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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-02

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

Thursday, March 2, 2000

ANNAN BACKS REGIONAL APPROACH TO FLOOD-HIT SOUTHERN AFRICA

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been on the phone with President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique concerning the international response to the floods in that country. He also spoke today with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, which has played a leading role in airlifting victims from treetops and rooftops to safety.

"One problem is the shifting needs. Yesterday it was helicopters, today it is small boats, and the longer-term needs will include farm implements and seeds," the Spokesman said.

South Africa will host a meeting in Pretoria on Friday, with participants from not only Mozambique, but also other countries affected by the heavy rains and flooding -- notably Botswana and Zimbabwe -- in order to take a regional approach, the Secretary-General said today.

Ross Mountain, whom the Secretary-General has designated as his humanitarian coordinator for this emergency, will attend that Pretoria meeting.

The Secretary-General has also been in touch with potential donors. He had discussions with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer Wednesday morning and then with U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke later in the day. Once the Pretoria participants identify the priority needs, it is hoped that targeted assistance will follow.

MOZAMBIQUE: SEARCH AND RESCUE REMAINS MOST URGENT TASK

Amid some weather forecasts of a fresh cyclone threatening flood-stricken Mozambique, the most urgent task on the ground remained the search and rescue of victims clinging to tree branches, and stranded on rooftops and small bits of land.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is conducting search and rescue missions with 14 helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft. Seven of the helicopters are from the South African Defense force and seven are from the United Kingdom. According to WFP, there are a total of 37 light aircraft, including 16 helicopters, in the region today.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that more helicopters as well as other critically needed equipment and supplies were arriving in Mozambique.

The Office also flagged the need for boat operations to reach the estimated 800,000 to one million victims. Four inflatable boats with engines and emergency medical kits provided by the World Health Organization were among the relief items airlifted today from the Coordination Office's warehouse in Pisa, Italy.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched an urgent international appeal to help more than 300,000 farmers and their families.

OCHA also flagged the need for assistance to victims of flooding in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Swaziland and fielded a disaster assessment team to work with authorities and UN agencies already on the ground.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO FILL POST IN INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

The President of the Security Council for the month of March, Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, began today with bilateral consultations with other Council members.

At 3 p.m., the Council will go into consultations on its program of work for this month.

Then at 5 p.m., the Council is to go into a formal meeting, to elect a candidate to fill the vacancy left at the International Court of Justice by retiring Judge Stephen Schwebel of the United States. The candidate being considered is Thomas Buergenthal, who is also from the United States.

The Council's action will be held almost simultaneously with the General Assembly's consideration of the candidacy.

On Friday, the Council is expected to hold consultations on Haiti.

SECRETARY-GENERAL NOTES SOME PROGRESS IN HAITI

The latest report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on Haiti, issued today, deals with the work of the UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti, which is gradually reducing its presence in preparation for the transition to an International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti. That transition will take effect on March 15.

The Secretary-General noted some problems in voter registration for Haiti's elections, scheduled for later his month. Although voter registration began on January 24, the report noted that registration started late in some areas where there was electoral violence, and fraud and irregularities were reported in several areas.

However, the report also noted that more than three million voters had been reported to have registered by mid-February, and the Secretary-General called the progress of the electoral process "encouraging."

He also said that "while the security situation in Haiti remains of concern, the police force has been able to work with increased efficiency in recent months."

As the Police Mission withdraws its personnel, there have been problems in dealing with unrest. The Police Mission reported that a crowd of several thousand Haitians hindered efforts to move equipment out of offices in Port-au-Prince's Cit&eacute; Soleil neighborhood on Monday and badly damaged UN vehicles before local police restored calm.

There are currently more than 200 UN police in Haiti, but they are planned to complete their repatriation by March 15, when the Civilian Support Mission begins.

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IRAQ RESPONDS TO ARRANGEMENTS FOR HAJJ

The Government of Iraq has informed the United Nations this morning of its response to the arrangements for Iraqi Hajj pilgrims, which the Security Council Committee on Iraq approved Wednesday afternoon.

The letter from the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations on this matter, which is being translated from Arabic today, essentially rejects the proposed arrangements, saying that they are too late for this year's pilgrimage.

UNHCR REPORTS RISING TENSION IN SOUTHERN SERBIA

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed alarm in a press release over reports of rising tensions between Serbs and minority ethnic Albanians living in southern Serbia, resulting in a noticeable increase in displaced people arriving in neighboring Kosovo.

An estimated 60,000 to 70,000 ethnic Albanians still live in the Presevo-Bujanovac area along southern Serbia's provincial border with Kosovo. There have been increasing reports of instability along the border in recent weeks, including accounts from displaced Albanians of harassment and intimidation by Serb police and military.

Dennis McNamara, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said the increasing harassment of Albanians in southern Serbia may also be linked to recent ethnic unrest in the northern city of Mitrovica. At the same time, there has been an upsurge in attacks on non-Albanians, notably Serbs and Roma, across Kosovo.

McNamara will be the guest at the noon briefing Monday. Also on Monday, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo Bernard Kouchner is expected to brief the Council together with Kosovo Force Commander (KFOR) Gen. Klaus Reinhardt. That will be the first joint briefing in the Council by the two officials, who are expected to hold a press briefing later that day.

FIRST RAPID RESPONSE POLICE ARRIVE IN EAST TIMOR

An advance party of 15 Portuguese police officers, who will form the core of the Rapid Response Unit of the Civilian Police component of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), arrived in Dili Wednesday.

They are part of the 120-strong Portuguese contingent, which is expected to be deployed by March 13. They will be joined later by the second contingent coming from Jordan, whose strength is also 120.

The officers serving with the Rapid Response Unit will carry sidearms and short rifles. They are expected to respond to major security threats and other large-scale emergencies.

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DISMISSED BOSNIAN OFFICIALS BARRED FROM KEY POSITIONS

Today in Sarajevo, the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petrisch, announced that former public officials who had been dismissed by him would also be barred from holding any "positions of public trust." Those positions include all directly or indirectly elected, or appointed, public offices, as well as all positions in companies in which the Government accounts for more than 25 percent of the company's capital or business activities.

The High Representative's Office said he took that step after learning that some of the 22 officials whom he had dismissed last November were being considered for appointment to some public companies, judgeships and other positions of public trust. Some dismissed officials have continued to hold positions on steering boards and other high bodies following their dismissal.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about the UN's response to the release today of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet from the United Kingdom, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had viewed with interest his case and that of former Chadian President Hissene Habr&eacute; as an "indication of the evolution of international human rights law." Eckhard added that Pinochet's case is "emblematic of the broader changes taking place in the international community."

The Presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia met together today in Bamako, Mali, to attend the Mano River Union Summit, in which the three leaders discuss cooperation on economic and security matters. The recent wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone had posed problems for the Union, so today's meeting heralds something of a revival. The Secretary-General had promoted the concept of reviving the Mano River Union to bolster regional stability.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy, in a press release, thanked U.S. President Bill Clinton for his help in an initiative to save the lives of nearly 3 million children a year who die from vaccine-preventable diseases.

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