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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-03-17

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 17 March 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Office of Communications and of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


  • General Assembly condemns Israel for illegal actions in Jerusalem and rest of Occupied Palestinian territory.
  • Secretary-General Kofi Annan heads for Middle East, where he says he will "listen and learn".
  • Secretary-General says high death toll in recent armed conflicts shows need for disarmament.
  • Secretary-General says vigilance and cooperation are needed to stem proliferation of arms in West Africa.
  • Secretary-General's Special Representative prepares to meet Angolan parties to complete peace process.
  • Four people die in a United Nations helicopter crash in Guatemala.
  • United Nations refugee agency seeks access to villages sealed off by security forces in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
  • World Food Programme delivers first food aid by road to hungry Sierra Leoneans in Bo and Kenema.
  • United Nations refugee agency condemns mortar attack on Myanmar refugee camp in Thailand.

Meeting at the resumed tenth emergency special session on Tuesday, the United Nations General Assembly reiterated its condemnation of Israel for failing to comply with its resolutions on the occupied East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories.

In a resolution adopted by 120 votes in favour, three against (United States, Micronesia, Israel) and five abstentions (Australia, Bulgaria, The Marshall Islands, Romania and Swaziland), the Assembly reiterated all the demands made in its earlier resolutions.

The resolutions condemned Israel's construction of a new settlement in Jebel Abu Ghneim and all other illegal actions in the occupied territories and demanded that it stop such activities. They also demanded that Israel accept the applicability to those territories of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

Once again the Assembly reiterated its recommendation that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.

The Assembly also recommended again to the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depositary of the Geneva Convention, to undertake the necessary preparatory steps, including the convening of a meeting of experts in order to follow up on the above-mentioned recommendations. It also repeated the request to the Government of Switzerland to invite the Palestine Liberation Organization to participate in the conference.

It extended the target date for the convening of the meeting of experts of the High Contracting Parties until the end of April 1998.

The General Assembly reiterated its decision that should Israel continue its lack of compliance with previous resolutions, it would reconsider the situation in order to make further appropriate recommendations to Member States.

The Assembly adjourned the tenth emergency special session temporarily and authorized the President of the Assembly to resume its meeting upon request from Member States.

As he prepared to head for Amman, Jordan on Tuesday, Secretary- General Kofi Annan told reporters in Geneva that he was going to the Middle East to "listen, learn and reflect with the leaders in the region". Although he said he would do whatever he could to assist the peace process, he said he was not a mediator. "The protagonists have a mediator -- it is the United States." No conflict gains from a multiplicity of mediators, he said.

Addressing the press in Geneva, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of the role of individuals in the area of human rights. "Each of us has to take responsibility; each of us has to be able to speak up," Mr. Annan said. "There are moments we need to pause and say this is enough, I can't take it any more, we shouldn't take it anymore." The Secretary- General stressed that "we can all make a difference" and expressed the hope that people would speak out against injustice. "As individuals we have power, and we should use it." He called on people to get out the message that human rights are intrinsic, not something a government could give or take away.

He also stressed that the United Nations should reach out to the public in the field of disarmament, noting that the ban on landmines had been pressed by NGOs, grassroots organizations and others. "The days when we thought that we can sit in the UN behind glass doors and re-arrange things for people outside are gone." He added the Organization would be left behind if it did not work in partnership with people, and recalled that since the Charter begins with the words, "We the peoples" efforts should be made to make that a reality.

In response to a question on the forthcoming General Assembly special session on international drug control (New York, 8 - 10 June), the Secretary-General said it would be a very important event. He noted that there were two sides to the drug issue: supply and demand. He expressed special hope that, in light of the impact of the drug problem on the youth of the world, high-level leaders would attend the special session. The Secretary-General said that President Jacques Chirac of France and others had pledged to attend, including almost all the Latin American heads of State and Government.

"Since the Berlin Wall came down, 4 million people have died in armed conflicts," the Secretary-General told the thirtieth session of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters in Geneva on Monday. "A figure like that should, it seems to me, make us look at how effective the international community's disarmament mechanisms are, not as an intellectual exercise, but with a view to making the United Nations better able to prevent conflict," he said.

Outlining the main components of the Organization's work in the field of disarmament, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations focuses on preventive disarmament through dialogue and transparency, which build confidence. As an example of this, he cited the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms which keeps track of international transfers of major conventional weapons systems.

The Organization also plays a key role through setting norms in the disarmament field, Mr. Annan said. Further, the United Nations takes practical measures carried out in post-conflict settings. These include disarming former combatants and reintegrating them into civil society, and cleaning up the remnants of weapons. In addition, the Organization engages in "post-conflict enforcement of disarmament to ensure that hostilities do not arise again", such as that being carried out in Iraq, he added.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday that continued vigilance and cooperation were needed to stem the proliferation of small arms in West Africa.

Speaking at the launching in Geneva of a book on the destruction of small arms in Mali, published by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research Unit (UNIDIR), the Secretary-General said that the insecurity and violence which plagued Mali in the early 1990's was fuelled in part by the proliferation of small arms.

Secretary-General Annan noted that once a peace agreement was reached and the rebels agreed to demobilize, the United Nations assisted in collecting some 3,000 weapons relinquished by the former combatants.

