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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-01-30

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



Friday, 30 January 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.
The Security Council on Friday extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 July, but reiterated its deep concern that no significant progress had been made on the key issues in the settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia. The Mission currently monitors implementation of the Agreement on a Cease-fire and Separation of Forces signed by the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in Moscow on 14 May 1994. The Security Council, by unanimously adopting resolution 1150 (1998), called on the parties to work constructively with the Secretary- General, his Special Representative and the Russian Federation, in its role as facilitator, to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Condemning the intensified activities by armed groups, including the continued laying of mines in the Gali region, the Council called upon the parties to prevent such activities. It also called on them to cooperate fully with UNOMIG and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of all international personnel. The Council urged the Secretary-General to continue to make further arrangements to improve security conditions in order to minimize the danger to UNOMIG personnel. The Council stressed the urgent need for progress in realizing the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in secure conditions. It encouraged further contributions to address the urgent needs of those suffering most from the consequences of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia. Commenting on the role of UNOMIG in an interview with UN Radio, the Mission's Chief Military Observer, Major-General Harun-Ar-Rashid, said it was essential to those living in the region. "I would say that it is the people who demand that we should be there", he said, adding, "the people on both sides feel confident when they see UNOMIG patrolling in the area and showing the UN flag".
The Security Council on Friday extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for an additional six months, until 31 July. Unanimously adopting resolution 1151 (1998), the Council also urged all parties to end the violence, and reiterated its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries. In an accompanying statement read out by the Council President, Alain Dejammet of France, the Council stressed the urgent need for the implementation of its resolution 425 (1978). That text contains the original mandate of UNIFIL, which was established to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanese territory. The Force was also mandated to assist Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. "The Security Council expresses its concern over the continuing violence in Southern Lebanon, regrets the loss of civilian life, and urges all parties to exercise restraint", the President of the Council said on behalf of its members. The Council also reiterated its full support for the Taif Agreement and for the continued efforts of the Lebanese Government to consolidate peace, national unity and security in the country. That Agreement, adopted in 1989 by the Lebanese National Assembly in Taif, Saudi Arabia, provides for the deployment of Lebanese government forces to restore central government authority over the entire country. ----------------------------------- Secretary-General Kofi Annan conferred on Friday with various world leaders who are in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum. In an interview with Swiss Television, the Secretary-General said, "The solution all of us would prefer is a political and diplomatic solution." Asked what would happen if Iraq did not comply with Security Council demands, Mr. Annan issued an appeal, saying that "the Iraqi people have suffered enough; they have been through major tragic events and they don't need another one and therefore, for the sake of the people, the sake of humanity, they [the country's leaders] should work with the international community and avoid a confrontation". Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General was asked by members of the press about the impact of the current crisis over weapons inspections on his recommendations concerning the oil-for-food programme. "We need to see the two things completely separately", he replied. If Iraq implemented the Security Council resolutions in full, he said, "we would see some light at the end of the tunnel". The Secretary-General went on to stress that the oil-for-food programme was a different matter. "The international community has no war with the Iraqi people", he said, "We do not want them to suffer". By attending the World Economic Forum, the Secretary-General hopes to advance his priority of establishing a new partnership between the United Nations and the international business community. He stressed this priority in a meeting on Friday with senior UN officials attending the Forum, including the High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata; the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Rubens Ricupero; the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson; the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, Gustave Speth; Assistant Secretary-General John Ruggie; and the Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky. The Secretary-General began his day holding discussions on the situations in Afghanistan and Tajikistan with Iran's Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi. During a subsequent meeting with President Emil Constantinescu of Romania, the Secretary-General offered thanks for that country's support for the United Nations. The Romanian President pledged to support the Secretary-General in his ongoing efforts to reform the Organization. The Secretary-General also held a tąte-Ö-tąte with Swiss President Flavio Cotti. In a meeting with Gro Harlem Brundtland, who is the Forum's Rapporteur, the Secretary-General offered his personal congratulations on her nomination to the post of Director-General of the World Health Organization and said he looked forward to working with her.
The Permanent Representative of the of China has called for restraint in dealing with the current crisis arising from disagreements on weapons inspections in Iraq. In a statement to the press outside the Council chamber on Friday, Ambassador Qin Huasun said that China welcomed political and diplomatic efforts to end the stand-off in Iraq. Ambassador Qin expressed concern, however, "over the tension that has once again engulfed weapons inspection in Iraq". Ambassador Qin called on the parties concerned to exercise restraint and to resolve their differences through dialogue and other peaceful means in order to avoid further escalation of the conflict which, he said, might undermine regional peace and security. Saying that China had always stood for the peaceful resolution of international disputes on the basis of the United Nations Charter and norms governing international relations, Ambassador Qin said his country was against the use or threat of use of force. The representative of China said Iraq should implement comprehensively the relevant Security Council resolutions. At the same time, he added, "the legitimate concerns" of Iraq over its sovereignty, dignity and security should be duly respected, and efforts by Iraq to implement relevant United Nations resolutions should also be evaluated in an objective and fair manner. Ambassador Qin said that the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction should be completed early and that the issues left over by the Persian Gulf War should be settled in the interests of both Iraq and other countries in the region. He stressed that the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), which is overseeing the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was a subsidiary body of the Security Council should always work under its guidance. He said that UNSCOM had an obligation to try its best to complete the mandate entrusted to it by the Council. He characterized the remarks recently made by the head of UNSCOM regarding Iraq's weapons capabilities as "inappropriate".
