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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-01-16

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Friday, 16 January 1998

This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.


  • Secretary-General appeals for resources to prevent delays in holding United Nations Referendum in Western Sahara.
  • Scott Ritter and his team of United Nations weapons inspectors leave Baghdad one day early.
  • UN Human Rights High Commissioner welcomes Algerian decision to accept ministerial visit by European Union.
  • United Nations police monitor injured slightly by hostile crowd outside of Srebrenica.
  • United Nations Children's Fund begins emergency vaccination campaign in Congo Brazzaville.
  • Senior United Nations official set to visit Myanmar next week to pursue dialogue with the country's Government.
  • United Nations refugee agency concerned about round-up of Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia.
  • United Nations expert on eliminating religious intolerance to visit United States.
  • Head of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says human cloning cannot be accepted.
  • Russian Federation and Aga Khan Development Network join UN Drug Control Programme efforts in Central Asia.
  • Executive Director of UN Drug Control Programme praises Italy for its anti-drug efforts.
  • UN food agency warns that Rift Valley Fever is killing people and animals in Kenya and Somalia.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has cautioned that more resources are needed to ensure that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) can stick to its timetable.

The United Nations is organizing the referendum in accordance with agreements reached between the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberaci˘n de Saguˇa el-Hamra y del Rio de Oro (POLISARIO). The purpose of the referendum is to give the people of Western Sahara the opportunity to decide between independence and integration with Morocco.

In a new report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says that under present conditions, "it will not be possible to confirm" that the identification of potential voters can be concluded by the end of May to permit the start of the transitional period in 7 June as planned. Strict adherence to the planned timetable, which calls for holding the referendum by the end of 1998, will require "the provision of the necessary resources in full and on time."

As of the end of last year, some $48.9 million was owed to the Mission by Member States which have not paid their assessed contributions. Because funds have not been made available for the deployment of the Engineering Unit, it will not commence its work in February as planned. That, in turn, will cause other delays in the settlement plan.

The Secretary-General reports "promising progress" since the identification process resumed last December after two years of delays. As of 10 January, over 70,000 potential voters have been identified. "Nevertheless, the completion of the identification phase by 31 May 1998 will be a daunting and arduous task, involving the convocation of more than 100,000 applicants and their identification in less than five months," he notes.

With the Identification Commission operating at two-thirds strength, the Secretary-General says that the completion of the identification process by May is conceivable only if a full complement of qualified staff is in place by the end of January, and if there are no interruptions in the process.

A new agreement has meanwhile been reached between the Royal Moroccan Army and the POLISARIO Front to ensure that no hostility of any type is resumed. According to the report, the situation in the area remains calm. "There have been no significant indications that either side intends to resume hostilities in the near future. Both the Royal Moroccan Army and the Frente POLISARIO forces have been cooperative with military observers in their respective areas," the Secretary-General states.

Scott Ritter and his team of United Nations weapons inspectors left Baghdad on Friday, a day earlier than scheduled since it had been unable to carry out its work as planned. The decision was made by the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), Ambassador Richard Butler.

Iraq this week sparked off a controversy by preventing the team from its mission as part of UNSCOM's inspectors overseeing the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. An Iraqi official had said that the mission was unacceptable because it was dominated by American and British nationals. "These team members will go back to their respective home bases and await further instructions", said Spokesman Fred Eckhard.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Butler, who is in France en route to Iraq, met with the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine on Friday. After the talks, Ambassador Butler announced that he had agreed to take a senior French political Counsellor, Eric Fournier, as a member of his headquarters team in New York. Mr. Fournier, who is an expert in non- proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, will be joining UNSCOM in a few weeks, according to Mr. Eckhard.

Other three experts offered to UNSCOM by the China will be participating in the monitoring activities at the Monitoring and Verification Centre in Baghdad, the Spokesman said. He added that UNSCOM was also studying the list of sixty experts offered by the Government of the Russian Federation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has welcomed the decision of the Algerian authorities to accept the ministerial visit by a delegation of the European Union.

John Mills, the Spokesman for the High Commissioner told reporters in Geneva on Friday that High Commissioner Mary Robinson continued to believe that the human rights dimensions of Algerian crisis were matter of international concern. Mr. Mills said that the Human Rights High Commissioner supported efforts to engage the Algerian authorities in a way that will enhance security of people there.

"There is also, she feels, at the moment a very pressing need for humanitarian assistance for the community devastated by these murderous attacks", Spokesman Mills said.

This week Ms. Robinson raised the issue of Algeria with senior colleagues in the United Nations system. The aim was to consider what further contribution the United Nations could make to alleviate the situation.

A United Nations police monitor has been slightly injured by elements of a hostile crowd outside Srebrenica within a Serb-controlled area in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to a United Nations Spokesman, the officer was part of a convoy organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to travel to Srebrenica on Thursday in order to hold the first meeting of the Municipal Assembly.

The United Nations Spokesman told the press that a large hostile crowd formed outside of Srebrenica to block the way of the convoy. "There were about fifty police officers, but the crowd was too large and unruly for them to contain them", he said. The international observers were advised to go back.

A group of OSCE officers accompanied by their security contingents and members of the United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF) went forward but was attacked by the crowd which attempted to turn over at least one of the vehicles. The unruly crowd broke windows of vehicle of the IPTF, slightly injuring one police monitor.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has begun an emergency vaccination campaign in Brazzaville and its surroundings to contain the measles epidemic.

A UNICEF Spokesman told the press in Geneva on Friday that the six- week campaign is aimed at the immunization of approximately 250,000 children against the disease. The cost of the programme will be $182,000.

