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United Nations Daily Highlights, 03-12-29
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Monday, December 29, 2003
[Instead of Noon Briefings this week, highlights of daily developments in the UN system will be provided on this page; Briefings will resume on Friday, January 2, 2004]
UN PROVIDING AID TO IRAN IN AFTERMATH OF EARTHQUAKE
Yesterday, a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team in Bam, Iran, undertook a joint aerial assessment with a team from the United Kingdom. The UN team flew in Friday afternoon just after a devastating earthquake leveled the historic city of some 80,000 inhabitants.
They over-flew at low altitude all six search and rescue (SAR) operational zones in 21 districts in Bam and recorded the scale of physical damage. Several square kilometer areas were completely destroyed. Areas near the historic Old Fort, old city and near the football stadium are particularly badly damaged. The mission noted less than 10% of the number of people expected in badly affected areas, which reflects a rapid population movement out of Bam.
The assessment confirmed that the majority of destroyed buildings were of the traditional mud bricks typical of the area. Limited amounts of supplies were being moved around the area, and two distribution sites viewed from the air appeared to be well organized. Public buildings, including schools, may also be severely affected, in addition to the two hospitals in Bam. A detailed ground assessment is required for the 15 outlying villages encircling Bam, which have also been affected by earthquake.
Although a consolidated assessment is not available yet, official government figures now indicate that approximately. 20,000 people have died, and the number of fatalities could reach 30,000. In addition, 20,000 have been injured, and 70,000 are homeless, many of who are staying with family members. Due to continuing aftershocks and lack of shelter, people are sleeping in the open as a precautionary measure.
Electrical power has been restored to certain areas of Bam and major water pipelines have been brought back into service. Work is ongoing to re-establish power, water and communication links.
Some 20,000 extra Iranian volunteers have been mobilized and are now operating in the disaster area. Thirty-four urban search and rescues teams from 28 countries, with 1,345 personnel, are also at work. While search and rescue activities continue, it is clear that there will be massive requirements for emergency relief aid as well as medium and longer-term assistance.
The airports in Bam and
are reportedly overwhelmed by large numbers of incoming planes. Aircraft landing at
can be unloaded by hand only. Airport buildings are damaged and considered unsafe to use.
A UNICEF cargo flight arrived Sunday morning from neighboring Afghanistan carrying medicines, tents and childrens blankets.
The UN Development Programme contributed $100,000 to support national relief and coordination efforts. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs gave $90,000 in cash for the purchase of local relief items.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees sent in an eight-truck convoy carrying thousands of tents, blankets and mattresses. It is expected to arrive this afternoon.
The UN Population Fund and the World Health Organization are providing medical and health supplies, the World Food Programme is bringing in food items to the survivors, including high-protein biscuits.
Finally, UNESCO has announced it will participate in the reconstruction of schools as well as of the historic Bam citadel, largely destroyed during the quake.
SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS REPEATED ATTACKS IN IRAQ
Members of the Security Council met in closed consultations this morning to discuss a draft resolution introduced by Syria on behalf of all Arab countries concerning the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
Under Other Matters, Members discussed the situation in Iraq, approving a statement to the press read afterwards by the President condemning the repeated attacks on foreign and Iraqi nationals and international and Coalition personnel in Iraq.
The statement mentioned particularly the attack of 27 December in which Bulgarian, Thai and other international personnel were killed or injured in Karbala.
Council Members postponed until tomorrow discussion of a letter from the Secretary-General announcing his intention to appoint a new commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.
IAEA CHIEF: LIBYAS NUCLEAR PROGRAM AT AN EARLY STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Director-General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, has today described Libyas nuclear program as being at an early stage of development.
Dr ElBaradei arrived in Libya last Saturday, along with a team of technical experts from the IAEA, to start an in-depth process of verification of all of Libyas past and present nuclear activities.
ElBaradeis visit follows Libyas decision to eliminate "materials, equipments and programmes which lead to the production of internationally proscribed weapons."
WHO ASSISTING CHINAS HEALTH MINISTRY WITH SUSPECTED SARS CASE
Officials from the World Health Organization are assisting Chinas Ministry of Health with a suspected case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in a hospital in Guangzhou.
Currently, the case remains classified as suspected SARS, although investigation will continue until the final diagnosis is established.
Information on the clinical state of the individual, the laboratory investigation and the public health response is being shared.
According to Chinas Ministry of Health of China, all close contacts of the patient have been identified by public health authorities in Guangdong, and all of these individuals have been given the necessary advice and are at present well.
The Chinese government informed WHO about the case last Friday.
UN CONDUCTS FIRST VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION OF BURUNDIAN EX-COMBATANTS IN DR CONGO
On Sunday, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) conducted the first voluntary repatriation of Burundian ex-combatants to their country of origin.
