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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-11-22

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

Monday, November 22, 1999

IRAQ WILL NOT RENEW AGREEMENT ON OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAMME

Independent oil experts working for the UN "oil-for-food" programme in Iraq reported that early this morning Iraq cut the supply of oil to the Turkish port of Ceyhan with the completion of shipments under oil contracts signed under Phase VI of the programme. It is expected that Iraq will do the same on shipments out of Mina al Bakr when the last contracts are filled Tuesday.

Iraq seemed to be showing dissatisfaction with the two-week extension of the programme adopted by the Security Council last Friday.

Iraq also orally informed the United Nations over the weekend that it would not renew the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which sets forth agreed arrangements for the implementation of the oil-for-food programme. That MOU is normally extended through an exchange of letters shortly after the Security Council extends the programme.

The Executive Director of the Office of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan, informed the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, that normal operations should continue unless the Government of Iraq submits an official request to the contrary.

In response to questions, the Spokesman said that the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations had told the United Nations Legal Counsel formally on Saturday that Iraq would not sign an extension of the MOU, which is normally renewed every six months. Despite that, he said, UN staff in the "oil-for-food" programme will continue working normally in Iraq until the United Nations receives a written message from the Government of Iraq to the contrary, he said. "Our work doesn't need to stop just because the oil stopped flowing, and our hope is that this can eventually be worked out," the Spokesman said.

AGREEMENT REACHED ON EAST TIMOR REFUGEES

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Administrator in East Timor, traveled this afternoon to West Timor where he and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, witnessed the signing of an agreement between the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) and the Indonesian Armed Forces. That agreement is designed to speed up the return of East Timorese refugees from West Timor.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees today reported that despite continued harassment by militia, some 5,000 people returned to East Timor, most of them spontaneously, bringing the total number of returns to over 90,000.

A report by INTERFET, concerning the border incident with the Indonesian military on October 10, was transmitted today to the Security Council by the Secretary-General and issued as a Security Council document.

PROSECUTOR ASKS RWANDA TRIBUNAL TO REVIEW CASE

Carla del Ponte, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, has now officially made public her intention to ask for a review of the decision by the Appeals Chamber to release Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. Del Ponte wants to present new facts that could have been decisive factors in the decision.

The rules of the Tribunal permit a review of a judgment if a new fact has been discovered which was not known and could not have been discovered through "the exercise of due diligence." Del Ponte is on her way to Arusha, Tanzania, where the Tribunal is headquartered. She will meet there for the first time with her staff, the Judges and the Registrar of the Tribunal.

The Government of Rwanda has also made a request on the Barayagwiza case, asking that the detainee be delivered to Rwanda or Tanzania and not Cameroon, where the Appeals Chamber had decided that he should be released. They argue that Cameroon is not a party to the Genocide Convention and will not extradite him to face genocide charges in Rwanda.

UNMIK ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF PRISTINA AIRPORT

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) today announced as a cautionary measure the temporary closure of Pristina Airport to civilian aircraft. The move was recommended by the French investigation team reviewing the World Food Programme (WFP) plane crash of 12 November.

Tuesday, a team of experts of from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is arriving in Pristina to make recommendations, in about a week's time, regarding the operation of Pristina Airport, which is under the control of the Kosovo Force (KFOR). Currently, only military airplanes can enter and leave Pristina airport.

At UN Headquarters, the Secretary-General has delivered to the Security Council the monthly report on the international security presence in Kosovo. The report, which is out as a Security Council document today, says that KFOR troops continued their deployment. As of 26 October, 49,517 troops were in place.

KFOR reports no significant change in the security situation in Kosovo since the last report. It reports that attacks against ethnic minorities, especially Kosovar Serbs, remain a concern, and that tension in areas such as Mitrovica and Orahovac could escalate and spread.

In response to questions about recent news articles on Kosovo, the Spokesman said that the United Nations does not underestimate the amount of work needed to be done there, from the winterization programme, which is behind schedule, to garbage collection and basic security concerns. "We knew Kosovo was going to be a very difficult mission," the Spokesman said. "It isn't going to turn around in a few months. This will be a rough winter for many people. We will do everything we can to alleviate their suffering."

He noted that for the first time, the United Nations has worked with the European Union and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He called the press reports "largely true," but added that problems stemmed from the complexity of the issues the United Nations faces.

