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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-04-12

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 MARIE OKABE

ASSOCIATE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

SECRETARY GENERAL ADDRESSES SOUTH SUMMIT OPENING IN CUBA

Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning addressed the first-ever Summit of the Group of 77 countries, formed in 1964 to fight poverty and promote development, and which today numbers 132 member countries, in addition to China.

Annan called on the developing countries of the South to work more closely together and said that South-South cooperation was now a pillar of the new approach of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The timing of the meeting, he said, couldn't be better. It comes just five months before the Millennium Summit, at which world leaders are expected to define the kind of United Nations they want to see in the 21st century. At that gathering, he declared, "the South's voice should not only be loud, but also clear, consistent and constructive."

The Secretary-General urged the heads of state to read his Millennium Report, and to react to his proposals to reduce poverty, curtail illegal small arms trade, and help poor countries benefit from the information technology revolution.

He called for a strengthening of the United Nations so that the global economy could be made more equitable by underpinning it with rules based on shared social objectives and institutions.

In the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General will have a number of bilateral meetings. Later today, he is expected to meet with Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia; Olusegun Obasanjo, the President of Nigeria; Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Chief Executive of Pakistan; Joaquim Chissano, President of Mozambique; Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestine Authority; and Jerry Rawlings, President of Ghana.

The Secretary-General is also scheduled to attend a reception this evening hosted by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON DR OF CONGO

The Security Council began its work this morning with closed consultations, in which it heard a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet on the latest developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Miyet noted the adoption last April 8 by the Political Committee of a plan to disengage the belligerent forces from their current lines of confrontation, under the supervision of the UN Mission and the Joint Military Commission. The adoption of the plan has added urgency to the deployment of the UN Mission, he said, noting that the Mission's chief of staff has stressed the need to deploy UN liaison and observer teams to Mbandaka and Mbuji-Mayi "as rapidly as possible."

He also noted concerns on the humanitarian front, with a deterioration in conditions in the eastern part of the country since the beginning of this year and some 550,000 internally displaced people caught up in the war.

The Security Council had been scheduled to hold consultations on Angola, but those consultations are now expected to take place on Thursday, so that Council members have time to evaluate the Secretary-General's report on that country.

Asked about the Security Council's plans to send a mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Spokesman said that preparations are underway for missions both to the DRC and to Kosovo. The Kosovo mission is scheduled to take place at the end of April, and will be led by Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh.

ANNAN ASKS FOR SIX-MONTH EXTENSION OF UN ANGOLA OFFICE

In his new report to the Security Council on Angola, available today, the Secretary-General noted that the security situation in Angola has continued to deteriorate, particularly along the border areas with Namibia and Zambia.

He also notes allegations of grave human rights violations against both the Government and UNITA, and says that special attention should be paid to the need to ensure respect for the human rights both of internally displaced persons and of those living in zones captured recently from UNITA.

The UN Office puts the total amount of the war-affected population at 3.7 million, including 1.6 million internally displaced persons -- out of a total population of 12.6 million.

The Secretary-General also noted in the report that he will send his Adviser for Special Assignments, Ibrahim Gambari, to Angola in May to hold discussions with the Government and will designate a head of the UN Office shortly. He also requested the Security Council to extend the Office's activities by six months, until October 15.

WESTERN SAHARA ENVOY VISITS SPAIN, FRANCE

The Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, James Baker, met this morning in Madrid with the Foreign Minister of Spain, Abel Matutes, and briefed him on his visit to Algiers, Tindouf and Rabat, which wrapped up on Tuesday.

In comments made to the press afterward, Baker said that the Settlement Plan concerning Western Sahara is "stuck," and he added that it is "extremely difficult" to obtain the consensus among the parties necessary to proceed forward.

However, he said, he will brief the Secretary-General in the next few days on the substance of his talks with the Governments of Morocco and Algeria and the leadership of the Polisario Front on whether the parties can, as he put it, "achieve an early, durable and agreed resolution of their dispute."

