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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-21

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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

Tuesday, December 21, 1999

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON ETHIOPIA-ERITREA, KOSOVO

The Security Council began its informal consultations this morning with a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast on the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

After that briefing, the Council heard a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi on recent security incidents in Kosovo.

The Secretary-General was expected to participate in a farewell ceremony for the outgoing members of this year's Council -- the Ambassadors of Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, the Gambia and Slovenia. He will also bid farewell to Ambassador Peter Burleigh of the United States, who is finishing his term as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Wednesday at 10 a.m., the Council will hold informal consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It will also hold an "open briefing" on the situation in East Timor, at which the Members of the Council will be able to speak, in addition to a UN briefing.

UN MISSION REPORTS DETERIORATION IN THE CONGO

In response to a question asked after the briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Spokesman noted that Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi informed the Security Council today of a further deterioration of the military and security situation there since his briefing last Thursday.

In particular, he flagged reports from South Kivu area, available to the United Nations Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC), which strongly suggested that the slightest incident could trigger large-scale organized attacks against the civilian population there, notably those of Tutsi origin. Annabi said it was feared that the Congolese Tutsi community could itself trigger an anti-Tutsi offensive if it responded to current threats with violent actions against its neighbors.

On behalf of the Secretariat, Annabi urged the Council to call on the parties to the Lusaka agreement to refrain from initiating or pursuing offensives, and to do everything possible to prevent outbreaks of violence, especially in South Kivu. He said that the parties should also refrain from hostile propaganda and bellicose statements and permit access by humanitarian organizations.

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES LANDMINES DESTRUCTION IN FRANCE

The United Nations welcomed the announcement by the Government of France that it has completed the destruction of its stockpiles of anti-personnel mines, in compliance with the Ottawa Convention.

The Secretary-General, who is the depositary of signatures and ratifications to the Convention, urges the other states parties to the treaty to do the same.

France joins several other countries that have already destroyed their landmines stocks including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Mali and South Africa. Complete information on compliance with the Convention is available at the Department of Disarmament Affairs' homepage on the UN web site (www.un.org/depts/dda).

RUSSIA PROVIDES SECURITY TO UN AGENCIES IN NORTH CAUCASUS

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that police have been instructed by Russian authorities to provide security coverage to UN agencies working in North Caucasus. That policy would enable international staff to conduct frequent missions to the border area. The first convoy under the new arrangement will travel to Ingushetia either Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

A 17th aid convoy from Stavropol, comprising 29 trucks carrying food, winter coats, blankets and mattresses, arrived in Nazran in Ingushetia, this morning.

The total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) registered by the Ingush Migration Service is now close to 250,000. UNHCR reports that, according to Vladimir Kalamanov, Head of Russia's Federal Migration Service, more than 50,000 IDPs had returned to Chechnya as of December 15. Many went back to their areas of origin. He added that only around 2,000 persons had left Grozny through the humanitarian corridors since they were opened.

Monday, 500 persons left Grozny and a third safe passage was opened to a village in northern Chechnya. UNHCR quoted Kalamanov as estimating that there are still some 30,000 civilians in Grozny, which continues to be under intensive attack by federal troops.

WFP TO PROVIDE EMERGENCY AID FOLLOWING VENEZUELA FLOODS

The World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it was launching today an emergency operation for victims of the devastating floods in Venezuela.

WFP said it would start to deliver food aid this week to some 20,000 people to meet the needs of the most vulnerable victims. Because people in flood-damaged areas have little access to cooking facilities, WFP said it will distribute ready-to-eat food in the form of high-protein biscuits, one packet of which supplies an adult's daily caloric requirement.

In a press release issued in Rome, WFP's regional manager for Latin America said that the floods have badly hit the people living in shantytowns on the outskirts of the cities. "There were hundreds of thousands of them who lived in dilapidated, badly neglected homes," he said. "They were already on the edge, and now they have lost everything they owned."

UNHCR SEES IMPROVEMENTS IN WEST TIMOR CAMPS

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that security in the refugee camps in West Timor is improving. UNHCR says that its staff can now move freely around the camps without escort, distribute leaflets and set up information centers.

The number of refugees repatriated since October 8 is now over 119,500.

UN RECEIVES REVISED DRAFT REGULATION ON CAMBODIA TRIAL

The Spokesman confirmed press reports that the Cambodian Government has submitted, as promised, its revised draft regulation containing provisions for the trial of members of the Khmer Rouge.

Cambodia's Permanent Representative, Ouch Borith, delivered the text to the Office of Legal Affairs Monday afternoon. The United Nations is now studying the new draft.

In response to a question about whether the United Nations would have to deliver its response to the plan to the Government of Cambodia by Friday, the Spokesman declined comment on any deadline but noted that the revised draft regulation was issued after two and a half months of work. "We've got it, we're translating it and we're studying it," he said.

ANNAN PRAISES PROGRESS OF RULE OF LAW IN BOSNIA

In his latest report to the Security Council on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is out on the racks today, the Secretary-General said that the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) has made "steady progress in laying the foundations" for the establishment of the rule of law.

In particular, he noted the gradual decline in Bosnia's national crime rate and an "increased willingness" by rank and file police and judicial officials "to perform their work in a professional manner."

He recommended proposals by UNMIBH to establish a "targeted and more intrusive concept of operations," which would include locating International Police Task Force officers with key local police managers and the extensive use of audits.

The Mission currently deploys almost 1,800 international police monitors throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Jock Covey, the Principle Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo, reported that the Interim Administrative Council, which was formed last week, met today in Pristina and discussed in "very professional, open and cooperative way" the draft regulation on the structure and some procedural matters. Covey did not give further details of the discussion. The new structure is expected to become operational by January 31, 2000.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that it had negotiated an agreement with the Government of Kenya to establish Kenya as the headquarters for a task force aimed at combating illegal trade in wild flora and fauna. Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenyan Foreign Minister Bonaya Godana, and Adan Dullo, the Director of the Task Force, will sign the host country agreement and UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer will also attend the signing ceremony. An agreement adopted in Lusaka, Zambia, by six African countries in 1994 paved the way for the formal launching of a Task Force to combat illegal trade in flora and fauna -- sometimes called a "regional Interpol" -- earlier this year.

Turkmenistan and Haiti have paid their 1999 dues in full. Turkmenistan paid $83,127 to complete its payments for this year, while Haiti paid $59,559 to complete its 1999 payments. They become the 121st and 122nd Member States to pay their dues in full for 1999. Outstanding contributions to the United Nations are now under $2 billion, including more than $300 million for the regular budget and more than $1.6 billion for peacekeeping operations.

In response to a question on arrears payments from the United States, the Spokesman said that the United States has made a few partial payments and is currently about $8 million short of the amount it would have to pay to avoid losing its vote under Article 19 of the UN Charter. "We've been told by Washington that there is another check in the mail," Eckhard said

There will be a press conference Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., with Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Nils Kastberg, Director of UNICEF's Emergency Programmes, on the appeal for countries facing emergencies.


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