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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-28

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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

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

ANNAN APPOINTS NEW HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR FOR IRAQ

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appointed Tun Myat of Myanmar as Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. Tun Myat has worked for the UN system for some 22 years, and is currently an official of the World Food Programme in Rome.

He succeeds Hans von Sponeck of Germany, who resigned as of the end of his current contract on March 31.

Asked when Myat's appointment would begin, the Spokesman said it would probably start around April 1. He said he had talked to Myat, who assumed that he would travel to New York before going to Baghdad; no dates were set for his travel, the Spokesman said.

The Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General had personally interviewed the three final candidates for the post in a confidential process.

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

The Security Council met in closed consultations today to hear a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet on his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the wider Great Lakes region.

Miyet told the Council that all the Heads of State and senior officials whom he met during his visit pledged to adhere to the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement and to comply with Security Council resolutions.

However, he also noted several problems, including the outbreak of serious fighting in the DRC, particularly in Kasai Province. The parties, he said, are demonstrably not adhering to the cease-fire.

Miyet also warned of the need for freedom of movement of the expanded UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) that is to be deployed in the coming months, but he added that the Mission would continue to carry out logistical preparations for its wider deployment.

The Security Council will hear briefings on Wednesday from the Secretariat on Bougainville, Somalia and Guinea-Bissau. Guinea-Bissau will be discussed in an open briefing, while the other two subjects will be dealt with in closed consultations.

UN TURNS OVER INTERNAL MEMORANDUM ON RWANDA TO TRIBUNAL

The Spokesman noted that a three-page internal memorandum concerning the 1994 shooting down of a plane that carried the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi had been found in the files of the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) in New York.

He noted the memo in light of a story published earlier this month by the 'National Post' of Canada, citing an alleged UN report on the 1994 incident. At the time when the article was released, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda searched its own files to find any such report and found nothing, he said.

The internal memo, Eckhard said, was drafted by Michael Hourigan, who had been an investigative team leader for the Tribunal Prosecutor's Office in Rwanda that was investigating that country's 1994 genocide. He subsequently was engaged on a short-term contract with OIOS, at which time he drafted the memo.

The Secretariat has now transferred a copy of the memo to the Tribunal, which will determine whether or not to make it available to lawyers for clients facing prosecution.

Asked for comment on the memo's status, the Spokesman said it was a confidential internal memorandum, in which one person expressed his thoughts and information conveyed to him, which went into the file. Given that OIOS had nothing to do with the investigation of the plane crash, he added, that memorandum was simply filed away.

REFUGEE RETURNS CONTINUE IN EAST TIMOR

Five hundred refugees sailed today from Kupang, in West Timor, bound for Dili, East Timor, while on Monday, more than 500 refugees crossed the border from West Timor to East Timor.

To date, 156,200 refugees have returned to East Timor since repatriation began last October, organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration.

However, the Indonesian Government has announced it will cease assisting the return of refugees to East Timor at the end of this month. Officials from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) are seeking a flexible arrangement on this issue, given that there are still tens of thousands of refugees in West Timor who would like to return to East Timor.

UNTAET expects that when the rainy season ends, sometime next month, there could be a new influx of returnees.

So far, most returnees have been integrated in East Timor without too many problems, although isolated security incidents have given cause for concern.

On Saturday night in Dili, two suspected ex-militia members who had returned a month earlier were beaten up by a group of men. When a UN police officer tried to intervene, he was also beaten. This was the first assault on a UN police officer in East Timor.

BOSNIA MISSION, CRIME CENTER DEAL WITH HUMAN TRAFFICKING

The UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced today in Sarajevo that, early this morning, members of the UN International Police Task Force monitored a raid carried out by the local police on a nightclub in an attempted crackdown on prostitution, the harboring of illegal aliens and possible trafficking in women.

During the raid, five Romanian women were found hidden in a secret room. The UN Police are now interviewing those women to determine whether they were held against their will and were victims of human trafficking, which is a growing problem in Bosnia.

In Vienna, the UN Centre for International Crime Prevention and the Government of the Philippines today launched a joint project to improve law enforcement against organized crime groups involved in human trafficking. This is the first pilot project launched by the Centre in its efforts to curb human trafficking. Similar projects are scheduled to begin this year in Eastern Europe, Western Africa and South America.

UNHCR REPORTS CONTINUED DEPARTURES FROM CHECHNYA

The Office for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that civilians continue to flee villages in southern Chechnya amid reports of widespread destruction of property and a continuing military push by Russian troops. According to UNHCR, the number of people fleeing Chechnya has remained steady at about 1,000 people per week.

Asked about talks on expanding UNHCR's access to Chechnya, the Spokesman noted that there was to have been a memorandum of understanding issued at the end of those talks. The agreement has not yet been signed.

The Spokesman, asked for responses to the Sunday elections in Russia, noted that he had issued a statement on that subject on Monday, in which the Secretary-General welcomed the successful holding of the elections and expressed his best wishes to President Vladimir Putin.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In response to questions on whether the Secretary-General would meet next month with Cuban President Fidel Castro, the Spokesman said the schedule hadn't been worked out, but noted that Annan was to have a day of official meetings with the Cuban Government on April 11 before attending meetings of the Group of 77 summit meeting in Havana on the following two days.

Asked about the United States' conditions that its UN assessments be reduced before it repays its UN arrears, the Spokesman noted that the U.S. Government was asking for its regular-budget dues to be reduced from 25 to 22 percent and its peacekeeping dues to be lowered from 31 to 25 percent. "It's a zero-sum game," Eckhard said. "If the United States wants to pay less, they will have to convince other Member States to pay more, and those discussions are already actively under way."

Asked about the Holy See's contribution to the United Nations as an observer, the Spokesman noted that the Contributions Committee determines the respective assessments of Member and Non-Member States, and had determined that the Holy See would pay just over $1,000 a year.

The World Food Programme today issued two appeals for its programs in Africa, one for $5 million for thousands affected by the floods in Madagascar and another for $16 million for a new food aid operation for the 350,000 people living in regroupment sites in Burundi.

The regular weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme, available today, shows that last week, Iraq exported 12.1 million barrels of oil for revenue of around $294 million, and that a further two contracts for the sale of oil were approved. Those contracts had been pending for several weeks.

The first major repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan this year began on Monday, according to today's briefing notes from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. There are still more than 2.5 million Afghans in Pakistan and Iran, making the world's single largest refugee group. Also, the weekly humanitarian update on Afghanistan says that the first National Immunization Days in Afghanistan this year will be held from May 1-3 and June 3-5, to allow children to be immunized against polio.

On Monday night in London, the Sierra Leone Donor Conference ended with a statement reaffirming support for last year's Lom&eacute; Peace Agreement and with a discussion on funding requirements for disarmament and reconstruction projects. More than $158 million was pledged by Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the African Development Bank and the European Commission.

Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy are to hold three days of consultations with leading non-governmental organizations from Wednesday until Friday on key issues concerning children and armed conflict. Participants at the meeting hope to contribute to the preparation of a report to be issued by the Secretary-General in July.

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