monthly Security Council luncheon with the Secretary-General took place today.

Speaking to reporters after the Iraq meeting, the Secretary-General said, "There may be a new opportunity here, but it depends on how it is exploited by all concerned to mend fences, heal wounds and move forward." In response to criticism from Zebari, he said, "I think this is not time to pin blame and point fingers, when everybody is trying to figure out how creatively we can organize ourselves to help the Iraqis."

MISSING KUWAITIS MAY NOT BE FOUND ALIVE, ANNAN SAYS

After many years of denial and maneuvering by the previous Iraqi Government, the grim truth regarding the fate of missing Kuwaitis and third country nationals is unveiling itself, according to the Secretary-Generals latest report to the Security Council on that subject. The discovery of mass graves in Iraq is a gruesome and devastating development, he says in the report. While there is still hope, he says, the prospect of finding alive some of the 605 persons in question is diminishing.

The report presents an overview of the activities of the High Level Coordinator, Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov. The Secretary-General says that there is still room for further progress in settling Kuwaits humanitarian concerns. The Council, he adds, will have to decide whether or not to continue Vorontsovs mandate.

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report on Thursday morning.

UNHCR ASSISTS IRAQ REFUGEES HOME FROM IRAN, SAUDI ARABIA

This morning, a convoy of 254 refugees from the 1991 Gulf War returned to Iraq after leaving Saudi Arabia's Rafha camp late yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today. Only about 1,000 Iraqis now remain in the camp. More than 4,000 have already returned. All the returning refugees are met by UN national staff upon their arrival and given various assistance items and tents if they require emergency shelter.

Meanwhile, some 500 Iraqi refugees have returned to Iraq from Iran this week in convoys facilitated by the refugee agency. Most were going home to Basra, while others were headed for Karbala and Najaf. For the last 20 years, Iran has sheltered an estimated 200,000 Iraqi refugees who fled during the Iran-Iraq war,

UNITED NATIONS CONSIDERS MEASURES TO ASSIST WESTERN SAHARA REFUGEES

According to the UN refugee agency, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Western Sahara, Alvaro de Soto, and senior UNHCR staff are traveling to Algeria and Morocco today to discuss new confidence-building measures to assist Western Saharan refugees.

An estimated 165,000 refugees have spent the last 28 years in camps located around Tindouf, in the Algerian desert.

Building on positive meetings held last week in Geneva with Polisario Front officials, the UN representatives will be discussing with Moroccan and Algerian officials plans to re-establish person-to-person contacts between the refugees and their relatives in the territory of the Western Sahara.

Under this initiative, UNHCR would propose setting firm dates for the establishment of telephone and personal mail links between the refugees and their families. It would also propose that limited family visits begin as soon as possible, using UN aircraft.

REPORT: MOROCCO MAIN PRODUCER OF CANNABIS RESIN, HASHISH

Morocco is the main producer of cannabis resin, used to produce hashish, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime confirmed today following the first cannabis cultivation survey in that country. The Office says that Morocco produced an estimated 47,000 metric tons of raw cannabis, with potential hashish production estimated at more than 3,000 metric tons.

Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the Office on Drugs and Crime, says that Morocco has acted courageously to expose the extent of domestic cannabis cultivation. Now, he says, it is Europes turn to focus especially on preventive measures. European markets receive most of the cannabis and hashish produced in Morocco.

ANNAN NOTES IMPORTANCE OF SOUTH-SOUTH COOPERATION

The Secretary-General says that the conference taking place today in Marrakesh, Morocco, on South-South Cooperation is heartening, at a time when the need to build bridges among developing countries is more urgent than ever.

He notes that some of the larger countries of the South may have economies that surpass those of the developed world in decades to come, and he calls on those countries to help build bridges across the South.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

UNHCR MONITORS WESTERN ETHIOPIA FOLLOWING VIOLENCE: The UN refugee agency is keeping a close watch on developments in western Ethiopia, home to 85,000 Sudanese refugees, after weekend violence killed dozens of people, including three staff members of its partner agency.

ANNAN WELCOMES LAUNCH OF WEAPONS COMMISSION: The Secretary-General today welcomed the launch of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission chaired by Dr. Hans Blix. In a message, he says the Commission faces a task of utmost importance: providing proposals on how to make progress in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to minimize the risks that those weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. He looks forward to fruitful cooperation between the Commission and the United Nations.

FAO GIVES NIGERIAN PRESIDENT AGRICOLA AWARD: The Food and Agricultural Organization has awarded Nigerias President, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Agricola Medal for his role in bringing peace and boosting agricultural and social development in Africa's most populous country. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf presented the medal to President Obasanjo during a ceremony in Abuja today. The Medal honors distinguished personalities for their support and commitment to the promotion of sustainable food production, world food security and international cooperation.

UNDP RECEIVES MONEY FROM GOODWILL SOCCER MATCH: Following Mondays all-star goodwill soccer match in Basel, Switzerland, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown was presented with about $816,000 from ticket sales for the game and from the City of Basel. The funds will go to anti-poverty projects selected by the UNDP in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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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