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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-01-26

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 26 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.


  • Security Council sends engineering unit to conduct demining activities for UN Mission in Western Sahara.
  • United Nations Secretary-General condemns bombing of Buddhist shrine in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
  • Secretary-General recommends establishment of UN peacekeeping operation in Central African Republic.
  • Genocide suspect tries to commit suicide at International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
  • French Ambassador reiterates importance of ongoing monitoring of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
  • Effects of sanctions on countries not directly targeted to be discussed by United Nations Charter committee.
  • United Nations plans workshop on smuggling, sale and misuse of civilian- owned firearms in Asia.
  • Secretary-General approves new structure for United Nations work in field of humanitarian affairs.
  • Czech Minister tells UN committee that organized prostitution is fueling gang activities in her country.
  • United Nations coordinates relief for China's earthquake- stricken Hebei Province.

The Security Council on Monday approved the deployment of an engineering unit to support the demining activities of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). At the same time, the Council expressed its "intention to consider positively" a request by Secretary- General Kofi Annan for additional support to the Mission.

MINURSO is currently identifying potential voters to participate in the Referendum, which is scheduled to take place on 7 December. Under the terms of a settlement plan concluded between the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberaci˘n de Saguˇa el-Hamra y del Rˇo de Oro (POLISARIO), the Referendum will offer the people of Western Sahara the choice between independence for the territory or integration with Morocco.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1148 (1998), the Security Council called on the Moroccan Government and the POLISARIO Front to cooperate so that the identification of voters can be completed on time.

The Security Council expressed its intention to positively consider further deployments when the Secretary-General reports that the identification process has reached a stage where additional military and civilian police assets are essential. According to the timetable for the implementation of the settlement plan, all military observers should arrive by the end of May.

In his most recent report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General said he could not confirm that the identification process would be concluded by the end of May as planned. He stressed the need to maintain the momentum achieved so far, and urges the early deployment of the units required for demining. The Council's action on Monday was a response to that request.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has denounced the bombing of a major Buddhist shrine in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

In a statement issued by his Spokesman on Monday, the Secretary-General said he had learned with outrage the news of the bombing of the shrine on Sunday. "As he has done on many occasions, the Secretary-General strongly condemns the use of terrorist tactics in all circumstances", the Spokesman said.

The Secretary-General added that he deplored attempts to divide human beings on religious and ethnic grounds.

Extending his sympathies to the families of the victims of the bombing, the United Nations leader appealed for calm and restraint amidst reports of reprisals provoked by the bombing of the shrine.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the Security Council consider establishing a United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic.

The Secretary-General's recommendation follows a recent technical mission to the Central African Republic to assess the Security Council-approved Inter-African Mission to Monitor the Bangui Agreements (MISAB). The mission heavily relies on France for its logistic and financial support. France, however, is preparing to withdraw its more than 1,400 troops and its logistical support by mid-April 1998.

Under the circumstances, the Secretary-General's view is that "the only viable option for the maintenance of stability in the Central African Republic appears to be the establishment and deployment of another peacekeeping operation authorized by the international community."

In the meantime, he recommends an extension of MISAB until mid-March.

A Rwandan detainee accused of participating in the 1994 genocide in his country has regained consciousness and is in a stable condition following a suicide attempt.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda based in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, reported on Monday that Hassan Ngeze, former Editor- in-Chief of the Kangura newspaper, had tried to kill himself on 24 July by swallowing a mixture of chemical agents, including detergent. The Tribunal said the detergent, which is provided daily to detainees for cleaning their own quarters, was the main ingredient in the mixture.

A prison official who was on a routine patrol in the Tribunal's Detention Centre found Mr. Ngeze lying unconscious in his cell on Saturday morning.

The suspect, who was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, on 18 July 1997 and immediately transferred to Arusha, is charged with one count of direct and public incitement to commit genocide and two counts of crimes against humanity.

During his initial appearance before the Tribunal on 19 November 1997, Mr. Ngeze pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

The Permanent Representative of France on Monday reiterated his country's position that the international presence must be maintained to monitor the implementation of Security Council resolutions on Iraq.

Speaking to the press outside the Council chamber, Ambassador Alain Dejammet, who is the current President of the Security Council, said it was in the interest of the international community to ensure the implementation of resolutions on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He emphasized the need to maintain a "very strict control" over the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Ambassador Dejammet stressed that his country had always been insistent in its stand on the implementation of the Security Council resolutions. He said that France had been persistent in its efforts to convince the Iraqis to see where their interests lay.

