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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-27

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 OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, March 27, 2000

ANNAN ADDRESSES DEFENSE MINISTERS AT SHIRBRIG SEMINAR

This morning at Rockefeller Center, Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivered an address on the challenges facing UN peacekeeping at the SHIRBRIG (Standby Forces High Readiness Brigade) Seminar, which is being held here today and Tuesday.

Participants in the seminar include the Defense Ministers of Austria, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland -- whose nations have participated in the SHIRBRIG Initiative, which is intended to provide on a standby basis a High Readiness Brigade for UN peacekeeping.

The Secretary-General told the delegates that, as the nature of conflict changes and more internal conflicts are waged, peacekeeping operations must also change. "If we show up looking small and weak, we are inviting trouble," he said, adding that a credible deterrent capacity is fundamental to the success of peacekeeping efforts.

It is also important, he said, to exercise leverage in other ways, from the strengthening of democratic institutions to efforts to curtail the financial support that allows military factions to keep fighting.

SHIRBRIG, he said, would be important in the future to help constitute a credible military capacity that could deter fighting, and to help parties implement peace agreements quickly.

THREE YOUTHS KILLED IN EAST TIMOR EXPLOSION

Three teenage boys were killed today by an exploding grenade in the town of Gleno, East Timor, south of Dili. Five boys were apparently carrying a grenade that they found to a house, where it exploded, killing three of them. The other two fled the scene, and it was not immediately known if they were injured.

Last week, three boys were killed and a fourth seriously injured near Baucau, when a shell they were throwing stones at detonated.

This second fatal incident involving unexploded ordnance occurred before a publicity campaign warning of the dangers of unexploded ordnance could begin. Officials from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) met last week to plan a joint effort to raise public awareness of the serious threat posed by unexploded ordnance.

IRAQ PROGRAMME CONFIRMS US LIFTING OF HOLDS

The Office of the Iraq Programme said today that, on Friday, the United States had lifted "holds" on 69 contracts, worth a total of $111.2 million. The contracts included 26 for the oil sector (worth $15.6 million) and 42 for the humanitarian sectors (worth $95.6 million). One contract remains placed on hold by another delegation. At the same time, the United States placed on hold seven contracts worth $7.6 million.

The net result is that the total level of holds fell to $1.67 billion.

Last Friday, the United States mentioned in the Security Council that the US Government would lift a number of "holds" it had placed on contracts under the "oil-for-food" programme.

GENOCIDE SUSPECT SURRENDERED TO RWANDA TRIBUNAL

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, a former Rwandan clergyman who had been arrested in Texas in September 1996, was surrendered by the United States last Friday to be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. The Tribunal expressed its appreciation to the US Government for his surrender.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright signed a decision authorizing his transfer to the Tribunal.

FR&Eacute;CHETTE ADDRESSES DONOR CONFERENCE ON SIERRA LEONE

Deputy-Secretary-General Louise Fr&eacute;chette is in London today, where she addressed a High-Level Donor Conference on Sierra Leone.

The conference, which she co-chairs with the World Bank and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, is focusing on reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction in Sierra Leone.

In her speech, she said, "The situation in Sierra Leone is fragile -- fragile enough that there is the risk we could lose the peace if we do not cooperate, communicate and coordinate fully. This meeting offers a welcome opportunity for all involved to pledge themselves to just such a unified plan of action, with real commitment and real resources."

In the afternoon, Fr&eacute;chette chaired a coordination meeting of agencies operating in the Balkans, attended by the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Balkans, Carl Bildt.

COUNCIL SANCTIONS COMMITTEE ON ANGOLA MEETS

There is no meeting of the Security Council today.

The Security Council Sanctions Committee on Angola is meeting this morning in the Council's consultation room to consider the report of the Angola panel, chaired by Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada. A Committee delegation visited Angola in January and presented its findings to a meeting of the Council two weeks ago.

Also, this afternoon, the Council's Working Group on Documentation and Procedures will meet.

On Tuesday, the Council expects to hear a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet on his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in closed consultations.