The 151 ex-combatants, who were members of the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Forces (FNL), and ten dependents, had been gradually cantoned throughout the past eleven months at a MONUCs transit centre in South Kivu.
Yesterday they were escorted to the Gatumba refugee centre on Burundian soil, where they were met by representatives of a national rehabilitation commission.
The ex-combatants are expected to be taken to their home districts today.
The UN Mission has welcomed this repatriation and expressed the hope that it will lead to similar operations to repatriate the several hundred Burundian combatants who are still estimated to be in the D.R. Congo.
LIBERIA DEPLOYS INTO LURD TERRITORY
The UN Mission in Liberia moved a military contingent into Kley Junction, 30 kms north of Monrovia, on Saturday, the first move into territory controlled by the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) since the inception of the Mission in October 2003.
Some 125 Pakistani peacekeepers moved in with armoured vehicles and equipment to establish a base in this area. Immediately after the arrival of the peacekeepers, LURD fighters willingly dismantled checkpoints and moved their belongings to UN vehicles to be transported out of this location to Tubmanburg.
The UN contingents first attempt to move into Kley Junction on Thursday of last week was blocked due to disruptions by LURD members. Following these developments, the UNMIL Deputy Special Representative, Abou Moussa, stated that UNMIL deployment was not up for negotiation and should not be linked to appointments to government posts.
After Saturdays deployment, Moussa said he was satisfied by the cooperation shown by LURD and added that this was a giant stride in restoring peace in Liberia.
Afghanistans Loya Jirga circulates revised draft of constitution
According to the UN Mission in Afghanistan, the Constitutional Loya Jirga held a plenary session this morning during which the revised draft of the constitution was circulated among all delegates.
The new text incorporates changes that were approved by the Reconciliation Committee, following discussions in the ten Working Groups of the Loya Jirga.
The delegates were given time to examine the revised draft and submit petitions for changes to it. A minimum of 151 delegates signatures is needed for a proposed amendment to be considered.
These amendments to the draft constitution are expected to be put to a vote by secret ballot in the plenary session scheduled for tomorrow morning, Tuesday, 30 December.
IN NEW YEAR MESSAGE, ANNAN CALLS FOR PROMISES TO BE KEPT IN 2004
In his message for the New Year, first made available last week, the Secretary-General says that the United Nations has just been through one of the hardest years in its history.
Meeting the Millennium Development Goals would only cost a fraction of what our world spends on weapons of war, he says.
But in 2003 we did not live up to these promises. We let ourselves be swept along by the tide of war and division. 2004 must be different, he declares, adding: It must be the year that we begin to turn the tide. We dont need to make any more promises. We need to start keeping the promises already made.
ANNAN MOURNS DEATHS OF UN PEACEKEEPERS IN BENIN PLANE CRASH
The remains of 15 Bangladeshi peacekeepers killed in the plane crash near
Cotonou , Benin
on 25 December have now been identified. It is confirmed that 13 of the peacekeepers formed part of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and that two of them were part of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
It is expected that their remains will be repatriated to
by a United Nations aircraft on Tuesday.
The Secretary-General conveyed his sympathy to the family members of all the victims of the
plane crash, including those of the Bangladeshi peacekeepers. He also took the occasion to voice his great appreciation for
s outstanding contribution to UN peacekeeping operations.
CELEBRATES 7th ANNIVERSARY OF UN-BROKERED PEACE AGREEMENTS
On the seventh anniversary of the UN-brokered Guatemalan Peace Accords which put an end to 36 years of war, civil society representatives pledged to consolidate democracy and stability in that country.
In a joint statement entitled Towards a new stage in the building of Peace, eminent Guatemalans expressed their conviction that one of the main objectives of the Accords was to consolidate peace through a functional and participatory democracy. They also reiterated the primacy of human rights and the recognition of indigenous rights.
The ceremony held in
was attended by some of the signatories of the 1996 accords, the head of the UN Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), Tom Koenigs, and representatives of Guatemalan society, including the Archbishop Quezada Toru˝o and Nobel peace laureate, Rigoberta Mench˙.
19 NEW PARTIES CELEBRATE HEAVY METAL PROTOCOLS ENTRY INTO FORCE
Nineteen new Parties to the Protocol on Heavy Metals are celebrating its entry into force today.
The materials covered by the Protocol have a wide range of harmful effects on man and on wildlife some are believed to cause birth defects or affect physical and intellectual development, some are carcinogenic, whilst others may harm the immune system.
The Protocol is the seventh to take effect under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
All 19 Parties (Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and the European Community) are expected to attend the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol, which will take place at the time of the next session of the Conventions Executive Body scheduled for December 2004.
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