After his meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Baker flew to Paris to meet with French President Jacques Chirac. He will head back to the United States later today.

SPECIAL ENVOY BEGINS MISSION TO THE HORN OF AFRICA

World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Catherine Bertini, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy on the Drought in the Horn of Africa, began her tour of the region today to assess emergency relief needs. Her first visit was to Ethiopias drought-stricken Somali region.

Bertini visited Gode in southeastern Ethiopia, where some 1.3 million people are affected by the crisis. Of the affected population one-third are severely malnourished.

During her visit of Gode, Bertini surveyed several feeding centers. According to sources on the ground, the situation in Gode is improving, with mortality rates having reportedly declined by up to 70 percent.

On her way to Gode, Bertini passed a cemetery where she saw many fresh graves. Animal carcasses donkeys and cows, mainly -- littered the countryside.

Bertini also met with Government officials today. The meeting resulted in an agreement to set up eight new feeding centers for children in and around Gode. Each center will cater to between 1,000 and 1,500 children. Bertini also discussed with officials the problem of insecurity in the area and, in particular, the safety of humanitarian aid workers.

On Thursday, Bertini will meet senior government officials, including the Ethiopian Prime Minister, in the capital, Addis Ababa.

RESOLUTIONS INTRODUCED AT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Tuesday night at the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, the United States introduced a draft resolution expressing concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in China, while welcoming progress on the economic, legal and development fronts.

Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, also introduced a draft resolution on Chechnya, which among other things, "calls upon all parties to the conflict to take immediate steps to halt hostilities and the indiscriminate use of force, and to begin without delay the holding of a political dialogue".

Today was the deadline to introduce draft resolutions on the situation of human rights in specific countries. Other draft resolutions that were introduced included those on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Southern Lebanon and West Bekaa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Rwanda, Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Cuba, as well as on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The votes are to take place on April 18.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about reports that Israel had accepted a UN proposal to demarcate the Israel-Lebanon border, the Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General had informed the Security Council that he is awaiting a formal letter from Israel notifying him of its withdrawal from Lebanon. Okabe said that the United Nations would not have any further comment until the Secretary-General delivers his response. Contingency planning on Lebanon is underway at the United Nations, she added.

Asked about response to a Russian-led inquiry into human rights violations in Chechnya, the Spokesman noted that Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had called for an independent national inquiry on Chechnya after her recent visit to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus.

According to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia announced today in The Hague, forensic work for the tribunal would resume in Kosovo on April 18 after being shut down during the winter. He added that there are 300 suspected sites to be examined in four months. More details are in the weekly briefing notes.

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo noted that UN Police on Monday discovered a brothel in Urosevac where eight women were being kept against their will. Police say the women had been kidnapped from Russia, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The police are now working with the International Organization for Migration to ensure the women's return home. In a separate incident, UN Police arrested two men in Pristina Tuesday for trafficking in women.

TheUnited Nations Volunteers programme (UNV), in a press release issued in Bonn, noted the preparations by the Volunteers for electoral registration of the Kosovar population. Some 250 UN Volunteers are already in Kosovo and their number is expected to reach 700 by June.

According to the Monthly Summary of Troop Contributions, by the end of March, there were 29,286 military and civilian police personnel serving in 15 peacekeeping operations and three political missions. This is the highest deployment figure reached since December 1995, when the deployment reached just over 31,000.

The Spokesman noted that William Shawcross, the author of a recent interview with the Secretary-General that appeared in the Sunday Times of London three days ago, had noted an error he made in transcribing that interview. In a letter submitted to next week's Sunday Times, Shawcross says that he mistakenly dropped the word "some" from a reference made by Annan to "some African leaders," making it appear that the Secretary-General appeared to be criticizing all leaders of Africa. Shawcross says "that would be ludicrous and he did not do it."


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