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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-01

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

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, March 1, 2000

MOZAMBIQUE: WFP TO TAKE FOOD TO FAMILIES MAROONED ON ROOFTOPS

The World Food Programme (WFP) said it would begin today to deliver by helicopter high-energy biscuits to families who are marooned on rooftops by the flooding in Mozambique and waiting to be rescued.

Saying there is a desperate need for more helicopters, WFP said the focus today would continue to be on saving people who have found shelter in trees. Thousands of people are said to still be stuck among the branches.

The UN Mine Action Service said it is very concerned about the impact of the flooding on the work undertaken in the heavily mined areas affected. Many of markings and the work and the work in progress have been seriously impeded. It is also likely that the position of many mines might shift. In addition, there is concern about the loss of local community knowledge of the location of mines. The full extent of the damage will obviously not be known until the flood waters have receded, but the Service is consulting with donors on how to respond and send in a team as soon as possible.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said it is currently working to establish a radio network between the capital, Maputo, and about a dozen shelter locations in the provinces.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today issued an urgent appeal to support the Mozambique relief efforts. She said a "humanitarian disaster" could develop if there were no adequate relief support from world governments.

UN TO EXPEDITE CONTRACT APPROVAL PROCESS FOR IRAQ

Today, new procedures take effect under which the UN Secretariat will be able to speed up the rate by which contracts for some food and educational items requested by Iraq under the "oil-for-food" program are approved.

In Resolution 1284, the Security Council directed the Council's Sanctions Committee on Iraq to allow the Secretariat to notify the Committee of expedited approval for several groups of items -- namely, foodstuffs, and medical, agricultural and educational supplies.

The lists of food and educational items to be approved on an expedited basis has been approved by the Sanctions Committee, and the United Nations can make use of the new procedures for those items starting today. Lists of medical and agricultural supplies to be approved on the same expedited basis have been drawn up by the Office for the Iraq Programme, and the Sanctions Committee is still considering them.

At 3 p.m. today, Hans von Sponeck, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, will give a press conference at UN Headquarters.

Asked about the dispute over arrangements for Iraqi pilgrims to visit Mecca for the yearly "hajj," the Spokesman said that an agreement has yet to be reached in the Security Council. However, he added, one plane reportedly left from Iraq for Mecca today, and Eckhard noted that such flights are permitted under the condition that Iraq notifies the Sanctions Committee. However, by mid-morning today, the Committee had not received such notification, he said.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF LANDMINES TREATY'S ENTRY INTO FORCE MARKED

The Secretary-General, in a statement issued through his Spokesman, said he wanted to congratulate the parties to the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, as well as their partners in civil society, on the first anniversary of the treaty's entry into force.

"Their commitment to the total eradication of anti-personnel mines has brought us this far in an astonishingly short period of time," the statement said. He added that the United Nations is "deeply engaged" in securing the full implementation of the convention and that the Secretary-General was gratified that 91 States have ratified it. The Secretary-General called on all States that have not signed the treaty yet to accede to it, and urged States that have signed the treaty to ratify it without delay.

SECURITY COUNCIL IDLE AS MONTH BEGINS

On this first day of March, the Security Council is not in session, as the new Council President for this month, Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, holds bilateral consultations with the other Council members.

Earlier this morning, the Council President received a courtesy call from Hans Blix, the new Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, who starts his duties officially today. Blix also met with the Secretary-General at 9:45 this morning.

On Thursday, the Council is expected to hold consultations on its program of work for March. In the afternoon, it is expected to hold a formal meeting to fill a vacancy on the International Court of Justice.

SHOOTING OF UN OFFICER IN SERBIA CALLED A MISTAKE

The Spokesman noted that new details had emerged on a shooting incident reported yesterday in Serbia, in which a UN staff member was wounded.

On Tuesday, a UN vehicle was ambushed by a group of armed and uniformed men near Bujanovac in southeastern Serbia, near the Kosovo border. As a result of the ambush, Marcel Grogan, an Irish national working for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, sustained two gunshot wounds to his legs. He was evacuated by Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops from the Kosovo border to Bondsteel Military base, where he received medical treatment and is now in stable condition.

After recognizing that they had attacked a UN vehicle, the attackers were apologetic, saying it was a case of mistaken identity. The attackers then directed the UN staff to a KFOR checkpoint west of the site of the ambush.

The area of Serbia in which the ambush took place has remained lawless since the end of the conflict last year and has seen increasing insecurity in recent months. The perpetrators identified themselves as a splinter group from the Kosovo conflict, indigenous to the predominantly Albanian villages in that part of Serbia.

UNICEF LAUNCHES IMMUNIZATION CAMPAIGN IN EAST TIMOR

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today launched the first major immunization campaign in East Timor since last August's referendum on independence. Twenty thousand infants are to be immunized against six childhood diseases.

At a press briefing in Dili today, Peter Galbraith, the UN Director of Political Affairs in East Timor, explained the significance of the communiqu&eacute; signed in Dili yesterday between visiting Indonesian President Abdurrhaman Wahid and UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Francis Deng, the Secretary-General's special representative on Internally Displaced Persons, concluded a visit to East Timor with a press conference in Dili. He said that the internally displaced were coming back to looted and destroyed homes and total devastation, while refugees in West Timor were being intimidated by anti-independence militia. (Click here for more information.)

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AID WORKERS EVACUATED FROM SOUTHERN SUDAN

The Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that 149 staff members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working under the umbrella of Operation Lifeline Sudan in areas of southern Sudan controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement have been evacuated.

The evacuation comes after an agreement regarding the text of a Memorandum of Understanding could not be reached with the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association, the Movement's humanitarian arm, after nine months of negotiations facilitated by the UN and donor governments and organizations.

The evacuation encompasses 11 of the 35 NGOs affiliated with the operation represents the temporary loss of a significant proportion of the humanitarian resources to the region.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about the response by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Carla del Ponte, to a media report today on the killing of President Juvenal Habyarimana, the Spokesman said that, "as a matter of policy, she would not comment on any information that may have been leaked concerning ongoing investigations."

Cyprus has become the 61st Member State to be paid in full for this year's regular budget. Today they made a payment of just over $350,000. (To access the full list of "Payments to the UN Regular Budget" click here.)

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