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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-11-29

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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 29, 1999

SRSG CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SERBS IN KOSOVO

Bernard Kouchner, head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), today described as "outrageous and cowardly" the attack on three Serb residents of Pristina in the early hours of this morning, which left a 62-year-old man dead and his wife and mother-in-law beaten and hospitalized. Kosovar Albanians were celebrating "Albanian Flag Day", during which two other murders were recorded.

On Saturday, Kouchner pushed the button to start up Pristina's central heating plant, pumping heat into hospitals, schools and homes in the city. The repairs on the facility, which had not been properly maintained for ten years, were completed four days ahead of schedule with the assistance of the European Union, Canada, Ireland and Sweden. One day earlier, Kouchner had signed an agreement with Italy for the collection and disposal of garbage in the town of Pec.

Tomorrow, he is scheduled to receive a $15 million grant from the Government of the Netherlands that will help to fund public services, including health care and education for the region's neediest residents.

The Secretary-General this morning emphasised that he was pleased with what Kouchner has been able to achieve in Kosovo in just five months.

The Spokesman said, in response to criticism in the media about the progress of the Kosovo Mission, that the problems there resulted not from the shortcomings of the UN Mission but from the complexity of the tasks they faced. "Some very significant things were achieved," he said of UNMIK's work. "Five months is very little time."

The mission is unprecedented because the United Nations is working with two large entities -- the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- and it could take time for the three entities to coalesce, Eckhard added. He noted Kouchner's comment that "we didn't start from ground zero, but from minus twenty yards."

In response to a question on delays in deploying UNMIK civilian police officers, the Spokesman said that recruiting active police officers is very difficult. The United Nations had started to accept some recently retired police for some Missions, he said, since many could still be effective officers. However, the Kosovo Mission is more difficult, requiring armed police officers and a substantial amount of work, he said.

"Police who would have been qualified to work in a different Mission where police are unarmed and have a more symbolic role, have been turned down, because this job, frankly, is tougher," Eckhard said. Also, the United Nations is still looking for police for East Timor and other areas.

The Spokesman said that new Kosovo police officers were not expected for the next few weeks, but added that Kouchner had appealed for more police and that the United Nations will probably make a fresh appeal to Governments for further contributions.

UN RECEIVES ADDITIONAL BODIES FROM WEST TIMOR

Twenty-three additional bodies, believed to be victims of the Suai massacre, were returned from West to East Timor over the weekend, and were buried after a memorial service today in Dili. None could be positively identified. Together with three priests, whose bodies were returned at the end of last week, this puts at 26 the number of victims discovered so far at a site in West Timor that was excavated by the Indonesian Commission for Human Rights.

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) reports that violence against suspected members of the militia is on the rise. The brother of one militia leader was found dead last week. His hands were tied, and there were signs he had been tortured. Three houses of suspected militia members were burned to the ground.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the UN Mission, met yesterday in East Timor with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, to discuss the possible provision by Australia of customs officers and forensic experts. Today, de Mello left for a three-day visit to Australia for follow-up discussions.

In response to a question on the selection of a Force Commander for the UN Mission, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General was considering his choice from a list of three candidates, and that an announcement would be made shortly.

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ON CONFLICT PREVENTION

At 12:30 today, the Security Council began consultations on finalizing a Presidential Statement on the Council's role in the prevention of conflicts. That Statement will then be read as part of the afternoon's formal session, in which Member States will engage in a debate on the Council's role in conflict prevention.

The formal meeting is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., and, in addition to the 15 Member States on the Council, 25 other Member States are already inscribed as speakers. The formal meeting could also be extended into a session tomorrow.

The Secretary-General will deliver a speech on conflict prevention at the beginning of the debate, and is scheduled to attend the first hour of the meeting before he leaves for Seattle to attend the third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization.

In his speech, the Secretary-General is expected to stress the need for all Council members and other Member States to commit themselves to conflict prevention, and the need to "address the deep-rooted causes of conflicts, which often lie in the social and economic sphere."

The Council's work for November is winding down, but the Council is still expected to take up the question of the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) before the month ends tomorrow. If the Mission's mandate is not extended or otherwise adjusted, MIPONUH will end its term tomorrow.

In response to a question on whether the current Mission in Haiti was different from the one recommended by President Ren&eacute; Preval, the Spokesman said, "My understanding is that what is being considered by the Council and the Assembly now has the support of President Preval."

DEL PONTE REITERATES DESIRE TO VISIT RWANDA

Carla Del Ponte, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda issued a press statement yesterday in which she said that she is actively seeking a review of the decision by the Tribunal's Appeals Chamber to release Jean Bosco Barayagwiza.

