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United Nations Daily Highlights, 04-10-27
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPOKESMAN'S NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
ANNAN CONGRATULATES ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER ON WITHDRAWAL VOTE
Secretary-General Kofi Annan congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the historic vote in the Knesset, which produced a clear majority in favor of his initiative to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank.
The Secretary-General remains supportive of a full and complete Israeli withdrawal, leading to the end of the occupation of the Gaza Strip.
The Secretary-General very much hopes that the Israeli withdrawal will have the effect of reviving peace efforts, which must be based on the Roadmap.
As such, withdrawal could be an important step towards a process that will eventually result in the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, paving the way for the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side by side in peace with a secure Israel.
SECRETARY-GENERAL NOTES CONCLUSIONS OF REPORT ON UNRWA
The Secretary-General has reviewed the report by the Investigation Team from the Secretariat which has inquired into the Israeli allegations against personnel of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The Secretary-General takes note of the teams conclusion that the allegation that a rocket was loaded into an UNRWA ambulance was unjustified as the object, in fact, was a folding stretcher of the type carried as normal equipment in UNRWA ambulances. He also takes note that, following the teams visit, the Government of Israel has admitted that it wrongly identified the stretcher as a Qassam Rocket and has publicly withdrawn the allegations.
The Secretary-General acknowledges the cooperation of the Government of Israel with the United Nations team in dealing with this inquiry.He expects that any issues of this nature will be addressed through normal diplomatic channels. He welcomes the offer of the Israeli authorities to work towards strengthening their cooperation with the United Nations and UNRWA.
The Secretary-General reiterates his full confidence in the integrity and impartiality of Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA. He commends UNRWA personnel for their dedication in providing vital assistance under very difficult circumstances to the Palestinian refugee communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the region.
RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE ON AID TO NORTH DARFUR
The UN mission in Sudan reports that insecurity and restrictions on humanitarian access continue to impede the timely and effective delivery of humanitarian aid in North Darfur. Some roads remain closed for UN operations.
The mission also reports that pressure and intimidation continue to be reported by those displaced in the conflict. Agencies say that the internally displaced in South Darfur continue to receive threats and pressure from the local authorities to encourage them to return to their villages.
In West Darfur, internally displaced persons report that they are increasingly being harassed, intimidated and questioned by police about their relationship with the rebel SLA.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reports that the first round of the polio vaccination campaign in North Darfur has covered more than 90 percent of the targeted population and that it has completed the polio vaccination campaign in West Darfur.
The World Food Programme, in the first survey of internally displaced people (IDPs) and residents across western Sudan, said today that almost 22 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished and almost half of all families do not have enough food. While much has been done for months now to feed as many people as possible in Darfur, the survey underlines how much remains to be done, says the WFP.
U.N. ENVOY DISCUSSES ELECTIONS WITH IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER
In Baghdad today, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zubari. Their discussion focused on the international conference on Iraq, which is to be held in Egypt later in November, as well as the security situation and preparations for the countrys first democratic elections, scheduled for end of January 2005.
Qazi reiterated his satisfaction with the work of UN experts who have providing technical assistance to the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission. He said work is proceeding as planned, noting that he expected the number of electoral workers to increase.
Qazi told the Foreign Minister that it was never envisaged that the number of UN electoral workers deployed in Iraq would reach the number deployed in Afghanistan due to major differences in the nature and scope of the work undertaken by the United Nations in the two countries.
Qazi stressed that the United Nations will continue to work with the Iraqi interim government and will devote every possible resource to ensure a successful political transition process.
He said that realistic conditions, namely the security situation, are a major factor in determining the scope of work and the number of UN staff deployed in the country.
Also today, Qazi visited the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, which is a Sunni organization. He met with the associations leader, Sheikh Harith al-Dahri, and other senior members.
Qazi was briefed by Sheikh al-Dahri on the organizations stand on the political process in the Iraq, especially the elections and the international conference. Qazi told the group the UN is doing all it can to help Iraq through the transitional process and that the UN stands ready to assist effort to achieve national reconciliation as mandated by resolution 1546.
Asked how many UN electoral experts were present in Iraq, the Spokesman said the current number was eight, out of a ceiling of 35 international staff, set by the UN Security Coordinator. He said the United Nations plans to increase the number of electoral experts, while staying within the security ceiling.
He added, in response to another question, that the United Nations was monitoring the security situation in the hope of sending more electoral experts once circumstances permit. The intention, he said, was to send in up to 25 more electoral experts once the security situation allowed it. Part of that equation, he said, would lie in the protection elements that the United Nations has tried to put in place.
