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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-01

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





Wednesday, December 1, 1999


The Secretary-General left Seattle to return to New York today, after having been blocked by demonstrators from giving his address to the third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday.

Thousands of demonstrators clogged the streets leading to the site of the WTO Conference, keeping the Secretary-General and other speakers confined to their hotels. The opening ceremony was cancelled, although the Conference was officially declared open at 2:00 p.m. local time.

The Secretary-General was able to continue with the rest of his programme. He chaired a lively meeting with Bill Gates, Sr. of the Gates Foundation, which was also attended by representatives of other foundations, at which they discussed ways the private sector might stimulate economic development in poor countries.

Later in the afternoon, about 150 people, including United States Senator Patty Murray, turned out to hear the Secretary-General address an event sponsored by the Rotary Club. In the question and answer session that followed, topics such as the protection of refugees, debt forgiveness, AIDS and sanctions against Cuba were raised.

The Secretary-General also held a scheduled private meeting with Bill Gates, Jr., before attending the WTO official dinner.


The Secretary-General welcomed the designation by the Eighth Arusha Regional Summit on Burundi of former South African President Nelson R. Mandela as the new Facilitator of the Burundi Preace Process. The Secretary-General "hopes that the prestige and authority of Mr. Mandela will reinvigorate the process in Arusha after the death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere," the Spokesman said.

In view of the current political and security situation prevailing in Burundi, the Secretary-General viewed the designation of Mandela as a timely decision on the part of the regional leaders. He joined in their call on all the Burundi parties to extend maximum cooperation to the new Facilitator towards the successful and urgent conclusion of the peace negotiations.

He also reiterated his view that "there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement to the Burundi conflict," and pledged the United Nations' full support for the new Facilitator.



Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nation Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), returned from Australia to Dili today, bringing with him Jos&eacute; Ramos Horta, the Nobel Laureate, who returned to East Timor for the first time after 24 years in exile. An obviously pleased Ramos Horta told a welcoming crowd, "We have in New York a great, good friend, Kofi Annan, and we have here is East Timor the second best man that the UN has, Sergio Vieira de Mello."

Independence leader Xanana Gusmao returned to East Timor today from his visit to Jakarta, where he had successful talks with the Indonesian authorities. Indonesia announced the release of 18 East Timorese political prisoners and the reopening of air traffic between Indonesia and East Timor.

The population of Dili is now estimated to be more than 138,000.


The members of the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor are in Dili where they have been meeting with eye witnesses of violations and hearing testimony to killings and deportations. Their forensic expert has carried out preliminary examinations of some of the bodies that had been found recently in West Timor, but has not made any conclusions.

The Commission also met independence leader Xanana Gusmao, and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo. On Saturday, the Commissioners went to Los Palos, in the east of the region, where killings had taken place during and after the voting period.

The Commissioners are scheduled to stay in Dili through the second week of December. They are still awaiting Indonesian visas that would allow them to go Jakarta and West Timor.


The Kosovo Transitional Council today condemned the Monday attack on a Serb family, in which a man was shot to death and his wife and mother-in-law beaten by a mob during the celebration of "Albanian Flag Day."

Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernard Kouchner issued a statement on behalf of the Council, which called the attack "a grave misuse of the liberty awarded to the people of Kosovo by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), to celebrate the Albanian 'Flag Day' peacefully."

UNMIK police are continuing their investigation of the attack, and reported that the two women had been transported to a hospital in Nis, Serbia. Due to their injuries, the women will not be able to speak for several days, the police say.

UNMIK police are issuing a flyer asking for witnesses to the attack to provide information.

Also in Kosovo, yesterday's registration of vehicles in Pristina resulted in the provision of license plates to 75 cars. The holders of the licenses will need to return for registration certificates after insurance companies are approved.