ANNAN TO MEET COORDINATOR FOR KUWAITI MISSING PERSONS

Yuli Vorontsov, the Secretary-General's High Level Coordinator for the Return of Missing Property and Missing Persons from Iraq to Kuwait, will meet with the Secretary-General this afternoon. This will be the first meeting between the two since Vorontsov was appointed six weeks ago. At that time, it was announced that he would discuss a plan of action with the Secretary-General this month.

Vorontsov, who serves at the rank of Under-Secretary-General, is also the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Commonwealth of Independent States.

HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR MEETS IRAQI PRESIDENT

Hans von Sponeck, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, met with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Sunday, at the conclusion of von Sponeck's term, which began in November 1998 and expires at the end of this month.

Von Sponeck is the only UN official to have met Hussein since the Secretary-General visited Iraq in February 1998.

Asked who had initiated the meeting the Spokesman said he had not received that information. However, he said, the meeting could be considered a routine farewell visit. He acknowledged that "in Baghdad, those visits are not quite so routine."

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEBATES RIGHT TO DEVELOP

This morning in Geneva, the Commission on Human Rights started its debate on the right to development by hearing its Independent Expert on the subject, Arjun Sengupta.

In his statement Sengupta recalled that the right to development had been recognized as a universal human right in Vienna in 1993. He said, "Governments who were part of the Vienna consensus are obliged to treat the right to development as a human right in all their dealings and transactions."

REPORT NOTES COMPLETION OF TRANSITION IN GUINEA-BISSAU

The Secretary-General's latest report on the work of the UN Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (or UNOGBIS), issued today, notes that, with the elections in January and the inauguration of President Kumba Yala, Guinea-Bissau's transition process has been completed.

The Secretary-General asserted that "the people of Guinea-Bissau have shown a clear desire for peace, but the daunting needs that remain are a reminder that this is not a time for complacency."

UNOGBIS has in the past several months helped the Supreme Court of Justice to train 37 new judges, and is also monitoring trials of people who have been detained over the past year, to ensure that human rights standards are upheld.

The Secretary-General said that Guinea-Bissau was one case where the UN had clearly helped a country return to peace and to constitutional order. The present mandate of UNOGBIS, which was to expire on March 31, has already been extended by the Security Council until the end of March 2001.

SPOKESMAN NOTES HEALTH STANDARDS AT UN CAFETERIA

In response to questions on health standards in the UN cafeteria, the Spokesman said he had received information on food preparation and inspection from Restaurant Associates, which handles all UN catering services, and from the UN Commercial Activities Service, which oversees its contract.

Both acknowledged that New York City health inspectors do not come in from outside to inspect the cafeteria or other eating areas in the UN.

However, they said, Restaurant Associates has hired an independent firm to conduct surprise inspections to check how well it complies with health standards. The inspectors, who have passes that allow them to enter the UN Headquarters on their own, visit once a month. The inspectors examine everything from temperatures to sanitary conditions observed by staff.

Restaurant Associates follows the industry-wide Hazardous Critical Point Program in determining its health standards. Temperatures of food in the serving areas are taken five times a day.

In the recent scores given by the outside inspectors, Restaurant Associates' grades fell in a range between 88 and 92 out of 100, which is good but can be improved, the Spokesman noted.

He added, in response to questions about problems with vermin, that the UN Headquarters, which overlooks the East River, has had problems with pest control. However, the Commercial Activities Services reported that the United Nations has weekly pest control efforts each Saturday, and has made some progress eliminating areas where vermin can live.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

The United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have teamed up to produce an anti-drug public service announcement featuring Sacramento Kings star Vlade Divac. The 30-second announcement will debut simultaneously at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City and on NBA.com on March 30, as part of NBA.com Global Week activities. UNDCP has named Divac a &quot;Goodwill Ambassador for Sports against Drugs.&quot;

The Holy See has made its full payment to the UN regular budget for the year 2000. It has become the second Non-Member State, after Switzerland, to be paid in full for this year by making a payment of $1,052. So far, 74 Member States have paid their regular budget contribution in full for this year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today in a new appeal that Mozambique will require at least $13 million over the next six months in reconstruction assistance for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, to address the needs of the rural people who are returning to their villages while floodwaters are receding.

The World Health Organisation issued a press release calling for hearings on tobacco as work begins on the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.

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  • The guest at today's briefing was Under-Secretary-General for Management Joseph Connor.

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