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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-07-07

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 7 July, 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


  • Overwhelming majority votes in General Assembly to enhance status of Palestine at United Nations.
  • Secretary-General reacts with shock to death of Chief Abiola and calls on Nigeria to unite for democracy.
  • Prosecutor of International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia will look into possible war crimes in Kosovo.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports tense situation in Western Kosovo.
  • United Nations refugee agency deplores violence in Croatia following victory in World Cup game.
  • Experts begin discussing ozone protection treaty at United Nation- organized meeting in Geneva.
  • Speakers in Economic and Social Council say aid, not just trade, is needed to help developing countries.

An overwhelming majority of States in the General Assembly voted to confer additional rights and privileges on Palestine within the United Nations and conferences it convenes.

Only four countries -- Israel, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States -- opposed the resolution, which was adopted by a vote of 124 in favour with ten abstentions. Bulgaria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, Liberia, Malawi, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Rwanda and Zambia abstained from the voting.

Under the enhanced arrangements, Palestine was granted the right to participate in the General Assembly's general debate. Without prejudice to the priority of Member States, Palestine was also granted the right to be inscribed on the list of speakers at any meeting of the plenary. Palestine will also have the right of reply, and the right to raise points of order related to the proceedings on Palestinian and Middle East issues.

Palestine will also have the right to cosponsor draft resolutions and decisions on Palestinian and Middle East issues. Such draft resolutions and decisions could still only be put to a vote at the request of a Member State.

The General Assembly's decision applies not only to its own work but also to international conferences convened by the United Nations and conferences of the United Nations itself.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday reacted with shock to the news of the death of Moshood Abiola, who was widely viewed as the winner of the 1993 presidential elections in Nigeria.

"I'm shocked by the news, as you can imagine; I saw him exactly a week ago today," the Secretary-General told reporters. Mr. Annan said that Chief Abiola had seemed in good health when the two had met during the Secretary- General's recent urgent mission to Nigeria, which was aimed at securing the release of all political prisoners.

"I expected his imminent release from detention by the authorities along with other detainees, and the beginning of the process to restore democratic civilian rule to Nigeria," the Secretary-General said. "My heart goes out to his family -- I wish to express to them my sincerest condolences."

The Secretary-General expressed the hope that the Government of Nigeria would make good on its pledge to release all remaining political prisoners unconditionally, and to define a credible process for the democratic transition to civilian rule within a reasonable period of time. "I call on all Nigerians to unite in support of this effort," the Secretary-General said.

In response to questions about Chief Abiola's condition, the Secretary- General said that he had appeared well, but added, "it was obvious that his isolation -- he was in solitary confinement -- that the isolation had almost been total." For example, Mr. Abiola did not know that Mr. Annan was the United Nations Secretary-General. "He had only been informed that he was going to meet a very important man," said the Secretary-General. "So I walked in and shook hands and started asking about his health when he said, 'Who are you?'" The Secretary-General noted that Chief Abiola had not been allowed access to television or the press.

The Secretary-General spoke to Nigeria's current Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, earlier in the afternoon. He said General Abubakar was "rather shocked and downcast" by the news. The Secretary- General added that he had encouraged General Abubakar to continue his efforts to release all political prisoners and achieve the transition to civilian rule.

"My own plea to the Government authorities and to the Nigerian people is that they come together and see this process through and bring stability, peace and eventually prosperity to the people of Nigeria who have suffered so much," the Secretary-General said.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Justice Louise Arbour, on Tuesday indicated that she will look into possible war crimes committed during the armed conflict in Kosovo.

The Prosecutor has jurisdiction to investigate the recent events in Kosovo and to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law there. In a statement on Tuesday which was conveyed to members of the Contact Group, she asserted that "the nature and scale of the fighting indicate that an 'armed conflict', within the meaning of international law, exists in Kosovo." As a consequence, the Prosecutor expressed her intention to bring charges for crimes against humanity or war crimes there, if evidence of such crimes was established.

Justice Arbour stressed that the Tribunal's jurisdiction includes crimes committed by persons on either side of the conflict. "Criminal responsibility also attaches not only to those who themselves actually commit atrocities, but equally to those in positions of superior responsibility," she noted. Under international law, a superior will be held criminally liable if he knew or had reason to know that a subordinate was about to commit criminal acts, or had done so and the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators.