As of Thursday, some 16, 000 children under twelve had been vaccinated and given Vitamin A which strengthens their immunity system, according to UNICEF.

The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Alvaro de Soto, is set to visit Myanmar next week.

United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that the visit is pursuant to the agreement reached in Kuala Lumpur in December 1997 between United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Myanmar, Senior General Phan Shwe.

Mr. de Soto's visit from 20 to 23 January as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, is part of the ongoing dialogue between the United Nations leader and the Government of Myanmar, according to Spokesman Eckhard.

Mr. Eckhard reminded reporters that the Secretary-General received a mandate from the General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to pursue this dialogue. Mr. de Soto's last visit to Myanmar was in May 1997.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed concern about the round up of Sudanese refugees which began last Thursday in Ethiopia.

According to UNHCR, Ethiopian authorities in Addis Ababa have continued to collet the Sudanese, including refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants in the city. Last week they were initially confined to a camp at Gulele outside Addis Ababa and then moved to the Shirkole camp in the northwest of the country.

The United Nations refugee agency wrote to the Ethiopian Government on Monday expressing its deep concern at how the round up was carried out. According to UNHCR, one refugee was killed in a clash with the police last Friday.

The Government informed UNHCR that it had given Sudanese nationals living in the capital until Friday, 16 January, to identify themselves to officials in order to be transferred to camps. The United Nations refugee agency said that the Government had given unspecified security reasons for the move.

There are approximately 80,000 Sudanese refugees in camps in Ethiopia. According to UNHCR the other larger group of refugees in Ethiopia are Somalis who are estimated at 250,000.

The United Nations expert dealing with the problem of religious intolerance has scheduled a trip to the United States to explore conditions in that country.

Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, be in the United States at the invitation of the U.S. Government from 22 January to 6 February. He will visit Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and the state of Arizona. Mr. Amor has asked to meet representatives of the major Christian denominations, Jewish groups, various Muslim organizations and minority religious organizations. There will also be opportunities for other groups and individuals to bring matters to the attention of the Special Rapporteur.

Human cloning cannot be accepted under any circumstances, the Director- General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization stressed on Friday, noting that the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights bans the practice as an offence against human dignity.

That Declaration was adopted last November by UNESCO's 186 Member States.

UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor issued his statement in response to the recent claim by a United States researcher that he would soon clone human beings to help couples unable to conceive children.

Article 11 of the Declaration states that, "Practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings, shall not be permitted." According to the text, "no research or its applications concerning the human genome, in particular in the fields of biology, genetics and medicine, should prevail over the respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human dignity of individuals or, where applicable, of groups of people."

The Declaration is the first international text to apply the ethical standards of human rights to potential interventions in the human genome. "The ban on human cloning is therefore the fruit of universal consensus," Mr. Mayor noted.

The Russian Federation and the Aga Khan Development Network have joined five Central Asian countries in United Nations-led efforts to combat the region's growing drug problem.

The Russian Federation and the Aga Khan Development Network joined a agreement by which Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with the assistance of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), pledged to address their common problems of production, trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs.

Situated between the world's largest opium supply sources and the lucrative retail markets in Western Europe, the Central Asian republics and the Russian Federation are vulnerable to drug trafficking. Finding themselves more and more in the middle of newly expanding trafficking routes that link Afghan opium producers to East European markets, these countries are experiencing a surge in drug-related crime and violence. The increase in regional trafficking has also resulted in growing drug abuse and addiction.

"In the past few years it has become clear that the best response to the rapidly growing drug phenomenon in this region is through coordinated and combined efforts," said UNDCP Executive Director Pino Arlacchi, who was present in Kazakstan when the two new parties signed the agreement.

While in Kazakstan, Mr. Arlacchi discussed ongoing subregional projects with the Foreign Ministers of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and high government officials of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. These projects aim to draft legislation and regulations that would provide a common framework for law enforcement efforts, including the seizure of illegal drug assets measures to thwart money laundering.

Pino Arlacchi, the Executive Director of the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), on Friday praised Italy for its clear position on matters of drug control.

Himself a national of Italy, Mr. Arlacchi said that recently, the Italian Government "has reaffirmed its commitment to full compliance with the provisions of the international drug control treaties and with the will of the international community on the problem of narcotics."

In June, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a special session in New York to further international cooperation in drug control. Issues to be addressed include the need to reduce demand, to combat the problem of money laundering, and to undertake a global programme of alternative development and the eradication of illicit crops.

The Rift Valley Fever in eastern Africa has killed more than 450 people in eastern Africa, according to an official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO).

Ives Cheneau, Chief of the FAO Animal Health Service told United Nations Radio on Friday that the disease which is spread by mosquitoes "has taken an epidemic form." He said that thousands of animals have been killed by this disease. Mr. Cheneau added, however, that accurate figures have not been obtained due in large measure to the inaccessibility of the affected areas in northeastern Kenya and adjacent areas of Somalia because of heavy rains and flooding. The other reason, the FAO official added, is the habit of the people in these areas who bury their relatives and neighbours as soon as they die.

Mr. Cheneau said that FAO was informing the national authorities and neighbouring countries of the eventual spread of the disease to Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. The United Nations agency was also sending missions to help the authorities in the affected countries to undertake diagnosis of the real extent of the disease and to take preventative measures.

According to FAO, epidemics of Rift Valley Fever typically occur in five to 20-year cycles following particularly heavy, prolonged and unseasonal rainfall. This rainfall favours the breeding of mosquitoes which spread the disease. The only effective means of protecting livestock is through preventative vaccination. Unfortunately, once an epidemic has become established, vaccination comes too late to avoid substantial losses from occurring, FAO said.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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