Asked about progress in attracting protection elements, the Spokesman said he had nothing new to report, either on close protection forces or on an outer protection ring provided by the multinational force. He said that the United Nations did not yet have a Member State prepared to provide the protection elements with the necessary equipment.
SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON GREAT LAKES, GEORGIA
This morning, Ibrahima Fall, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, briefed the Security Council in an open meeting on the preparations for a conference to promote peace, security, development and democracy in the region.
The first summit of the Conference will be held in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, on the 19 and 20 of November. Fall told Council members that preparatory discussions held in Bujumbura and Kinshasa have been constructive and encouraging. The summit will adopt a declaration of principles on the basis of which the countries of the region will adopt concrete plans of action.
Consultations on the Great Lakes followed the open briefing. In a press statement read following the consultations, Council members welcomed the convening of the first summit and reiterated their support to the principle of ownership and encouraged all the governments concerned to continue their efforts to bring about the effective implementation of the outcome.
The second agenda item of consultations was a briefing by the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini.
She briefed the Council on the Secretary-Generals latest report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, which says that the peace process there has come perilously close to a standstill, with the two sides not having met at the political level since July.
In a press statement, Council members underlined the need for renewed efforts to achieve a lasting political solution of the conflict with the support of the United Nations, in particular the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, with the assistance of the Russian Federation in its capacity as facilitator as well as the Group of Friends.
MAIN U.N. ORGANS TO LAUNCH TRUTH REPORT ON SIERRA LEONE
There will be a meeting at 3:15 this afternoon in the Trusteeship Council chamber, chaired by the Presidents of the Security Council, General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to launch the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report.
Other speakers will include representatives of Sierra Leone and UNICEF, and there is a separate "children's version" of the report.
SPANISH FORCES JOIN U.N. MISSION IN HAITI
Two hundred Spanish marines have arrived in Cap Haitien in northern Haiti to join the UN peacekeeping mission there.
The Spanish troops came equipped with armored vehicles and other material, and they will form a joint brigade with a Moroccan contingent of 150 troops which is due to arrive in Cap Haitien this coming Sunday.
Later this week, the newly arrived troops will be deployed in Cap Haitien and in Ouanaminthe, near the border with the Dominican Republic. The joint brigade will be tasked with ensuring security in the northeast of Haiti and along the border, an area in which there is reported to be widespread smuggling and arms trafficking.
INTERNAL OVERSIGHT OFFICE SAVED UNITED NATIONS SOME $16 MILLION
The annual report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services says that the Office, in its work over the past year, has helped to save the United Nations some $16 million.
The Office issued some 1,500 recommendations, calling for improvements to productivity and accountability for fraud, waste and abuse. Half of these recommendations have already been implemented by Departments and Offices, the report says.
W.H.O. LAUNCHES ALLIANCE FOR PATIENT SAFETY
Today, the World Health Organization and its partners launched the World Alliance for Patient Safety a series of key actions to cut the number of illnesses, injuries and deaths suffered by patients during health care. WHO says that, on average, one in 10 patients admitted to hospital suffers some form of preventable harm that can result in severe disability or death.
This is the first time that a coalition of partners has joined efforts to act globally to improve patient safety. WHO said the move underlines the need to take action to reduce the growing number of adverse effects in health care and their impact on patients lives.
ANNAN SHARES IAEA CONCERNS ON IRAQ EXPLOSIVES: Asked about the Secretary-Generals reaction to the report about explosive material missing from Iraq, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General shared the concerns expressed by UN weapons inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but he added that the IAEA has spoken for the UN system.
ANNAN DISCUSSES SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM WITH AMBASSADORS: Asked about the Secretary-Generals meeting yesterday with the Ambassadors of Brazil, Japan, Germany and India, the Spokesman said that one of the topics under discussion was the possible expansion of the Security Council. He added that they also discussed plans for the 60th anniversary of the United Nations next year, when Member States are expected to follow up on the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.
U.N. MISSION WELCOMES GREAT LAKES AGREEMENT: The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) welcomed the signing of a tripartite agreement on security in the Great Lakes region. The agreement between the DRC, Congo, Rwanda and Uganda was signed Tuesday in Kigali.
LIBERIA REFUGEES ARE HEADING HOME: A total of 239 Liberian refugees are heading home today from their camps in Sierra Leone in the fourth and largest convoy since the operation started, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Those still in exile are discussing their return options in the wake of a mass information campaign conducted by UNHCR.
HUMAN RIGHTS INITIATIVE IS LAUNCHED: High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour launched the Secretary-Generals Action Two reform initiative this afternoon. That initiative calls for joint UN action to strengthen human rights actions at the country level. Todays launch follows a year-long process in which 21 heads of UN departments and agencies worked to develop an inter-agency plan of action, to integrate human rights into the UN systems humanitarian and development work.
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