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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-04-05

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 DAVID WIMHURST

ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, April 5, 2000

SECRETARY-GENERAL BEGINS VISIT TO ITALY

Secretary-General Kofi Annan began a visit to Italy today, in which he will meet with Italian officials and then chair the UN's Administrative Committee on Coordination, which meets twice a year and brings together the heads of all UN funds, programs and agencies.

Annan began today with a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, who reported on the latest debt-relief initiatives announced at the Euro-African Summit in Cairo, Egypt. They then discussed the Balkans, specifically Kosovo, and the Northern Caucasus, including Chechnya. They also reviewed the threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, peace efforts in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Iraq.

The Foreign Minister stressed the importance of preventive diplomacy in order to lessen the need for peacekeeping. They also discussed in detail Israel's announced intention to withdraw from southern Lebanon, consistent with Security Council resolutions.

They also talked about UN reform, including Security Council reform and cost sharing. The Secretary-General thanked Dini for Italy's support, specifically on debt relief and East Timor. They then held a press conference.

Annan spoke with reporters about the famine in the Horn of Africa. "I urge those with the capacity to give and to give generously so that we can save lives," he said. "It is not too late to save lives if we respond at this point."

After that, the Secretary-General joined Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema for a tour of a newly-restored Roman imperial villa. Afterwards, they met for about three-quarters of an hour and then continued discussions over lunch.

The Prime Minister noted several themes featured in the Secretary-General's Millennium Report, including the need to strengthen international institutions in an age of globalization and how best to fight poverty and exclusion. The Secretary-General commented on how much the Prime Minister's ideas supported his own thinking and said he was "encouraged."

Annan then went to the new headquarters of the World Food Programme (WFP), where he laid a wreath at a memorial plaque for WFP staff killed in the line of duty. He then addressed several hundred WFP staff and answered questions from them on humanitarian issues in Iraq, gender issues and the security of UN staff in the field.

In the evening, the Secretary-General was expected to go to the Senate of the Republic to address the Italian Senate and Chamber of Deputies, in the first such address by a Secretary-General. He is expected to emphasize one of the themes contained in his Millennium Report -- the need to free human beings from want and break the cycle of misery that creates extreme poverty, which, the Secretary-General says, is an affront to our common humanity.

Also this evening, he is to meet with Mike Moore, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and with Eduard Kukan, Foreign Minister of Slovakia and his Special Envoy for the Balkans. He is expected to hold a press conference in Rome on Thursday.

In response to a question about the Secretary-General's plans to meet Pope John Paul II, the Spokesman said after the briefing that the Secretary-General is expected to meet the Pope at 11:30 local time on Friday. Click here for Annan's itinerary.

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES UN IRAQ-KUWAIT OBSERVER MISSION

The Security Council this morning heard a briefing in closed consultations from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations H&eacute;di Annabi on the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM). Annabi introduced the Secretary-General's recent report on the Mission, in which the Secretary-General notes that the situation along the Iraq-Kuwait border has remained calm.

The Council will send a letter to the Secretary-General to extend the mandate of the Observer Mission, which is set to expire on Thursday. The Mission, unlike several other peacekeeping operations, does not need to be renewed by the adoption of a new resolution.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Council discussed its program of work for April, and also accepted terms of reference for a visit by a delegation of Council members to Kosovo on April 28-29.

The Council mission will be headed by Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh and will observe the operations of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo and convey a message to all concerned on the need to reject violence. Further details on the composition of the mission are still being discussed.

The next meeting of the Council will be on Friday, when Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy will chair an open briefing on Afghanistan.

TOP UN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT AFTER VISITING CHECHNYA

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today addressed the Commission on Human Rights today in Geneva on her visit during the past week to the Northern Caucasus, including Chechnya.

She said that, during her visit, she heard allegations of mass killings, summary executions, rape, torture and pillage and detailed firsthand testimony from witnesses of alleged gross violations of human rights abuses in Chechnya. She added, "The individuals were clearly traumatized by what they had endured, and frightened, but they gave detailed, precise answers to close questioning."

Robinson described the scale of destruction in Grozny as shocking. She said, "The sight of a city which was once famous in the Caucasus region reduced to rubble symbolizes the devastating effect of the conflict."

She added that the primary responsibility for addressing human rights violations rests with the Russian authorities and said, "I firmly believe it requires a sustained, effective national response."

