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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-03-29

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON GUINEA-BISSAU, BOUGAINVILLE, SOMALIA

The Security Council this morning began a busy schedule with an open briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast on the work of the UN Peace-Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau.

Prendergast told the Council that the overall situation in Guinea-Bissau is peaceful, and that the humanitarian situation has noticeably improved, although the new Government still lacks the resources to pay the overdue salaries owed to civil servants and soldiers.

After the briefing, the Council went into another formal meeting to adopt a Presidential Statement on Guinea-Bissau.

The Council then went into closed consultations, in which Prendergast reported on the latest developments in Somalia, notably the peace initiative led by President Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. Last week, dozens of Somali civil society leaders met in Djibouti to consider that plan.

After those consultations, the Council heard from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Turk on the situation in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

Under "other matters," the Council is expected to discuss a draft resolution on the allocation of funds for spare parts and equipment for Iraq's oil industry. A vote on that topic is tentatively expected for Friday.

COUNCIL MEMBERS TO TRAVEL TO WASHINGTON

There is no meeting of the Council scheduled for Thursday. Instead, the Council members will travel to Washington, D.C., where they are scheduled to visit the White House and to meet with members of both the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John Warner, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Jesse Helms. They also expect to meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, among other officials.

Asked about arrangements for the Washington trip, the Spokesman said he had been told that all 15 Ambassadors on the Security Council would attend, and noted that they would all travel individually and in their personal capacities. When asked for a reaction to the trip, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General believed that dialogue would be beneficial.

The Spokesman noted, in response to questions, that the Security Council was discussing plans for a trip to Kosovo. "It's always good for Council members to see the situation on the ground firsthand," he said.

UN MISSION ASSISTS HOSTAGE EXCHANGE IN GEORGIA

Earlier today, staff of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) successfully completed an exchange of hostages between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.

Four men held by the Georgians and seven men and one woman held by the Abkhazis where simultaneously swapped in an "all-for-all" exchange brokered by Dieter Boden, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Georgia.

Two UN helicopters were used in the operation, which was initially agreed by the parties at Boden's initiative early in February.

One helicopter carried the four on the Georgian side from Senaki to Sukhumi, while the second helicopter carried the eight held on the Abkhaz side in the reverse direction. The helicopters landed at their respective destinations at 13:45 local time (5.45 a.m. New York time).

The exchange, which was supported at the highest level by both sides, ends a series of "tit-for-tat" abductions that have been a cause of growing tension. The four Abkhazis held were two young law enforcement officers taken from their post late last year, and two other men involved in a shooting incident in January.

The eight Georgians include two men held since 1998 in connection with charges arising from events in May that year, and six other people kidnapped along the cease-fire line in December 1999 and January 2000.

UNOMIG staff said the operation went smoothly, to the satisfaction of all involved.

EAST TIMOR MISSION, INDONESIA SIGN AGREEMENT ON ASSISTANCE

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for East Timor, and Marzuki Darusman, the Attorney General of Indonesia, have concluded an interim agreement on the provision of mutual assistance in legal, judicial and human rights matters.

This agreement will be valid for eight weeks, pending a more formal and comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding on this issue. De Mello and Darusman will meet in Jakarta Thursday to restart negotiations on the Memorandum.

In the meantime the interim agreement allows both jurisdictions access to information that is relevant to an investigation, prosecution or trial. It also allows witnesses to be interviewed in either jurisdiction and allows medical experts from both to attend exhumations and forensic examinations in either.

UN WITHDRAWS STAFF FROM KANDAHAR AFTER TALIBAN SEARCHES

The United Nations has withdrawn its five international staff from Kandahar, Afghanistan, following two incidents in as many days in which Taliban security forces entered UN premises in violation of formal agreements between the parties.

"Given the seriousness and the repetition of these violations of United Nations immunity, the United Nations has been compelled to stop work in the area in the interests and safety of United Nations staff," the Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan said in a press release issued today.

The Taliban searched two UN offices in Kandahar on Tuesday night, belonging to the Food and Agriculture Organization and UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, where only national staff was present. National staff has now been instructed not to report to the UN offices until further notice.

POLICE DEPLOYMENT IN KOSOVO REACHES NEW HIGH

According to the latest figures from Pristina, Kosovo, the number of police on the ground in Kosovo stands at 2,820, the largest total to date.

According to the UN Civilian Police Unit, there are currently close to 6,000 police deployed in nine UN missions worldwide, including Kosovo, East Timor and Bosnia.

ILO STARTS PROCESS TO DEAL WITH FORCED LABOR IN MYANMAR

The International Labor Organization (ILO) says that, in an action unprecedented in its 80-year history, its Governing Body has set in motion a discussion which could result in an appeal to its other 174 member States to review their relationship with the Government of Myanmar.

Its initiative is designed to ensure that Myanmar "cannot take advantage of such relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labor" that is has allegedly practiced against the country's citizens.

Invoking for the first time Article 33 of the ILO Constitution, the Organization's Governing Body recommended that the International Labor Conference, which is to meet in Geneva this June, "take such action as it may deem wise and expedient to secure compliance" by Myanmar with the recommendations of a 1998 Commission of Inquiry.

Tuesday's Governing Body decision, which was adopted without vote and was categorically rejected by the Government Representative of Myanmar, is the latest in a long series of ILO findings and efforts to eliminate forced labor in that country.

UN OFFSHORE FORUM TO BE HELD IN CAYMAN ISLANDS

On March 30-31, the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention will host a meeting on money laundering in the Cayman Islands.

"The very mention of the word 'offshore' conjures up a highly negative scenario of fast boats, money laundering tax evasion, and secrecy," said Pino Arlacchi, Head of the Office.

The Forum's objective is to reach an agreement on common action to deal with the abuse of international financial services by money launderers.

Some 40 offshore centers are expected to attend, including the island of Jersey, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, and the Bahamas.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

In response to a question on whether departing UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Hans von Sponeck gave a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, the Spokesman said that von Sponeck had not given any press conference, but had simply offered some comments to the press.

Asked about the current level of outstanding debts owed by the United States to the United Nations, the Spokesman said that the US Government owes approximately $1.7 billion, in assessments for the regular budget, peacekeeping budget and two international tribunals.

Asked about plans by developed Donald Trump to construct a large building near the UN Headquarters, the Spokesman noted that UN lawyers had provided documentation concerning commitments made by the City of New York, at the time the United Nations building was built, but added that the challenge in the local courts was not successful. The building, he added, is only half finished so far.

Brunei Darussalam has become the 75th Member State to pay its dues in full for the year 2000 regular budget, by paying just over $210,000.

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