The head of the United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq has said that a newspaper distorted his remarks regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Speaking in Bonn, Germany, on Friday, Ambassador Richard Butler, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) said that he had not proposed that Iraq would attack Tel Aviv, as an article in The New York Times had implied. "No way, I do not have that knowledge and I did not say it or imply it", Ambassador Butler said adding that he regretted that "such a fuss" was being made of this. The Friday edition of The New York Times published a correction saying an article on Tuesday had incompletely quoted Ambassador Butler on the issue. The newspaper also published a letter from him on the matter. What is really at issue, he added, "is that there is a number of Iraqi special warheads that remain unaccounted for" as a report submitted to the Security Council two years ago had said. He pointed out that UNSCOM has been trying to follow up on that for a couple of years, adding that unless and until the Commission can get an accounting of these special warheads, "which were filled with biological and chemical agents, it is always theoretically possible that they could pose a threat to all kinds of places around Iraq". Ambassador Butler said that his remarks were meant to illustrate that. Regarding the weapons of mass destruction which Iraq might still have, the head of UNSCOM said that his team had a "fairly good idea of what remains", although it did not details. "We can only get the details if they let us in to verify what we think remains." Ambassador Butler said that while UNSCOM had an idea in each of the main areas of missiles and chemical weapons, it was "not so clear in biological because, as we have said over and over again, biology is a bit of a black hole and we need a lot of information there".
The Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation has said that his country was still concerned about the remarks recently made by the head of United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq. Speaking to the press on Friday, Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said that the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) had sent a letter to the Security Council explaining that the quotation of his remarks in The New York Times were incomplete and selective. "This does not actually remove all our concerns because there was no refutation of assertions in the press that UNSCOM was saying that there is a functioning plant in Iraq producing biological weapons", Ambassador Lavrov said. The representative of Russia said that the remarks made by the Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Ambassador Richard Butler, that Iraq had enough biological weapons and missiles to deliver them "to blow out Tel Aviv" were already causing serious emotional reaction in Israel. He emphasized that if UNSCOM had information that there was a functional biological plant in Iraq or a capability to deliver the weapons to neighbouring countries, "UNSCOM must rush to the Council even quicker". He said that if those statements were made to the press without informing the Council it was "very unethical and very irresponsible". On the possible use of force against Iraq for its refusal to allow weapons inspectors into certain sites, Ambassador Lavrov said that force was "not only unacceptable but entirely counter- productive" because it would delay the completion of the implementation of the mandate of UNSCOM and the elimination of Iraqi threat. He stressed that Russia was continuing with diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.
The United Nations refugee agency has condemned the kidnapping of its official in Ossetia, Russian Federation, and appealed for his release. In a statement issued on Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that Vincent Cochetel, who heads the agency's field operation in Ossetia's capital, Vladikavkaz, was ambushed in his apartment building together with his driver on Thursday. According to UNHCR, three gunmen pushed the two men into Cochetel's apartment which they subsequently searched for valuables. They tied up the local driver and left with Cochetel, a French national. The gunmen also took the UNHCR car which was later found abandoned in Vladikavkaz. The driver managed to untie himself and to immediately notify the police. UNHCR said that the motives behind the kidnapping were unknown and no one had claimed responsibility for the abduction. The local police are investigating the incident.
The United Nations refugee agency has reported the arrival of several hundred Burundi refugees in Uvira on Lake Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Spokesman Kris Janowski said on Friday that the refugees came from provinces north and south of Burundi's capital. UNHCR said that fighting continued in areas around the capital. Over the past week, UNHCR had registered large groups of the refugees in Kiliba and Sange. The refugees came mainly from provinces of Bujumbura Rurale and Cibitoke. According to the United Nations refugee agency, 200 refugees had crossed last Tuesday alone. Another group of 190 refugees who had fled by boat across the lake was identified in Nundu, 45 kilometres south of Uvira. UNHCR said that local authorities had allowed the refugees to stay with Congolese villagers and cooperated with the agency to provide assistance to the refugees.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a message on Friday to the launching of a "Season of Non-Violence" -- the 64 days spanning the anniversaries of the assassinations of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Noting that their deaths occurred 50 and 30 years ago this year, the Secretary-General said, "Martin Luther King received the torch from Mahatma Gandhi, before his assassination in 1948, and held it high until his own three decades later." "This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", said the Secretary-General in his message, which was read out by Assistant Secretary-General Gillian Sorensen to an interfaith gathering on Friday at United Nations Headquarters in New York. "The torch is ours now to hold high," he said, stressing that by doing so, people would ensure that the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King were not in vain. "Let us begin; for we have many miles to go, and many torches still to light", the Secretary-General said. The Season of Non- Violence aims to demonstrate the power of non- violence through education, media and grassroots workshops. Among those present at Friday's event were Rev. Jesse Jackson of the United States and India's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kamlesh Sharma.
For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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