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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-06

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

Monday, March 6, 2000

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS PRIVATE MEETING ON KOSOVO

The Security Council this morning began a private meeting in which it was briefed by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, as well as by Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, Commander of the Kosovo Force (KFOR).

In the private meeting format, other Member States that do not sit on the Council may be invited to attend and hear the briefing, and a record is kept of the proceedings. However, the non-Council delegations may not speak at the meeting, which is closed to reporters and public.

In today's meeting, Kouchner presented the latest report of the Secretary-General on Kosovo, which is out on the racks today. In it, the Secretary-General says that the level of violence in Kosovo, especially against minorities, remains unacceptable, and he warns that "there was a serious deterioration in the security situation in early February."

The Secretary-General appealed to Member States to provide the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo with more police officers, Special Police Units, international judges and prosecutors, and penal experts. As of March 1, there were 2,361 UN Police serving on Kosovo, with three Special Police Units expected to arrive there this month.

He emphasized the need to design and finance programs for longer-term reconstruction and rehabilitation, as well as the revitalization of Kosovo's economy.

Reinhardt commented that KFOR had done its utmost to keep Kosovo safe, with KFOR soldiers conducting between 500 and 750 patrols every day. KFOR troops also guarded more than 550 key sites and operate more than 250 vehicle checkpoints daily. "On any given day, two out of three of my soldiers are out conducting security operations," he said.

The Council's session on Kosovo was scheduled to resume at 3 p.m.

PROGRESS REPORTED ON ASSISTANCE FOR MOZAMBIQUE

Steady progress is being reported on the assistance front in Mozambique.

The levels of all rivers continue to fall. Cyclone Gloria has dropped in intensity, but the weather forecast foresees heavy rains in southern Mozambique Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the latest situation report from the field.

Plans are being made to re-open road from Maputo, the capital, to the coastal city of Macia, about 150 kilometers northeast of Maputo. The opening of the road would facilitate delivery of much-needed food and other emergency items.

An estimated 950,000 people have been affected by the flooding, including 250,000 who have been displaced from their homes. It appears rescue operations by air are in the process of being completed. So far, more than 10,000 people have been rescued.

The major thrust now is the supply by air and water of food and equipment to ensure clean driving water as well as the movement of personnel and supplies to address health needs. One hundred tons of aid is being distributed daily. Shelter is also a priority. These needs were also among the priorities outlined by the ministers from Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa in a meeting held last Friday in Pretoria, South Africa.

Forty-three helicopters and 120 inflatable boats are involved in the aid operation. Two coordination centers, one in Maputo and the other in Beira in central Mozambique, have been set up. UN officials report excellent cooperation with military that are in place from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Malawi and South Africa, which had played a critical role in the early phase of the emergency.

Contributions, or at least pledges, now stand at $78 million.

Asked about UN advance warnings on the floods in Mozambique, the Spokesman said that an early warning system in Geneva sent out an alarm on the impending cyclones, but added that emergency response was complicated because the crisis occurred in two phases. The first phase involved heavy rains in Mozambique, which caused some flooding but did not appear to constitute a major crisis, he said; the subsequent cyclone created a major crisis.

The Spokesman noted the immediate responses by UN agencies on the ground and the airlift of assistance from a warehouse in Pisa, Italy, as well as talks with South Africa to coordinate among all concerned governments about assistance needs. "Still, it is hard to respond on a dime to a crisis so big that it affects a million people," he said.

ATTACK BY MILITIA REPORTED IN EAST TIMOR

In a serious security incident reported in a village east of Maliana yesterday, one East Timorese was allegedly killed, another wounded, and a third man kidnapped, allegedly by five militia men armed with automatic rifles and grenades. The kidnapped man escaped and reported the incident to the UN Civilian Police in Maliana. The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) is investigating the incident.

The family reunion gathering resumed last Saturday in Batugade, 5 kilometers from the border with West Timor. Two thousand people gathered at the border from East Timor and only 260 came from West Timor. Those numbers were much smaller compared to the last gathering two weeks ago, which was disrupted by a disturbance.

UNTAET attributed one of the reasons for this low turnout to the misinformation campaign conducted by pro-autonomy leaders. One of the leaflets distributed prior to the latest family gathering was issued by UNTAS (United Timorese Heroes) -- an acronym similar to that of UNTAET. The UN Mission reiterated its previous call on Indonesian authorities to persuade the pro-autonomy leaders to abandon antagonism and confrontation and opt for democratic competition.

Assistant UN High Commissioner for Refugees Soren Jessen-Petersen, who visited East Timor over the weekend, is visiting West Timor, starting this afternoon. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there could still be up to 100,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor, and that 50,000 or more might wish to go back home if they had a free choice. About 150,000 refugees have returned to East Timor so far.

Asked about the Secretary-General's trip to East Timor, the Spokesman said that he had repeatedly raised with Indonesian officials, including President Abdurrahman Wahid, the importance of allowing refugees to return from West Timor. "Our concern is the impediments being put in the way of those who want to return home, including the propaganda that scares them concerning conditions in East Timor," he said.

UN AID WORKER KILLED IN RWANDA

Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), today expressed outrage at the killing of a UN volunteer working for her agency in Rwanda.

The aid worker, Samuel Sargbah, a Liberian national, was shot dead on Saturday at around 9 p.m. by an unknown assailant while sitting in his car in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, after visiting a friend. An investigation is underway.

The death brings to three the number of WFP workers killed in Rwanda in the past three years.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED BY DELAY IN HAITI ELECTIONS

In response to a question on Haiti's elections, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General has noted with concern the announcement by the Haitian authorities last Friday that the legislative and local elections would be delayed beyond the previous scheduled date of March 19 for the first round. There has been no new date scheduled for the first round, Eckhard added.

The Secretary-General emphasizes the importance of prompt, free and fair legislative and local elections for the restoration of Haiti's Parliament and for the strengthening of Haitian democracy, he said. (Click here to see the latest report on Haiti.)

On Friday, the Security Council issued a statement to the press, emphasizing that it was important for Haiti to remain close to its electoral calendar.

AFGHAN TALKS TO BEGIN IN JEDDAH TUESDAY

Representatives of the warring factions in Afghanistan are expected to begin several days of peace talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday. The Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, will attend the talks as an observer.

The talks are being hosted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is currently chaired by Iran. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Vendrell will meet with delegations from the Taliban and the Northern Alliance separately; there are currently no plans for face-to-face talks between the parties.

The talks are expected to last no more than three days.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia issued a press release welcoming the detention of Dragoljub Prcac by the Stabilization Force (SFOR) on Sunday. Prcac is one of the original eight individuals charged in an indictment dated June 2, 1998, for crimes allegedly committed at the Omarska prison camp in north-western Bosnia between May and August 1992.

Four experts of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have called on the Russian Federation to investigate allegations of arbitrary detention, extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, torture and violence against women in Chechnya. A press release from Geneva provides more details.

Cuba and Saint Lucia have become the 63rd and 64th Member States, respectively, to pay this year's regular budget in full. Cuba made a payment of just over $250,000 and Saint Lucia a payment just over $10,000. (To access the full list of "Payments to the UN Regular Budget" click here.)

On Tuesday, the Secretary-General will hold his first press conference at UN Headquarters for this year at 11 a.m.

  • The guest at today's noon briefing was Dennis McNamara, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs in Kosovo.

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