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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-12-29

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





Wednesday, December 29, 1999

  • The UN daily noon briefings will be suspended between Christmas and New Year's. Highlights of UN news from around the world will be posted daily.


    Secretary-General Kofi Annan has informed the President of the Security Council of his intention to appoint Maj. Gen. Jaime de los Santos of the Philippines as Force Commander of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). General de los Santos will be promoted to Lieutenant-General for the purpose of this assignment.

    The Secretary-General also intends to appoint Maj. Gen. Michael Geoffrey Smith of Australia as Deputy Force Commander of UNTAET.

    Both generals are expected to arrive in East Timor during the middle of January.



    Erick de Mul, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, will return tomorrow to Kandahar, Afghanistan from Islamabad, Pakistan. In Islamabad, he contracted with a local firm to supply food to the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane, as well to the Indian negotiators, diplomats, relief workers and journalists at Kandahar airport.

    Food supplies in Kandahar were running low yesterday, forcing de Mul to assist the Taleban authorities in making alternative arrangements. The World Food Programme and other relief agencies are involved. Two meals a day will be prepared from supplies in Kandahar, and one, dinner, will be flown in from Islamabad.

    De Mul has also been coordinating with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has established a medical facility at the airport. ICRC has also reinforced the central hospital in Kandahar.

    The Humanitarian Coordinator has set up tents at the airport as well, to accommodate passengers should they be allowed by the hijackers to leave the plane.

    At the request of the Indian Government, and with the support of the Taleban, de Mul has been assisting with the humanitarian aspects of the hostage crisis. He has had no role in the negotiations between an Indian Government team and the hijackers.


    The Security Council began its informal consultations this morning with a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi on Sierra Leone.

    Last week, the Secretary-General, in a letter to the President of the Security Council, voiced concern that there could be a "dangerous security gap" in areas like Lungi and Freetown if the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) troops depart in the next several months.

    Accordingly, the Secretary-General has recommended that the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) be expanded to a total of nearly 10,000 military personnel, from its present authorized level of 6,000, to make up for the loss of ECOMOG troops. He has also recommended that UNAMSIL's mandate be expanded to take on some of the responsibility ECOMOG now has to provide security at Lungi airport and in Freetown.

    In Sierra Leone yesterday, Maj. Gen. Vijay Kumar Jetley, Force Commander of UNAMSIL, paid a courtesy call on Foday Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front Party, in which the two discussed the deployment and mandate of UNAMSIL troops.

    So far, a total of 3,938 former combatants have reported in to the disarmament camps in Sierra Leone.

    After the consultations on Sierra Leone, the Council is scheduled to hold a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.

    In the Secretary-General's report to the Council on Guinea-Bissau, which was issued Monday, Annan notes his agreement with the interim Government to extend the mandate of the United Nations Peace-Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) until 31 March 2000.

    Since no candidate won the 28 November Presidential elections, the Secretary-General says in the report, a second round of voting for the two leading candidates has been scheduled for 16 January 2000. He has urged Member States and organizations to provide assistance for the second round of voting.

    The Council may discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo among "other matters" in today's consultations.


    The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) is planning to begin next Tuesday the excavations of 19 grave sites that have been found in Liquica, west of the capital, Dili. Three of the sites were found today, and two bodies were exhumed.

    In the last six to seven weeks, 69 bodies have been recovered in the region, believed to be the remains of the victims of the Liquica church massacre in April, as well as of the violence which followed the 30 August ballot.

    UNTAET expected the excavations will last for about three weeks, and the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) is helping with the work of exhuming the bodies.

    Also today in East Timor, Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello signed Regulation No. 4, establishing an Official Gazette of East Timor.

    UNTAET plans to host two events, on 31 December and 1 January, to mark the new millennium. The events will include traditional Timorese music and dancing, as well as a rock concert by the band "Lahane" and afternoon festivities on New Year's Day for children. The events will be broadcast live on New Year's Day as part of the "PBS New Year's Programme." One ten-minute segment, in which Lahane will sing a song written for the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) and de Mello will address the East Timorese people, will be broadcast live, at approximately 7:20 a.m. on Friday (Eastern Standard Time), on the PBS network.


    The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday sent its 19th aid convoy to Ingushetia, comprising 34 trucks which carried more than 240 tonnes of food, as well as bedding materials, clothing, hygiene items and children's gifts for displaced Chechens.

    Including two convoys to Dagestan and one to North Ossetia, UNHCR so far has dispatched 22 aid convoys carrying more than 5,000 tonnes of relief, including 2,600 tonnes of food and 2,500 tonnes of non-food items.

    UNHCR has no reports of increased number of internally displaced persons fleeing from Chechnya since the Russian military assault on Grozny began. Estimates of the remaining civilian population in Grozny range from 10,000 to 50,000 people, and UNHCR is concerned that many of the civilians in Grozny may not have the ability to leave the city.


    The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) announced today the beginning of multi-ethnic train service in Kosovo. The service, which began on Monday, is along a 50 kilometre line connecting the towns of Kosovo Polje, just outside of Pristina, and Zvechen, to the northwest, which is close to the border with Serbia.

    The locomotives and passenger cars were donated by the Governments of France and Germany. Security at the stations along the route and on the trains was beefed up by UN police and by the Kosovo Force (KFOR). Two hundred people rode the trains on Monday, and 400 did so yesterday.

    If the service continues to be successful, it will be expanded. The UN Mission sees it as an important first step in establishing normal transport for all.


    The Secretary-General marked the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity by issuing a message urging Governments to make progress in fulfilling the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

    "Clearly, many nations are making commendable efforts to adhere to the Convention," he said. "Still, the threats to species and to ecosystems remain ominous; species extinctions caused by human activities continue at an alarming rate."


    The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a press release today that it has so far made emergency cash grants amounting to 280,000 dollars for relief activities following the floods in Venezuela. Total contributions reported to OCHA amount to 12.6 million dollars.

    Klaus Toepfer, Director-General of the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, said that he has submitted proposals to UN Headquarters for a plan to improve and modernize the Nairobi facilities. Plans are now in place to improve interpretation and translation services, and to prepare for several major international meetings scheduled for the coming year.

    This evening, the west side of the UN Headquarters, which faces First Avenue, will be lit up to read "UN 2000," in honour of the millennium and of next year's Millennium Assembly. The lighting will begin at approximately 5:30 p.m.

    Belarus completed its payment on its 1999 dues today, after paying more than 852,000 dollars. Belarus becomes the 125th Member State to have paid its 1999 dues in full before the end of the year, expanding this year's record tally. Also, Brazil made a partial payment of more than 19.1 million dollars on its prior-year dues, an amount sufficient to allow Brazil to maintain its vote in the General Assembly for next year.


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