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United Nations Daily Highlights, 07-06-04

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

ARCHIVES

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MARIE OKABE

DEPUTY

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

U.N.

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, June 4, 2007

BAN KI-MOON IS EN ROUTE TO SPAIN AND THEN TO G-8 SUMMIT

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is on his way to Madrid, Spain, after a two-day visit to Panama, his first to Latin America as Secretary-General.

He participated last night in the opening session of the Organization of American States General Assembly.

Addressing the theme of the Assembly, Energy for Sustainable Development, the Secretary-General noted the progress made in the region in the field of biofuels and to successfully implement national energy efficiency programmes. He stressed the need for partnerships to combat the global threats posed by climate change with adverse effects already felt in many areas, including energy, food security and human health.

Global warming, he added, could also seriously impair our ability to reach the Millennium Development Goals and could even reverse achievements in human development.

The Secretary General is expected to pursue these issues when he attends the G-8 meeting on Thursday and Friday in Heiligendamn, Germany.

Yesterday morning, the Secretary General also visited the Panama Canal, one of the two most strategic artificial waterways in the world, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and where more than 14.000 ships transit every year.

Asked whether the Secretary-General would attend the G8 summit, the Spokeswoman confirmed that he would and noted that he had written to the G8 leaders and drew attention to two issues he considered important to be addressed at the summit -- achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and efforts to address climate change areas the G-8 leadership will be critical.

BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES START OF CHARLES TAYLOR TRIAL

The Secretary-General welcomed today the start of the trial of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in The Hague.

This is an important day for the international community, contributing to the fight against impunity and the strengthening of the rule of law not only in West Africa, but in the world as a whole.

The trial of Charles Taylor is a significant move towards peace and reconciliation in Sierra Leone and in the region.

The Secretary-General thanks all States for their assistance and contributions to the important work of the Special Court, and encourages their continued support to ensure the successful completion of its mandate.

The trial of Charles Taylor adjourned this morning in The Hague after an initial hearing, during which Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp presented his charges against the former Liberian president. Taylor did not attend the hearing but sent a lengthy statement challenging the competence of the Court and the charges against him. Taylor also dismissed his Court-appointed legal defense team, electing to represent himself when the trial resumes on June 25th.

BAN KI-MOON CONDEMNS KILLING OF RED CROSS WORKERS IN SRI LANKA

The Secretary-General condemns the brutal killings of two workers of the Sri Lankan Red Cross, and offers his condolences to their families.

He demands a thorough investigation by the police. He reminds the Government of its obligation to investigate the murders of 17 aid workers from Action Contre la Faim, who were killed 10 months ago.

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the security of civilians and aid workers in Sri Lanka and reminds all parties in the country that aid workers have a right to protection at all times.

WESTERN SAHARA TALKS TO BE HELD ON 18-19 JUNE

Asked to elaborate on reports on talks, scheduled for 18 June in or near New York, between Morocco and the Frente Prolisario, Okabe recalled that the Security Council in Resolution 1754 on Western Sahara called on the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions and requested the Secretary-General to set up the talks under UN auspices.

In order to implement the Resolution, Okabe said, the Secretary-General has invited the parties -- Morocco and the Frente Polisario -- along with neighboring countries Algeria and Mauritania, to a meeting in the New York region around 18 June.

Okabe added that the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, will conduct direct or proximity talks as first step in the process of negotiations, which the Secretary-General hopes will lead to a mutually agreed political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara.

In response to a further question, the Spokeswoman said that Ban Ki-moon mentioned the holding of the talks in an interview in advance of his planned official visit to Spain, where he is now headed.

SECURITY COUNCIL ADOPTS JUNE WORK PROGRAMME

The Security Council this morning adopted its programme of work for the month of June under the Belgian presidency.

The Security Council also briefly discussed other matters, including preparations for its planned mid-June mission to Africa, before adjourning for the day.

REPORT ON HYBRID DARFUR PEACEKEEPING FORCE

TO GO TO SECURITY COUNCIL TOMORROW

Asked if the Secretary-General was having any success responding to changes proposed by the African Union (AU) to a report on the planned UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping force for

Darfur, the Spokeswoman said that Ban Ki-moon, through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), has been in close consultations with the AU over the weekend to discuss the changes and that the report was now expected to go to the Security Council possibly as early as tomorrow.

"Once the report is endorsed by both the Security Council and the AU," Okabe explained, "it will go to the Sudanese government officially and then the three sides will begin talks on its implementation."

In response to another question, Okabe said that although Ban Ki-moon had been invited by the Sudanese leader to visit Sudan, she was not aware of any plans as of now for an official visit by the Secretary-General.

