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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-05-08

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 FROM THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, May 8, 2001

ANNAN DISCUSSES KOSOVO WITH YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT

The Secretary-General met today at 11:00 a.m. with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who afterward briefed the press. The Secretary-General had met earlier in the day with his Special Representative for Kosovo Hans Haekkerup and Special Envoy for the Balkans Carl Bildt.

Hans Haekkerup will briefing the Council and the press on Wednesday.

In response to questions, the Spokesman said that the discussion between the Secretary-General and the Yugoslav President had been sober and positive. The President had expressed his concerns on the legal framework for Kosovo, and the Secretary-General responded that he expected those concerns would be discussed in Haekkerup's continuing consultations with Yugoslav authorities.

Work on the legal framework, Eckhard said, has not been finished. Haekkerup continues to seek the specific concerns by Kosovo's minorities. The Spokesman added that the legal framework would be a "blueprint for the way forward," and would pave the way for possible local elections.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that some 6,000 people have arrived in Kosovo from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) since May 3, amid new clashes between ethnic Albanian militants and FYROM security forces. Most of the people are leaving as a precautionary measure, UNHCR says.

Asked about the ethnicity of the refugees, the Spokesman said that most were ethnic Albanians from the northern FYROM.

UN MISSION CONDEMNS TARGETING OF RELIGIOUS SITES IN BOSNIA

On Monday night in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a hand grenade was thrown at a Serb Orthodox Church in the Federation-controlled town of Sanski Most, in the second attack on a religious institution following the violence earlier that day at a sixteenth-century mosque that was to be reconstructed in Banja Luka. There were no injuries, although the church sustained minor damage.

Police in the area have arrested two Bosnian Muslim men, one of whom has made a confession. The UN International Police Task Force welcomed the quick reaction of the police and condemned the targeting of religious sites.

Today, UN officials are meeting with Republika Srpska officials in Banja Luka, following the violent standoff near the mosque, in which 30 people -- 19 Muslims and 11 Serbs -- suffered injuries that required medical attention at the nearby hospital.

Also today, UN officials met with local court officials in Trebinje, where Bosnian Serbs demonstrated violently on Saturday at another mosque that is to be reconstructed. The UN Mission expects that criminal charges will be filed later today against participants in Saturday's violence.

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON UN OFFICE CLOSURES IN AFGHANISTAN

The Security Council, in its closed consultations this morning, received a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergrast on the closure of the UN political offices in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

On May 1, the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan received a note verbale from the Taliban requesting the closure as soon as possible of the Missions offices outside Kabul. The Secretary-Generals Personal Representative, Francesc Vendrell, met with the Talibans so-called Foreign Minister, Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil, the following day in Kandahar. At that meeting, it was agreed that the UN Mission would close its offices in Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif by May 20. The Kabul office is to remain functional. The office in Faizabad, which is not in Taliban-controlled territory, is not affected.

In response to questions, the Spokesman noted that, although the closures would affect the United Nations' political work in Afghanistan, it would not affect UN humanitarian efforts. He added that the UN political office in Kabul would remain open.

Asked about the status of the Taliban at the United Nations, the Spokesman recalled that the General Assembly does not recognize the Taliban as the Government of Afghanistan.

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES UN MISSION IN ETHIOPIA, ERITREA

Following its discussion on Afghanistan, the Security Council held consultations today on Eritrea and Ethiopia. Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Ethiopia and Eritrea, briefed Council members on developments since the establishment of the Temporary Security Zone on April 18, including freedom of movement for UN peacekeepers. He also spoke to the press following the noon briefing.

The Council also discussed its upcoming mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, who is leading that mission, is scheduled to brief the press on Monday, May 14, immediately after the noon briefing.

MIDDLE EAST ENVOY DISTRESSED BY VIOLENCE IN GAZA, WEST BANK

Today in Gaza, the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Terje Roed Larsen, received a delegation of women whose families had been affected by yesterday's violence in Gaza.

Speaking from New York, where he is meeting with UN officials this week, Larsen voiced his distress at the loss of civilian life in Gaza and the West Bank and said he would brief the Secretary-General on the acute situation facing the Palestinians. He said he was particularly shocked by the death of a four-month-old girl in yesterday's violence.

Asked about the Secretary-General's response to the report issued by the Commission chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had received the report last Friday and was studying it. He noted that the parties have a roughly two-week period to study the report and comment on it.

