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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-09

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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, March 9, 2000

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES HUMANITARIAN ISSUES

The Security Council began this morning with consultations on today's open debate on humanitarian action and the Council's role, before moving into a formal meeting on that subject.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan began today's open debate by noting the urgent need for aid in Mozambique. "The need for humanitarian assistance has never been greater," he said, in his statement, noting natural disasters like the floods in Mozambique and Venezuela and the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola.

Annan said that the Security Council needed to consider ways that humanitarian action could help peace and security efforts, to integrate humanitarian concerns into UN peace operations and ensure that the legal framework for humanitarian action is strengthened.

The Council's open debate is continuing, with 27 speakers inscribed; the debate will likely stretch on into the afternoon. At the end of the debate, the President of the Council will read a Presidential Statement on humanitarian action.

On Friday, the Council will hold closed consultations on general issues relating to sanctions.

The Spokesman was asked whether the Security Council would take up the question of Western Sahara in its closed consultations on Friday, and he confirmed after the briefing that it would. The consultations followed requests by some Council members on incidents in Western Sahara following a demonstration by several hundred people in Smara on March 1.

ANNAN VOICES CONCERN OVER MADAGASCAR FLOODING

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement issued through his Spokesman, said he is deeply concerned over the effects of flooding caused by Cyclone Gloria in Madagascar. The statement noted preliminary reports that 560,000 people have been affected, with 10,000 left homeless and another 12,000 others out of reach.

The cyclone has caused heavy damage to houses and road links, at a time when a cholera epidemic has resulted in more than 1,000 deaths. In response, UN agencies on the ground are undertaking further assessments and pre-positioning food and other assistance.

An official appeal for international assistance will be launched shortly, the statement said.

UN CONCERNED ABOUT HEAVY RAINS IN MOZAMBIQUE

Ross Mountain, the Secretary-General's Special Humanitarian Envoy to Mozambique, said that heavy rains in the flood-stricken country have hampered aid efforts today. He said helicopters and planes are waiting for the rains to ease so that aid operations can be resumed.

He also said a plane was scheduled to depart early Friday morning to look into unconfirmed reports that thousands may be stranded along the Limpopo River in southern Mozambique.

It was the second straight day of rains, and the weather forecast predicted further rains in the days ahead.

Mountain said that the lack of shelter materials in the camps is a particular concern, with concern mounting over people's health. An estimated 250,000 people in 74 camps are in need of urgent support.

Water levels have not yet risen but are being monitored very closely. Continuing rains will clearly pose a danger for people who wish to return to their shattered homes.

At UN headquarters today, the Economic and Social Council has scheduled a 3:30 p.m. meeting on the situation in Mozambique.

KFOR FOLLOWED STANDARD PROCEDURES IN MITROVICA

In response to a question concerning reports that the Kosovo Force (KFOR) had prevented UN police from promptly carrying out an investigation in Mitrovica on Tuesday, the Spokesman said it is standard procedure for KFOR to secure a site before KFOR and UN police perform a joint investigation.

The Spokesman said he regretted comments by a UN police officer cited in media today that complained about KFOR's actions. "In this case, it was appropriate for KFOR to secure the site first, and apparently after a few hours, when that was done, the civilian police investigators were allowed in and the joint investigation began," he said.

ANNAN NOTES MODEST PROGRESS IN SIERRA LEONE

In his report to the Security Council on Sierra Leone published today, the Secretary-General noted that "despite the precarious security situation in Sierra Leone, modest progress has undeniably been made towards the implementation of the governance provisions of the Lom&eacute; Agreement."

The Secretary-General listed the challenges that lie ahead in the peace process in the areas of disarmament; the extension of State authority throughout the country, national reconciliation and democratization, and the rebuilding of Sierra Leone's own security forces.

The Secretary-General said that he continues to be "very concerned about the often negative and confusing approach taken by Mr. Foday Sankoh to key elements of the peace process and the role entrusted of the United Nations."

He added, "For this process to succeed, it is imperative that the leaders of the Government of Sierra Leone, and the leaders of the Revolutionary United Front and other groups show tangible commitment to the implementation of the Lom&eacute; agreement."

Asked about the comments in the report criticizing Sankoh, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General hoped all leaders would cooperate in implementing peace agreements, but that he would frankly report Sankoh's behavior to the Security Council.

PEACE TALKS ON AFGHANISTAN END IN JEDDAH

The peace talks sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, between the warring factions in Afghanistan ended today, after three days of talks were held separately with the Taliban and the United Front.

The Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, attended the talks as an observer, and he and Deputy Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of Iran -- which chairs the Islamic Conference -- met with both parties from Tuesday through today.

The Spokesman noted reports that the parties have agreed to return later next month to Jeddah to resume talks, but added, "We cannot confirm those reports at this time."

TAX AND CUSTOMS SYSTEM ESTABLISHED FOR EAST TIMOR

As a symbol of progress toward independence, East Timor has for the first time in its history its own tax system to provide the territory with revenue.

UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello on Wednesday signed Regulation 2000/12, which established a provisional tax and customs system for East Timor. The system covers imports, exports and domestically produced goods, except for those goods that are already on their way to East Timor by March 20.

The first taxes and duties will be collected by the border service of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about the agenda of a meeting at 4:30 this afternoon between the Secretary-General and several Ambassadors, the Spokesman said the meeting was intended to inform concerned delegations about the upcoming trip of the Secretary-General's team, led by Legal Adviser Hans Corell, to Cambodia to discuss the trial of Khmer Rouges. The talks, he noted, would begin on March 17.

In response to a question about a recent article concerning the downing of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane in 1994, the Spokesman said the Rwandan Government had quoted him as categorically denying the existence of a report on that subject. The Spokesman said he could not confirm or deny the report's existence, which is a subject under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The Prosecutor of that Tribunal, Carla del Ponte, has reaffirmed that she will not comment on leaked documents, the Spokesman said.

The Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Liu Daqun, from China as new Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, effective April 1. Liu will serve the remainder of the term of office of Judge Wang Tieya, also from China, who has resigned for reasons of health, effective March 31. That term will expire on November 16, 2001.

According to the monthly summary of troop contributions to peacekeeping operations, as of February 29, the United Nations had 27,610 military and police personnel serving in 16 peacekeeping missions and three other peace operations worldwide.

This afternoon, Bangladesh will deposit its instrument of ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at UN Headquarters. Bangladesh becomes the 54th state party to the treaty, which has been signed by 155 countries. It needs to be ratified by a list of 44 specific countries before it can enter into force.

The World Health Organization issued a press release outlining new duties among several senior managers, and the Food and Agriculture Organization announced that it would launch a study on how Government policies affect tobacco production and consumption. That report will be completed early next year.

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