SITUATION IN LEBANON CAMPS DETERIORATES SIGNIFICANTLY

The situation in Palestine refugee camps in North Lebanon has deteriorated significantly, according to the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA).

UNRWA Commissioner General, Karen AbuZayd, says she is very concerned about the precarious situation of the refugees, who are now on the front lines of fighting.

The population of Beddawi camp has swollen from 16,000 persons to around 37,000. Life in the camp has become unbearable, she said.

UNRWA is trying to ease overcrowding by preparing temporary alternative accommodation for some of the displaced families. AbuZayd appealed to donors to take immediate action.

In response to a question, the Spokeswoman stressed that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has dismissed as utterly unfounded claims by the armed militant group Islam Al-Fattah that UNIFIL Maritime Task Force took part in a military standoff in and around the Nahr al-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees near Tripoli in northern Lebanon. She added that the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force did not take part in the fighting and continues to act fully within its mandate to assist the Lebanese authorities in preventing the illegal flow of arms from the sea.

TRIBUNAL TAKES CUSTODY OF BOSNIAN SERB ARMY OFFICER

INDICTED IN SREBRENICA MASSACRE

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has taken custody of Zdravko Tolimir, a high ranking Bosnian Serb Army officer indicted for genocide and other crimes committed in Srebrenica in 1995. Tolimir was transferred late on Friday into the Tribunal's custody following his arrest in Bosnia and Herzegovina after two years on the run.

Tolimir's arrest leaves only the Tribunal's two most wanted, General Ratko Mladi&#263;, former Bosnian Serb Army chief, and Radovan Karadic, former Bosnian Serb President, as fugitives from international justice for crimes committed in Srebrenica.

A former Assistant Commander for Intelligence and Security of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army, Tolimir is charged with the responsibility for the killing of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in July 1995.

In response to a question about a reported lawsuit against the Dutch Government and United Nations by survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, the Spokeswoman said that as of the time of the question, the United Nations had not yet received legal documents relating to a lawsuit against the Organization.

TIMOR-LESTE: SECURITY INCREASED FOLLOWING FATAL SHOOTINGS

The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) is strengthening electoral security in the Viqueque district, following two fatal shootings in the area over the weekend.

Acting head of UNMIT, Eric Tan, said both shootings are being treated seriously and that International Stabilization Forces (ISF) have deployed a platoon to the region. He added that the U.N. will also reinforce its security plan ahead of the June 30 election.

UNMITs senior leadership attended a meeting convened by President Josť Ramos-Horta this morning, where they stressed that retaliation for the latest event will not be tolerated. They again urged political supporters to remain calm and abide by democratic principles to ensure a free and fair election.

Meanwhile, 27 instances of violence were reported in Dili over the weekend.

SHRINKING SNOW AND ICE COVER COULD THREATEN 40 PERCENT

OF WORLDS POPULATION

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today

released its first global report on ice and snow. It found that an estimated 40 percent of the worlds population could be affected by declines in snow cover, sea ice, glaciers, permafrost and lake ice.

Impacts are likely to include significant changes in the availability of water for drinking and agriculture, rising sea levels, and increased avalanches and floods.

UNEP is also expressing concern about the dramatic growth in polar tourism in the last 10 years, and its impact on the environment and communities there.

TWO NEW UNICEF DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS NAMED

The Secretary-General has appointed Omar Abdi, a Somali-born Canadian citizen, and Hilde Johnson of Norway as Deputy Executive Directors of the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF). Mr.Abdi succeeds Mr. Toshiyuki Niwa of Japan, and Ms. Johnson succeeds Ms. Rima Salah of Jordan.

Mr. Abdi has been serving as Director of UNICEFs Middle East and North Africa Region since August last year. Before joining UNICEF in 1992, he held a number of senior positions in the Somali Government.

Ms. Johnson has been serving as Senior Adviser to the President of the African Development Bank since 2005. Immediately prior to that, she was Norway's Minister of International Development, a post she has held twice.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

UNITED NATIONS CONSTANTLY REVIEWS ITS WORK: Asked for a reaction to press reports on the UN policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea , which cited a leaked document, the Spokeswoman said that the United Nations is constantly reviewing its work in all the countries where it is engaged. A normal part of this process involves preparing options for the consideration of the Secretary-General. "The United Nations does not comment on internal documents developed as part of its ongoing work," Okabe noted. In response to questions about the policy committee, which is made up of senior advisors, the Spokeswoman said it met frequently under the Secretary-General to consider various policy options.

SECRETARY-GENERAL HAS REPEATEDLY EMPHASIZED DESIRE TO HELP PEOPLE IN IRAQ: Asked why the United Nations appeared to be more vocal now about a possible expansion of its work in Iraq, Okabe recalled that Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said that he would like to help the people of Iraq and is constantly seeking ways to do so.

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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