The spokesman described the deployment of the police component of the Mission as "still very slow." He noted that Iqbal Riza, the UN Chef de Cabinet, visited one police station last week and said it was "very well-organized." The main problem in Kosovo, the Spokesman said, was that Governments were behind in paying the voluntary contributions needed to pay civil servants. "That's really a critical problem, and it's a resource problem," he said.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ARRIVES IN ANKARA, TURKEY

Secretary-General Kofi Annan travelled from Istanbul, where he attended the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to Ankara yesterday to begin an official visit to Turkey.

This morning he laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whom he called "a visionary and wise leader." He then met with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

After a visit with UN agency representatives and UN staff at UN House, he went to the Presidential Palace for a meeting with President Suleyman Demirel, with whom he then had a working lunch.

He leaves for Geneva early Tuesday.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ISSUES REPORT ON UN POLICE MISSION IN HAITI

The latest report on the UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH), which is set to end its mandate by next Tuesday, November 30, was issued today as a document.

In today's report, the Secretary-General said that the setting of a date, on March 19, 2000, for legislative and local elections in Haiti is "a step forward." But he warns that recent demonstrations and shooting incidents in Haiti have raised fears of increased violence before the elections. He adds that, even after MIPONUH's mandate expires, international assistance for Haiti's democratic process is important.

"It is critical that the transition between MIPONUH and the successor mission be as smooth and orderly as possibly," the Secretary-General said.

There are currently 281 Civilian Police deployed in Haiti, although the United Nations is prepared to withdraw them once their mandate ends, the report said.

The Security Council is expected to take up the future of MIPONUH on Wednesday in informal consultations.

COUNCIL IDLE TODAY, BUT EXPERTS MEET

The Security Council did not meet today. However, a group of experts is meeting today to work on a draft Presidential Statement on the role of the Security Council in conflict prevention. Council members expect to have a Presidential Statement ready by next Monday, November 29, when the Council will hold an open meeting on its role in preventing conflicts.

Tuesday, the Council is expected to discuss Kosovo and East Timor in informal consultations.

REPORT: MORE WOMEN WORK AT THE UN HEADQUARTERS

Last Friday, Rafiah Salim, the Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Resources, addressed the General Assembly and presented a report on the Composition of the Secretariat, including the issue of gender equality.

Among other information, the report notes that the percentage of women in the professional staff has increased by 1.2 percent to 35.8 percent since last year. At this rate, gender equality would not be reached until the year 2012.

Two offices with 20 or more staff have met the goal of gender equality: the Office of Human Resource Management and the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management. The Department of Public Information had previously reached 51.2 percent, but unfortunately has slipped to 49.8 percent.

The biggest improvement has been made at the senior management level, where 28.1 percent of positions were filled by women, up from 23.7 percent last year. However, the largest number of women continued to be found at lower levels, and there is no woman currently heading any peacekeeping mission.

SECRETARY-GENERAL PRAISED US BUDGET AGREEMENT FRIDAY

Last Friday, the Secretary-General, though his Spokesman, issued a statement responding to the decision by the U.S. Congress to repay some of the U.S. arrears to the United Nations.

The Senate voted on Friday, by 74 in favor to 24 against, to approve the budget that included the UN arrears repayment. A day earlier, the House of Representatives had voted by 296 to 135 in favor of the budget agreement.

The Secretary-General responded that he was pleased that the Congress had acted positively on the issue of U.S. arrears, and he called the vote "a turning point in the efforts to restore the United States to its natural leadership position in the United Nations." He expressed his thanks to President Clinton and his foreign policy team, as well as to members of the House and Senate.

However, the Secretary-General also noted that the legislation did not provide for full payment of the U.S. arrears and included terms and conditions that can only be resolved in negotiations among the 188 UN Member States.

SECRETARY-GENERAL'S REPORT ON UNDOF ISSUED

A new report was issued today by the Secretary-General that reviewed the activities of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) over the past six months.

In his report, the Secretary-General noted that, despite the present quiet in the Israeli-Syrian sector, the situation in the Middle East continues to be potentially dangerous and is likely to remain so until a comprehensive settlement can be reached.

The Secretary-General said he hopes that "determined efforts will be made by all concerned to tackle the problem in all its aspects, with a view to arriving at a just and durable peace settlement."

Saying the continued presence of UNDOF in the Golan Heights was essential, he recommended the Security Council extend the mandate for a further six months, until May 31, 2000.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, 50 million people around the world have been infected with HIV; and of that number, more than 16 million people have died. The latest report on the epidemic will be issued Tuesday at 1400 GMT in London by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The report is released in advance of World AIDS Day, which is held every year on 1 December.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed a $26 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to be used in the effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus by the year 2005. The grant was received Sunday by the U.S. Committee for UNICEF.


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