Asked about the Secretary-General's support for Robinson's statements on Chechnya, the Spokesman noted that the two had met yesterday at the airport in Geneva, and that the Secretary-General was "encouraging and supportive" of her efforts on Chechnya.

In response to a question, the Spokesman added after the briefing that the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Russian Government on Chechnya has not yet been signed.

TENSIONS REPORTED AFTER SERBS DECIDE TO JOIN KOSOVO STRUCTURES

Serb representatives are expected to attend next week's meetings of the Interim Administrative Council as well as the Kosovo Transitional Council, following the decision by the Serb National Council of Gracanica to participate in the two bodies, which the Secretary-General welcomed Tuesday.

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) says that the decision to join has led to some tensions among the Serb community in Kosovo. For example, a demonstration by Serbs opposed to that decision took place in Gracanica today. Meanwhile, UNMIK is in the process of setting up a radio station in process of setting up so that the Gracanica Serbs can explain their decision to the public.

UNMIK today noted a report by the Kosovo Force (KFOR) on an angry confrontation yesterday between some 220 U.S. and Polish troops and 300 local Serbs in a village near Prizren in southern Kosovo, which resulted in 12 soldiers being injured.

UN police reported that three police officers from UNMIK went missing outside Gnjilane in southeastern Kosovo. It has now been confirmed that they were detained by Serbian authorities after crossing the boundary by mistake. UNMIK police are discussing their release with the Serbian authorities.

ANNAN WARNS MISSION IN HAITI SHORT OF FUNDS

In a letter to the President of the General Assembly, made available today, the Secretary-General notes the lack of financial resources for the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH).

He wrote that the General Assembly "may wish to consider whether, instead of preserving a presence in Haiti which has only core staff and is unable to carry out the envisaged activities in the areas of justice, human rights and police, the Mission be closed and its substantive activities transferred to the UN Development Programme."

Asked whether the funding problem had been caused by delays in funding from the United States, the Spokesman said that some $9 million are available from the regular budget to fund core staff, but some $14.7 million are expected from voluntary contributions. So far, Canada has provided some $600,000 of voluntary funding, but other contributions have not arrived, he added.

Wimhurst said that the Secretary-General was "pointing out that the situation is quite serious, and we have to prepared for a worst-case scenario if the funding doesn't go through."

UN DRUG CONTROL OFFICE NOTES OPIUM DESTRUCTION IN AFGHANISTAN

Today, Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) expressed his satisfaction at the announcement by the Taliban that it had destroyed 160 hectares of poppy fields in the Nangahar region of Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. Arlacchi said: "I hope this is the beginning of a serious commitment by the Taliban towards eradication of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan."

According to the ODCCP, Afghanistan produced 4,600 tons of opium last year, nearly doubling the output of the previous year. The Office estimates that 92,000 hectares were used for poppy cultivation, and that Afghanistan accounted for 75 percent of the total world opium production for the season 1998-99.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In response to a question, the Spokesman confirmed that, following his meeting on Tuesday with the Secretary-General in Geneva, Terje Roed Larsen, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has gone to Lebanon, where he is meeting with senior officials on the question of Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

Asked about the reported flight of an Italian plane to Iraq, the Spokesman said that whether the plane had violated the embargo would have to be dealt with by the Sanctions Committee on Iraq.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Transitional Administrator for East Timor, in a press briefing today in Dili, discussed the improving security situation there, the recently-formed Public Service Commission and the growing judicial system. He noted the decision to establish District Advisory Councils, which will bring together representatives from East Timorese civil society and the UN Transitional Administration at the local level.

This morning, Belize became the 96th country to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Court will enter into force once 60 nations have ratified the Statute; so far, seven countries have done so.

In a joint press release issued today, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization praised the consensus reached by health experts that the drug cotrimoxazole can be used in Africa to ward off some infections that strike at HIV-infected people. The drug can be used to combat certain bacterial pneumonias and diarrhoeal diseases.

The World Health Organization also issued an embargoed press release on World Health Day -- which is this Friday -- and its theme of safe blood supplies for all people, as well as a fact sheet on food safety and food-borne illnesses.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance has issued a situation report on the floods, triggered by heavy rains at the end of March, that have hit southern Bolivia.

In a press release issued today, the UN Children's Fund warns that babies born under 2.5 kilograms have a risk of dying during the neo-natal period that is 40 times greater than that for other babies, and have a 50 percent greater risk of serious developmental problems.

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