The representative of France made his comments amidst the current crisis created by Iraq's refusal to allow members of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to enter certain sites for inspections. UNSCOM is overseeing the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which is facing United Nations sanctions following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The effects of sanctions on countries not directly targeted by them will come under review by members of the United Nations Charter committee, which began its two-week session on Monday.

The Security Council has increasingly used sanctions as a tool of diplomatic pressure in recent years, as authorized under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

But with their increased use, sanctions have come under greater scrutiny. Now, the United Nations Charter committee is examining how the application of sanctions affects "third States" - - those countries which have dealings with the targeted States, but are not themselves the subjects of such measures.

The Russian Federation has put out two working papers for the committee's consideration. One deals with basic conditions and criteria for imposing and implementing sanctions and other enforcement measures. The other paper contains a draft declaration on the work of United Nations peacekeeping missions and mechanisms for the prevention and settlement of crises and conflicts. Proposals have also been put forward by Libya and Cuba for the committee's review.

The committee will also be discussing the peaceful settlement of disputes between States. Participants will consider a proposal on the establishment of a dispute settlement service.

On Monday, the committee, officially known as the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization, elected Trevor Pascal Chimimba of Malawi as its Chairman. Yesim Beykal of Turkey, Gaile Ann Ramoutar of Trinidad and Tobago and Markiyan Kulyk of Ukraine were elected Vice-Chairmen, while Hiroshi Kawamura of Japan was elected Rapporteur.

The Vienna-based United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention is organizing a workshop on the smuggling, sale and misuse of civilian-owned firearms in Asia.

The workshop, which will be held from 27 to 31 January in New Delhi, will deal with the question of how to stem cross-border trafficking in firearms destined for use by criminals. The illicit sale of firearms will also be discussed at the workshop, which is expected to attract representatives from 15 countries.

"Activities aimed at preventing the outbreak of war have focused on weapons of mass destruction, but it is firearms that are killing more people than major weapons", said Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. He added that most of the victims of firearms were civilians, often women and children.

Illicit firearms are increasingly spreading among civilian populations, smuggled across borders or stolen from police and defence forces. Ultimately, they are often used for criminal purposes.

During the one-week session, discussion will cover firearm-related homicides, suicides and accidents; the impact of firearm violence on public security and socio-economic welfare; the role of organized transnational crime in the illicit trafficking of non-military firearms; and the link between firearm trafficking, drug criminality and terrorism.

Over 30 top experts representing countries from the Asian region, Interpol, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies will attend the workshop. They will explore the extent and nature of smuggling across borders in order to develop joint cross-border efforts to address the problem.

The United Nations Secretary-General has approved a new structure to replace the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA).

Acting a call from the Secretary-General for a reorientation of the Department's work, the new head of that Department, Sergio de Mello, provided details of the new structure, which will be renamed the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

According to a United Nations Spokesman, Mr. de Mello has identified three co-functions for the new entity: coordination of humanitarian emergency response; policy development; and advocacy on humanitarian issues.

The staff members in the new structure will decrease from 360 to 137 through a redistribution of responsibilities to other agencies or units in the Secretariat. Roughly half of the new staff will be in New York, with the remainder in Geneva.

Organized prostitution is fueling gang activities in the Czech Republic, that country's Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Bela Hejna, told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on Monday.

The expert members of the Committee, which monitors compliance by States parties with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, also heard reports that Czech women are being trafficked to other countries in the region.

According to Ms. Hejna, organized prostitution continued to be "the fastest and biggest financial source" of funding for criminal gangs. Organized gangs from the Russian Federation, Bulgaria and the countries of the former Yugoslavia continued to spread their operations to the Czech Republic.

The report of the Czech Republic, submitted to the Committee in October 1996, finds widespread organized prostitution controlled by criminal gangs, especially in Prague and its vicinity. It states that Czech women are being exported and forced into prostitution by Yugoslav, Kosovo Albanian, Greek, Turkish and Czech gangs. After being enticed by advertisements offering jobs in foreign countries, victims are intimidated and abducted, the report states.

The Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs told the anti- discrimination committee that increased attention was being paid to the criminal protection of women in connection with prostitution and illegal migration. The Government had established a special unit for the detection of organized crime, dealing also with the traffic in women and children.

At the international level, she said, the Czech Republic was cooperating with Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Slovakia.

Following a devastating earthquake in its Hebei Province on 10 January, China will be receiving temporary housing and emergency supplies in a relief effort being coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The earthquake, which registered 6.2 on the Richter scale, killed 49 people and left 44,000 homeless. Since 10 January, extreme cold has been exacerbating the suffering of the victims.

So far, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States have pledged $130,000 in emergency relief, while France has announced its intention to pledge an additional $165,000.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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