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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-11-18

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

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, November 18, 1999

SECRETARY-GENERAL ATTENDS OSCE SUMMIT

Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning addressed the opening of the summit meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Secretary-General said we must all feel shame and sadness at our collective failure to prevent conflicts. Even in its final year, he added, this century's darker side is very much with us.

He called for more sophisticated responses to terrorism, but said that the force we use to fight it should be proportional and focussed on terrorists, not innocent civilians. Inflicting indiscriminate violence and terror on civilians, he stated, is immoral and contrary to international law.

While attending the OSCE meeting, the Secretary-General met Kjell Magne Bondevik, the Prime Minister of Norway and Chairman in the Office of the OSCE, and Ismail Cem, the Foreign Minister of Turkey. He attended a luncheon hosted by Turkey's Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, after which he met Walter Schwimmer, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and then with Martti Ahtisaari, President of Finland and current President of the European Union.

In response to a question about Russian criticism of the comments on Chechnya by Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the spokesman said, "There's no sense criticizing Mary Robinson for doing her job. The Secrertary-General supports her in her work. She said what she felt needed to be said."

OGATA VISITS INGUSHETIA AND CHECHNYA AS ANNAN ENVOY

Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, on her mission to Russia as the Secretary-General's envoy, today visited Ingushetia and Russian-controlled parts of Chechnya.

Ogata is expected to hold talks with Russian authorities in Moscow on Friday and Saturday, including with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Ogata, on behalf of the Secretary-General, is looking at ways to step up assistance to those displaced from Chechnya.

Based on recommendations from the United Nations' humanitarian rapid assessment mission, which concluded that the situation for the displaced will deteriorate sharply unless immediate assistance is provided, the United Nations is finalizing a flash appeal to meet those needs.

A three-month appeal targeting 250,000 civilians is expected to be launched as part of the global launch of the Consolidated Inter-agency Appeals, to be made in Geneva next Tuesday. The Secretary-General will be in Geneva to attend that launch.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS REPRESENTATIVE FOR DRC

The Secretary-General has appointed Kamel Morjane of Tunisia as his Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A letter taking note of the appointment from the Security Council President was released as a document today.

COUNCIL MEMBERS INFORMALLY DISCUSS IRAQ ON IDLE DAY

The Security Council is not in session today. However, Council members are expected to hold private discussions on a draft resolution submitted by the United States for a technical rollover of the "oil-for-food" program. Phase VI of the program is set to expire on Sunday.

Council members hope to have a draft resolution ready for vote by Friday. Also scheduled for Friday is a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone.

In response to a question on the latest developments in the "oil-for-food" program, the Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General's latest report indicated that volume of oil sales was very high. At the same time, he noted, the number of holds on contracts continued to be substantial, and many holds on contracts related to Iraq's electricity supply. If such holds were released and the required products procured, the Spokesman said, "Iraq's electricity supply would increase by 50 percent."

EAST TIMORESE STAFF BID FAREWELL TO UNAMET CHIEF

East Timorese staff of the United Nations joined their international counterparts in Dili today for an emotion-filled farewell to Ian Martin, who oversaw the United Nation Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), which conducted the August 30 vote on independence. Because violence broke out the day after the ballot, and security was only gradually restored by the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET), today was the first occasion that the UN staff could celebrate together what eventually became a successful mission.

The East Timorese brought instruments and sang the UNAMET song, which was composed to encourage people to vote and has since become a popular song in East Timor. They lined up in a long queue and each embraced Martin to bid him farewell, and then lifted him on their shoulders. They then danced in a big circle with the international staff.

Friday, Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello, who heads the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which will oversee the transition to independence, will hold a day-long meeting with independence leader Xanana Gusmao and his political associates. The meeting is to focus on how best to facilitate consultations between the UN and the East Timorese leadership.

Vieira de Mello, Ian Martin and Gusmao will interrupt those talks at midday to deliver a press conference, after which Martin will leave East Timor and relinquish his post.

WFP STAFF ROBBED AND BEATEN IN AFGHANISTAN

Four members of a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy in Afghanistan were robbed and beaten around 6 p.m. Wednesday evening, in Saighan, 85 kilometers north of Bamiyan.

The WFP personnel were riding in a 13-car convoy carrying 195 metric tons of wheat. Four WFP staff members riding in the convoy's escort vehicle were held up by armed men and were beaten. Some items were stolen from them, including the vehicle's radio and some money. A UN flag was destroyed. The four drove back to Bamiyan and are reported to be in good condition.

ONE BILLION DOLLARS PLEDGED AT KOSOVO DONORS CONFERENCE

Wednesday's pledging conference in Brussels, Belgium, for the long-term development of Kosovo raised more money than expected. The Second Donors' Conference for Kosovo resulted in the raising of pledges for more than $1 billion. Of that amount, $970 million was pledged for the reconstruction and recovery of Kosovo; $88 million for the regular Kosovo budget; $47 million for peace implementation activity; and $18 million for humanitarian assistance.

About half of the pledges came from countries in the European Union.

The conference is the second major effort by donors to raise money for Kosovo, and focused on its long-term development over the next four to five years. At the first Donors' Conference on 28 July, commitments were made to provide $2.17 billion, including $1.6 billion for immediate humanitarian needs. Of that amount, approximately $460 million were either spent or firmly committed by the first half of 1999.

NEW UN TROOPS TO ARRIVE IN SIERRA LEONE

The United Nations will start deploying its new 6,000-strong peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone next week. The deployment of one battalion from Kenya and one from India will start on Monday and will continue until the middle of December. That deployment will be followed by the arrival of battalions from Ghana and Nigeria, and one company from Guinea, which is already serving in Sierra Leone as part of the ECOMOG regional force.

The deployment of blue helmets in Sierra Leone was authorized by the Security Council on October 22, 1999. The Council mandated the new mission to assist the Government of Sierra Leone in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan and to monitor adherence to the cease-fire.

The peacekeepers will be deployed at key locations throughout the territory of Sierra Leone to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and grant protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.

As of today, 999 former combatants have disarmed, among whom 94 were children. About 44,000 former rebels are still assumed to be in the bush.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES WORLD TELEVISION FORUM

The Fourth World Television Forum began at UN Headquarters this morning, and the Secretary-General participated by satellite, delivering a video message. In it, he asked journalists to reflect on the concept of "preventive journalism" -- in which journalists, by drawing attention in time to abuses or potential conflicts, could focus international attention on crises "before they explode in all-out warfare."

UN Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Kensaku Hogen opened the Forum this morning by saying that the annual meeting had never before been such a global event. The Forum, which ends Friday, has brought together nearly 800 registered participants from more than 90 countries.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION ISSUES DECLARATION ON SMOKING

In Kobe, Japan, today, a convention of some 500 health experts called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to integrate the special needs of women and girls into a proposed international treaty on tobacco control. The consensus statement by the group, called the Kobe Declaration, warns that "gender equality in society must be an integral part of tobacco control strategies."

  • The guest at today's briefing was Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
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