Yesterday afternoon, the Office of the Iraq Programme issued its latest update on the "oil-for-food" programme. It says that during Phase VI, which ended on 24 November, Iraq exported 389.6 millions barrels of oil with an estimated value of $7.457 billion.

As of 29 November, the Office of the Iraq Programme had receive 1,237 contracts for humanitarian supplies for Phase V. Of these, 1,102 have been circulated to the Security Councils sanctions committee. Of that number of contracts, 910, worth $1.52 billion, have been approved and 192 contracts, worth $526 million, have been put on hold.

For Phase VI, the Office has received 1,022 contracts worth $2.34 billion, and circulated 737 to the sanctions committee. Of these, 509 contracts, worth $1.14 billion, have been approved and 180 others, worth $344 million, were put on hold.


The Security Council did not holding any meetings today as the rotating Presidency changed with the beginning of the month; instead, the new Council President, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, held bilateral meetings with Council members.

Yesterday evening, the Council completed its work for November by voting unanimously in favour of a resolution that requested the Secretary-General "to take the administrative steps necessary for the equipping of up to 500 military observers" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Tomorrow, the Council is expected to take up the programme of work. It is also expecting a briefing on the upcoming Cyprus talks by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Alvaro de Soto, and it may also take up the renewal of the "oil-for-food" programme, which is otherwise set to expire on 4 December.

Following his briefing to the Council, Alvaro de Soto will hold a press conference in Room 226 on the logistics, although not the substance, of the Cyprus talks.


The Spokesman noted reports from Afghanistan which said that the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Erick de Mul, had been taken to the front lines north of Kabul by the Taliban authorities to confirm that there were no child soldiers fighting on that front. That development, he said, was apparently in response to the Secretary-General's recent report on Afghanistan, which said that all sides in this conflict had been using child soldiers.

The United Nations said that de Mul would be seeing senior Taliban officials. "We are waiting to get a report following those meetings," the Spokesman said. "Until we do, we will have no further comment."


Today is World AIDS Day, and the United Nations is commemorating the occasion with a series of events, most notably the ceremony in honour of "The Children Left Behind," which began in Conference Room 4 at 10 a.m.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette welcomed three children from three different continents who had been orphaned by AIDS, and told the gathering that, over the next decade, the number of such "AIDS orphans" is expected to grow in Asia, the Americas, and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

The worst crisis, she warned, is in Africa. "AIDS now kills more people in Africa than war," she said. AIDS, she added, is turning children into orphans more quickly than Governments and family structures can cope.

Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), added that AIDS has brought to the world images of different kinds of families: "grandparents surrounded by children; teenagers heading households, caring for younger brothers, sisters, cousins; children tending ill and dying parents and communities of children without parents."

Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), also drew attention to the special problems of AIDS orphans this morning at a UN press conference in which the report, produced by UNAIDS and UNICEF, on "The Children Left Behind" was released.

The entire World AIDS Day programme can be seen live on UN in-house television, and is also being cast live on the Internet via a special Web page (

The United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), in conjunction with UNAIDS, announced today it will establish four new AIDS prevention projects in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Ten percent of HIV infections worldwide, affecting nearly three and half million people, are linked to intravenous drug use. Central Asia and Eastern Europe showed the greatest percentage increase in HIV infections in the world in1999, and intravenous drug use was cited as a leading cause of the increase.


The UN system has offered a range of financial assistance to Vanuatu, following the Saturday earthquake and tidal wave that hit the island of Pentecost, causing eight deaths and 40 serious injuries. Proposals for UN assistance including the possibility of an emergency grant to pay for relief items or logistics, and assistance with the assessment of needs for immediate relief and long-term recovery.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will end this year's TeleFood Campaign with a three-hour concert that will be held this Saturday, 4 December, at James Bond Beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. In a joint appeal to raise money for food projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, FAO Director Jacques Diouf and Jamaican Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson said that the global telecast of the concert would use music to send "a message to create public awareness, solidarity and hope for the hungry."

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