Nearly two years ago, those weapons were set aflame in a "great bonfire of Timbuktu", an event he described as "a vivid display that the conflict had come to an end." A photograph of that bonfire "now graces the cover of the book" he added. He said the symbolism of that event "burns still."

The Secretary-General said the authors of the book, entitled A Peace of Timbuktu: Democratic Governance, Development and African Peacemaking, gave a lively story and a comprehensive analysis. They highlighted the key roles of democratic governance and civil society in building lasting peace, Mr. Annan pointed out. "They examine the efforts of the international community, demonstrating how even small actions, undertaken at the right moment, can restore hope among struggling people."

Secretary-General Annan said that Mali's experience was also a success for preventive diplomacy and further proof that prevention was far less costly, in human and financial terms, than addressing problems only after conflict had broken out.

Mr. Annan thanked the authors Robin Edward Poulton, a senior research fellow at UNIDIR and Ibrahim ag Youssouf, a consultant with UNDP in Bamako.

The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative in Angola on Tuesday began a new mission to meet the country's leaders to discuss the remaining issues in the peace process.

Alouine Blondin Beye was scheduled to meet with Angolan President Dos Santos in Luanda and the leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) Dr. Jonas Savimbi in Andulo, United Nations Spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt said.

The Spokesman pointed out, however, that there were still differences between the Angolan parties regarding the security guards for Dr. Savimbi. Mr. Brandt said that although the Angolan Government had legitimized UNITA as a political party and the two sides had agreed on the overall number of the guards, some differences remained over the details of these guards.

Mr. Brandt pointed out that the start of the demobilization of the 1,645 residual forces of UNITA was also delayed.

However, according to Mr. Brandt, the peace process advanced on other fronts. Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos on Monday appointed three governors from the provinces of Uige, Lunda Sul and Cuando-Cubango, and seven vice-governors designated by UNITA in accordance with the Lusaka Protocol.

Spokesman Brandt said that there was also progress in the normalization of state administration over the weekend with 266 localities out of 335 normalized for the first and second phases of the exercise.

Four people were killed and four injured on Tuesday when a United Nations helicopter crashed in Guatemala.

The helicopter, operated by the United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) crashed in the province of Huehuetenango, the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Spokesman announced in New York.

The Spokesman's Office said that at the time, there was no indication of foul play. The Chief of the United Nations Mission, Jean Arnault went to the military base in Huehuetenango where the injured people were being treated.

The injured will be transported to Guatemala City if their condition allows, the Spokesman's Office said.

MINUGUA was established in 1994 to help end human rights abuses and bolster the peace process following the end of a conflict which had lasted for more than 30 years in Guatemala.

Reacting to the accident, the President of the General Assembly said he was distressed to learn about the fatal crash. In a statement attributable to his Spokesman, Assembly President Hannadiy Udovenko of Ukraine expressed hope for a speedy recovery of the survivors. He conveyed his sincere condolences to the families of the victims. Mr. Udovenko once again underscored the invaluable contribution to the cause of peace and justice of all those who have given up their lives in the service of the noble ideals of the United Nations.

The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday that it was seeking access to four villages sealed off by security forces in Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) said that the atmosphere remained tense in the Drenica region, particularly in Srbica municipality where several villages were still cordoned off.

UNHCR Spokesperson Judith Kumin said her agency wanted to go to the villages to assess the humanitarian needs of the internally displaced people. She said that in particular, UNHCR would like to have access to the villages of Llausha, Broja, Kopliqi and Voshnik where journalists have been allowed to go but aid agencies had not yet been allowed.

UNHCR pointed out, however, that it had been able to go to all the places where Croatian Serb refugees were housed in collective centres. The agency said the refugees were still very concerned about their security and were asking UNHCR to settle them elsewhere.

Quoting local sources, UNHCR said that approximately 24,000 people were displaced from the Drenica region by a recent military action but some had started to return.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday that it had successfully delivered its first food aid by road to hungry Sierra Leoneans in the towns of Bo and Kenema, cut off from the rest of the country by the recent heavy fighting in Sierra Leone.

WFP said that four trucks, carrying a total of 65 metric tonnes of emergency food supplies enough to feed 30,000 people for one week had arrived on Monday.

WFP Regional Manager Paul Ares said that this was the first time in the last six months that the United Nations food agency had managed to bring by road food aid to tens of thousands of hungry people in the two towns "without placing the lives of our relief workers at risk."

Mr. Ares added that WFP would bring more food to Bo and Kenema to feed the most vulnerable people seriously affected by the recent fighting between the forces of the military junta and the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) which ousted the military junta.

The food will be distributed through WFP relief partners Concern International and Merlin.

The United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday condemned the mortar attack on a camp in Thailand housing Karen refugees from Myanmar.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that at least two people were injured in the Sunday attack on Mae Hla camp housing 30,000 Karen refugees.

UNHCR said the attack was the second act of violence against innocent civilians in a week. Last week three Karen refugees were killed and forty others injured in an assault on another camp at Huay Kalok, according to UNHCR.

The United Nations refugee agency said that there were 95,000 refugees in western Thailand. The agency pointed out that it had no presence in that area. UNHCR said that for a long time it had sought access to the area but the Thai Government had not made any formal decision regarding UNHCR's involvement in the assistance of the Karen refugees.

UNHCR expressed its support for the Thai government's efforts to move these refugees to safer locations.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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