ANNAN RECEIVES STATUE TO MARK OLYMPIC TRUCE OBSERVANCE

This morning, just outside the General Assembly building, Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended the presentation of a statue that is to be displayed temporarily on occasions when the Olympic Truce is in effect, or is being discussed in the General Assembly.

The Secretary-General had been greeted at the delegates' lobby by several officials who are attending today's meeting of the Board of Directors of the International Olympic Truce Foundation, including the President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, and the Foreign Minister of Greece, George A. Papandreou.

Samaranch announced that the International Olympic Committee would make a $100,000 donation to the United Nations for the fight against AIDS. That offer follows the Secretary-General's decision to donate the $100,000 cash prize for the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, which he is to receive on July 4th, as the first contribution to a proposed global fund against AIDS.

The Secretary-General also spoke at the Board of Directors meeting, and noted the importance of a truce at the time of the Olympics as an opportunity for warring parties to lay down arms, at least for a while.

As he told reporters from Greek public television upon entering the building today, the Olympic Truce allows people to envision what it would be like to have 24 hours without war. He added, "Any time you can get protagonists to stop fighting, you are winning the game."

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO DISCUSS AIDS IN WASHINGTON TRIP

The Secretary-General will be in Washington Wednesday afternoon, where, as part of his discussions with senior US officials on the global fight against HIV/AIDS, the Secretary-General will meet with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.

The Secretary-General will come back to New York Wednesday night and is expected back at Headquarters Thursday morning.

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS ON IRAQ CONTRACT DECREASE, SAYS UN

The Office of the Iraq Programme, in its weekly update, notes that the total value of contracts placed on hold by the Security Councils Sanctions Committee decreased last week, both in absolute and relative terms, after months of gradual increase. Overall, 1,691 contracts worth $3.5 billion were on hold, representing 17.1 percent of the value of all contracts circulated to the Committee.

For the first time in many weeks, the amount of humanitarian supply contracts released from hold by the Committee exceeded the amount of new ones placed on hold.

During the week lasting from April 28 to May 4, Iraq exported 14.4 million barrels of oil, at the rate of 2.06 million barrels per day, raising an estimated 371 million euros in revenue at current prices.

UNICEF CONDEMNS ABDUCTION OF CHILDREN BY ANGOLA REBELS

The UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Angola have strongly condemned the abduction last weekend of 60 children during an attack by the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and have called upon those responsible to ensure their safe and immediate release.

The children, who range in age from 10 to 18 years, were abducted from a childrens home outside the town of Caxito, in northwestern Angola. The whereabouts of the group of 5 girls and 51 boys and one of their teachers is unknown. Four humanitarian workers were also killed in the attack and a number of civilians wounded.

Although the motivation behind the abduction is unclear, armed groups have been known to use children to carry goods and ammunition and to cook and clean, and even to recruit them as soldiers.

WFP WARNS OF HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN CONGO-KINSHASA

The World Food Programme (WFP) today warned of a humanitarian crisis emerging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

WFP is deploying more emergency staff to various parts of the country as aid workers gain access to areas previously cut off and isolated in the conflict. The agency is planning an airlift of emergency supplies to a number of isolated areas and is appealing to donors for funds. Forty-three million dollars are still needed to fund the operation in the DRC, which will feed 1.4 million people to the end of the year.

WFP estimates that there are tens of thousands of hungry and malnourished people who have been displaced or trapped in the bush and hundreds of thousands more who need food aid. In the town of Manono in Katanga province, WFP recently made its first food delivery and estimates that 23 percent of the children under five are malnourished, 19 percent severely.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In response to questions on the losses of US seats on both the Human Rights Commission and the International Narcotics Control Board -- which took place in votes in the Economic and Social Council last Thursday -- the Spokesman noted that some media have portrayed those losses as a matter of intergovernmental relations.

A new study commissioned by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) recommends that demining programs should focus on the impact mines have on people's lives, rather than on the number of mines that are deployed. Social aspects of mine clearance, such as how landmines affect economic activity, should be considered in mine action programs, the study says.

Today in Beirut, experts from the 13 countries that make up the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia began a preparatory meeting, two days ahead of the Commission's two-day ministerial session. At today's meeting, the Commission's Executive Secretary, Mervat Tellawy, said that, despite many obstacles, the Commission has carried out a record high of 99 percent of its activities during 1998 and 1999.

The UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice begins its tenth session today in Vienna. Representatives of 40 countries will focus on the progress made in fighting corruption. The session will end on May 17.

This morning, the Russian Federation became the 67th country to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The web page of the UN Radio in Portuguese will be launched this afternoon.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055


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