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United Nations Daily Highlights, 02-08-08

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

OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, August 8, 2002

NO REPLY YET FROM IRAQ TO LETTER, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS

As he entered UN Headquarters this morning, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked by CNN for his reaction to the speech that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gave in Baghdad today. He replied, "At this stage, it seems as if they are not giving in an inch." But he added, "We are at the early stages yet."

Asked about the Iraqi President's call for the UN to honor its obligations concerning UN sanctions against Iraq, the Secretary-General commented, "That is not new, adding, "In effect, this was part of the 19 questions they gave to the UN earlier this year."

He said he still did not have a response to his letter to the Iraqi Foreign Minister inviting chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to Baghdad for technical discussions.

As he left the Security Council today, the Secretary-General was again stopped by the press and asked about the Iraqi Presidents speech. "I don't see any change in attitude," he commented. "The President's statement, insisting on answers to the 19 questions, doesn't show any flexibility from their previous position."

"So this doesn't make you too optimistic that we are any further along?" a reporter asked.

"Not at this stage," the Secretary-General replied. "Unless there are unseen developments."

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS VIOLENCE IN COLOMBIA

The Secretary-General strongly condemned the violent attacks Wednesday in Bogotá, Colombia, during the inauguration ceremony of President Alvaro Uribe Velez, killing fourteen people while wounding dozens of others. The violence that, sadly, has become part of daily life in Colombia, he said, demonstrates a complete disregard for human life. Initial reports indicate that most of those killed were civilians from a poor neighborhood near the Presidential palace.

The Secretary-General emphatically condemned any attack against civilians and reiterated his longstanding appeal to all armed elements in Colombia to respect the civilian population. He extended his heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families, and expressed his hope that in the coming period Colombia will seek political solutions to resolve the countrys decades-long conflict.

ANNAN NOTES MIDDLE EAST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS; NAMES ENVOY

On Wednesday afternoon, the Secretary-General issued a statement, saying that all parties in the Middle East agree that the civilian population of the West Bank and Gaza is facing a severe and mounting humanitarian crisis. Three weeks ago the Quartet which comprises the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation met in New York, expressed their deep concern about this crisis, and agreed that the United Nations should lead a concerted international effort to alleviate the plight of the Palestinian people.

The Secretary-General, in his statement, says, I have therefore appointed Ms. Catherine Bertini, former head of the World Food Programme, as my Personal Humanitarian Envoy. She will be travelling to the region this weekend to assess the nature and the scale of the humanitarian crisis, and to review humanitarian needs in the light of recent developments.

He added that she will consult with UN officials in the area, as well as those of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and the donor and non-governmental community, to review assistance activities already under way, or planned, and identify any new measures that are needed. She will also meet the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to discuss with them what needs to be done.

She will report to the Secretary-General, and through him to the Quartet, on how to respond to the humanitarian situation and to prevent it from deteriorating further.

Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement Wednesday deploring the recent surge of violence in the Middle East, and condemning last weeks terrorist attack on the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an institution of higher learning with which UNESCO has maintained strong cooperation.

ANNAN ADDRESSES SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ON DR-CONGO

This morning, the Security Council held an open meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Secretary-General, South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, DRC Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu and Rwanda Special Envoy for the DRC Patrick Mazimhaka all spoke at the meeting.

In his speech, the Secretary-General hailed the signing of the peace agreement between the DRC and Rwandan Government in Pretoria on July 30 as an important political milestone, which could help pave the way towards a lasting resolution of one of Africas most complex conflicts. He then urged the parties to take the steps required to operationalize the agreement as soon as possible.

The Secretary-General underscored that the international community must provide all necessary support to the agreement and said that he had instructed the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) to determine which actions it could take within its current mandate and resources to assist the parties.

He welcomed the presence in the Council of the visiting speakers, saying, I look forward to a very serious dialogue, not only here in the Council, but also with various UN departments. I think this reflects the value of the new partnership between the African Union and the United Nations.

The Council then went into a private meeting, also on the DRC.

UN MISSION SAYS KOSOVO SUSPECT SHOULD HEED ARREST WARRANT

The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) today said that, following the issuance of an arrest warrant against him, Milan Ivanovic, a doctor in northern Mitrovica, should surrender himself to the appropriate authorities.

An international judge issued the arrest warrant last week, for Dr. Ivanovic to be tried on charges of attempted murder in connection with a violent demonstration that took place in Mitrovica last April 8. During that demonstration, 22 UN police officers were wounded after being attacked by people who fired guns and used hand grenades against them.