"The situation in Western Kosovo continues to be very tense," Judith Kumin, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

Ms. Kumin said that UNHCR had reports of artillery fire from the Kosovo side of the border on Monday morning. "There are only a few new arrivals of refugees in northern Albania, as the border seems nearly impossible for civilians to cross," she said. According to the refugees, villages in the western part of Kosovo continue to be shelled, mainly at night. Food there is reportedly becoming scarce, since people are afraid to go into towns to get fresh supplies.

So far, UNHCR has registered over 10,000 refugees in the Tropoje district of northern Albania. The agency believes that an additional 3,000 refugees have left Tropoje for other parts of Albania, making a total of 13,000 refugees who have crossed the border into Albania since May.

The authorities in Montenegro, meanwhile, report that over 15,000 internally displaced persons have arrived there from Kosovo, including ethnic Albanians and Serbs, according to UNHCR.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday deplored damaged caused by rioters in the Bosnian Croat controlled town of Stolac following Croatia's victory in a World Cup game on 4 July.

A crowd of some 200 people reportedly marched down a street where Bosniac returnees had been rebuilding their houses with UNHCR assistance. They threw stones at the houses and destroyed a water tanker and two buses which UNHCR had been using to transport the refugees.

"Local police were present throughout the incident but did not intervene in time to prevent the damage," said UNHCR spokeswoman Judith Kumin. She noted that the return process in Stolac had been particularly difficult. Since the 1995 Dayton Agreement paved the way for the returns, only 300 to 400 Bosniacs were able to go back, out of approximately 8,000 who had fled.

Officials from over 100 countries on Tuesday began a three-day meeting organized by the United Nations in Geneva to discuss a treaty designed to protect the ozone layer.

The officials are preparing for the tenth meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which will take place in Cairo this November.

"The Montreal Protocol has been hailed as an outstanding success, but there is no room for complacency," said Klaus T”pfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which serves as the Protocol's secretariat.

Among the issues being discussed in Geneva is a new licensing system for controlling the trade in ozone-depleting substances. Under the proposed system, governments would be required to issue licenses each time the substances are imported or exported. They would also be required to inform other governments when licenses are granted. These measures are aimed at enhancing the ability of customs and police officials to detect any illicit trade in ozone-depleting substances, which UNEP reports is a growing problem.

Participants will also analyze what to do about the recent marketing of two new substances -- chlorobromomethane and n-propyl bromide -- that have low but nevertheless significant ozone-depleting potentials, according to UNEP.

Under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, governments have agreed to phase out chloroflourocarbons, halons and other chemicals that can destroy ozone in the stratosphere, which is essential for shielding humans, animals and plants from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. Scientists predict that the ozone layer will start to recover in a few years and will fully recover by the middle of the next century, but only if the Protocol is vigorously enforced.

Speakers addressing the Economic and Social Council on Tuesday urged continued assistance to developing countries, stating that trade alone did not suffice to bolster their economies.

The Ambassador of Bangladesh said that market access opportunities were of little practical benefit to least developed countries (LDCs).

Speaking on behalf of the LDCs, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury said the that while the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade had eased many trade barriers, the interests of the least developed countries had been bypassed. To overcome marginalization, least developed countries needed substantially increased financial resources and technical assistance on preferential terms, he said.

Poul Nielson, the Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, said it was illusory to believe that formal market access alone would result in the integration of developing countries into the global trading system. He agreed that in addition to trade and investment, aid was an essential component of sustainable development. Official development assistance should be seen as a natural and necessary part of the process of globalization and a permanent feature in a world characterized by increased interdependence, he said.

Guyana's Minister of Trade, Tourism and Industry, Michael Shree Chan, said small countries such as his had yet to reap any dividends from rapid globalization. Smaller countries were often faced by the spectre of protectionism, he said, citing the barriers facing Caribbean banana producers. For their bananas to qualify for acceptance in external markets, they must now conform to a certain shape and size. Not surprisingly, it was difficult for those small countries to satisfy such rigid requirements. As a result, the Caribbean trade had suffered, and so too had those who depended on it for their livelihood, he said.

The Minister of Economy and Planning of Cuba, Jose Luis Rodriguez, described a different market access problem facing his country, which he said had been subjected to an unprecedented economic war waged by the United States for more than 37 years. Stating that the blockade had cost Cuba some $60 billion and brought inestimable hardships to its people, he called for its immediate lifting without conditions.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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