She reiterated her eagerness to visit her office in Kigali, Rwanda, and to meet with the Rwandan authorities to discuss the Barayagwiza case with them. She gave a press conference today in Arusha, Tanzania, in which she voiced optimism that she will be able to go to Kigali.

The Secretary-General met this morning with the General Prosecutor of Rwanda, Justice Gerald Gahima, and was expected to raise the issue of Del Ponte's plan to visit Rwanda.

NEW UN TROOPS ARRIVE IN SIERRA LEONE

The first group of 135 United Nations peacekeepers are scheduled to arrive today in Sierra Leone from Kenya. At their arrival in Freetown, Francis Okelo, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, is expected to welcome them on behalf of the Secretary-General.

The new mission in Sierra Leone will be composed of 6,000 troops commanded by Maj. Gen. Vijay Kumar Jetley of India, who has been appointed as Force Commander by the Secretary-General. The letters exchanged between the Secretary-General and the Security Council regarding his appointment were made available today.

UN AGENCIES CONCERNED ABOUT SAFETY OF SUDAN AID SHIPMENTS

In response to questions about recent reports that the United States Government was considering providing direct food assistance to Sudanese rebels, the Spokesman noted that the World Food Programme (WFP) is the principal actor in Operation Lifeline Sudan, which was created as "an impartial entity to deliver food in a fair manner to all civilians."

The Spokesman noted that WFP has expressed concern that the proposed US policy could "potentially jeopardize their logistics operations on the air and on the ground. They fear they could become military targets if their planes were confused with any new aircraft delivering US food."

Eckhard said the risk of the proposed policy was that all the actors that deliver food aid could be jeopardized if they appear to be partisan. He added that the Secretary-General would like to see UN policy on the Sudan coordinated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CITES LITTLE PROGRESS IN AFGHANISTAN

The Secretary-General's latest report on Afghanistan was made available today. This report is his annual summary of the progress of peace efforts in Afghanistan, which covers events since 23 November 1998.

The report is a grim one, with the Secretary-General observing that "the conflict in Afghanistan is increasingly having a negative impact beyond the borders of that country." He notes the increasing number of refugees from fighting between the Taliban and the United Front, reports of ethnically motivated mass killings and the pervasive abuse of human rights, particularly those of women.

In response to the developments described in the report, the Secretary-General says that he and his Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, have agreed that the Special Envoy's activities be "frozen" until circumstances change to justify his intervention.

Until then, he recommends that the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA) assume the primary role of UN peace efforts. The Secretary-General says he intends to appoint a Head of the UNSMA Mission at the Assistant Secretary-General level and also intends over time to move UNSMA's head office from Islamabad to Kabul.

UN TALKS ON CYPRUS TO BE "OPEN-ENDED"

The Spokesman said that the Cyprus talks were scheduled to open at UN Headquarters on Friday, 3 December. After that, he said, the schedule is open-ended, and "could go on for a week or more, depending on the two leaders who will be doing the talking and whether or not there is any progress being made." He noted that the Secretary-General planned to devote as much time to the talks as possible, and Special Representative Alvaro de Soto will also be fully engaged in the meetings.

WORLD AIDS DAY OBSERVANCE WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday, Queen Noor of Jordan, US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte will be among the participants at an observance of World AIDS Day at the UN Headquarters. The ceremony will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Conference Room 4, and its theme is "The Children Left Behind" -- that is, children left orphaned by the AIDS-related deaths of one or both parents.

The ceremony will include an evening reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, sponsored by the Magic Johnson Foundation, where UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana, who is Miss Universe 1999, will speak.

FIJI SIGNS AND RATIFIES ICC STATUTE

This morning, the opening of the third session of UN preparatory meetings on the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) got off to a dramatic start when Fiji announced that it had signed and ratified the ICC Statute.

With that announcement, Fiji becomes the 90th country to sign the ICC Statute and the sixth country to ratify it. The Statute needs to be ratified by 60 countries before it can enter into force.

Fiji's announcement came at the start of the third session of the Preparatory Commission for the Establishment of an ICC. The current session is scheduled to last until 10 December.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

A 5-day conference, on "Africa's Image in the Media", organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), opens today in Bamako, Mali. Nobel Laureate and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Nadine Gordimer will speak at the conference and participate in an on-line chat today at 2 p.m. on Africa's image in the media.

A background briefing began at Room 226 at 12:30, in which a senior UN official spoke on the Secretary-General's address to the World Trade Organization Conference in Seattle.

The UN Correspondents Association announced that Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Community of the Red Cross, would brief reporters today at 5 p.m. in the UNCA Club.


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