The UN Mission in Kosovo also has received copies of a report, which was launched Wednesday in New York by the group Mental Disability Rights International, detailing the poor treatment of mental inmates in Kosovo.

The Mission has been aware of the abuses and failings in the mental health field cited in the report, and it agrees that there are serious problems related to the treatment of mentally ill and disabled persons in Kosovo. UNMIK does not actually run mental institutions in Kosovo, which are the responsibility of Kosovos Ministry of Health, but it is working with local staff to try to improve the situation.

The main problem in dealing with those institutions, however, has been lack of resources. The Mission needs resources to improve staffing, training and facilities. So far, however, donor response in dealing with mental health priorities has been poor.

ANNAN NOTES PROGRESS BETWEEN BELIZE AND GUATEMALA

The Secretary-General has been following with interest the Belize-Guatemala Facilitation Process designed to assist the Governments of Belize and Guatemala achieve a peaceful resolution of the longstanding territorial controversy between the two countries.

The Secretary-General notes with satisfaction that significant progress has been made since the process began in August 2000 under the auspices of the Organization of American States. He now wishes to urge the parties to persevere in concluding outstanding issues. In so doing, he emphasizes that a permanent, just and equitable solution will benefit the peoples of Belize and Guatemala, and signal a new relationship between these Central American neighbors.

UNHCR TO BEGIN MOVING AFGHAN REFUGEES FROM BORDER ZONE

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today that it hopes to begin the voluntary move of refugees from Chaman and Spin Boldak on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to a new relocation site, which is being set up west of Kandahar, in the coming weeks.

There are over 30,000 displaced people in Spin Boldak and another 25,000 in Chaman, and the c onditions in both camps are described as appalling. Many aid agencies have retreated from the area, and access had been limited in the past months to those agencies that remained.

The relocation of the families from the border areas was requested by both the Afghan and Pakistani Governments.

WFP WARNS INSECURITY IN NORTHERN UGANDA HINDERING AID

The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that it has become unable to distribute food to camps in northern Uganda without heavily armed escorts. Even with the escorts, distribution is possible only on days when the authorities believe that security conditions permit, which is why there have been no deliveries in Gulu district for the past four days.

The situation has created a problem for internally displaced persons who are entirely dependent on WFP for food. Access to gardens near camps for the internally displaced is cut off by insecurity, and the harvest from those gardens is likely to be lost.

Over the past three days, WFP has also rushed 45 tons of food, in a heavily escorted convoy, to assist refugees who fled from the Achol Pii refugee camp following the attack earlier this week by Lords Resistance Army rebels, in which 50 people were killed.

GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY RECEIVES NEARLY $3 BILLION

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that a multi-billion dollar agreement was signed by donor countries Wednesday to boost the Global Environment Facility.

Executive Director of UNEP Klaus Toepfer welcomed the news that 32 countries have agreed to replenish the fund with $2.92 billion for its operations over the next four years. He said this was the largest amount ever for the Fund and would be an invaluable weapon in the fight against poverty and environmental degradation.

"The World Summit on Sustainable Development will be a crucial test of the world's ability and its enthusiasm for tackling the very pressing problems facing people and the planet today," Toepfer said. "The pledges for the GEF replenishment show that, in one critical area, we are starting to move from words to implementation."

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about events in the General Assembly to mark September 11 this year, the Spokesman said he was unaware of anything in the Assembly or the Security Council that had been scheduled so far for September 11. He noted that the Secretary-General and other officials may be invited by the City of New York to attend events scheduled by the City that evening, and said that planning within the UN system was likely to proceed now that the City has announced its own plans.

Asked about the Secretary-Generals meeting this afternoon with Libyan Ambassador Abuzed Omar Dorda, the Spokesman said the meeting was at the Ambassadors request.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today welcomed the expression of support from 53 African countries that jointly wrote to the United States, urging it to restore its contributions to the Fund. African countries are the major beneficiaries of UNFPA programs, and the recent decision on funding by the US Government will have a negative impact on the population programs in African countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been collaborating with the Government of Madagascar on the recent outbreak of a flu-like virus in the south of the country. WHO staff from the country office have been assisting in the verification and collection of samples, which have been sent to the French Pasteur Institute, where two of the 39 samples taken the area have tested positive for Influenza A viruses.

Chile today signed the Protocol on trafficking in persons and the Protocol against smuggling, both supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378 New York, NY 10017 Tel. 212-963-7162 - press/media only Fax. 212-963-7055

All other inquiries to be addressed to (212) 963-4475 or by e-mail to: inquiries@un.org


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