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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-05-15

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Friday, 15 May, 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.


  • Secretary-General "deeply disturbed" over outbreak of violence in occupied territories.
  • Meeting with Secretary-General, Israeli Prime Minister says his country will withdraw from Lebanon.
  • Secretary-General says Group of Eight Summit should reaffirm goal of nuclear non-proliferation.
  • Information Committee suggests asking Secretary-General to report on efforts to develop United Nations broadcasting capacity.
  • New initiatives on biodiversity launched at UN-supported conference in Bratislava.
  • In International Families Day message, Secretary-General says tolerance in family life will shape society.

"The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed over the outbreak of violence in the occupied territories leading to numerous deaths and injuries among the Palestinian population, including children," his Spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said on Friday.

"This tragic event underscores once more the importance of finding a way of moving the peace process forward without delay. In the meantime, it is essential for the parties to exercise maximum restraint," he added.

The Secretary-General also expressed his sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families.

Israel's Prime Minister reaffirmed his country's decision to withdraw from southern Lebanon during a meeting on Friday in New York with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, the Secretary-General's Spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said Mr. Annan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had discussed the situation in the Middle East, focusing on southern Lebanon.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annanand PM Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel

The Secretary-General had raised the issue of the Palestinians who were killed and wounded on Thursday. "The Prime Minister assured the Secretary- General that Israel was taking steps to calm the situation and avoid further violence," Mr. Eckhard said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the press that he had reaffirmed Israel's decision -- after 20 years -- to accept Security Council resolution 425 (1978), which calls on Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory. "We also explained that we are prepared to do this under the stipulations that are contained in the resolution," Mr. Netanyahu said, adding, "Of course, if the UN wishes to take up this decision, then by all means, Israel would respond positively."

The Israeli Prime Minister prefaced his remarks by saying that he was very pleased to speak with Secretary-General, who he considered "a friend and a champion of peace."

Meanwhile, at a meeting in New York of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Palestine's Observer, Nassar Al-Kidwa, said Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to United Nations Headquarters was ill-timed. Mr. Al-Kidwa said he did not see what the Prime Minister could do in the house of international legitimacy and peace when he persistently violated the first and destroyed the second.

Mr. Al-Kidwa also told the Committee that on Thursday, as a million- person march was organized through all Palestinian cities, the occupying Israeli army had opened fire indiscriminately on the participants, killing eight people, two of whom were young children, and injuring 400 others. Several of those injured remained in critical condition, he said.

Stating that, "events in the past few days have demonstrated the fragility of current efforts to achieve the goal of nuclear non- proliferation and nuclear disarmament," Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stressed the urgent need for the Group of Eight leaders to address these matters.

In a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, Secretary- General Kofi Annan also said he would welcome a strong endorsement of the United Nations and its many contributions from leaders meeting in London this week at the Group of Eight Summit.

The Secretary-General also called attention to the unsustainable debt burden currently afflicting many African countries. He expressed hope that the Group of Eight countries would support his proposals for converting into grants all remaining official bilateral debt of the poorest African countries. Noting the need for reforms at the international and national levels alike, the Secretary-General emphasized that governments should make efforts to ensure that the burden of adjustment does not fall mostly on the poor, the young, and women.

The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and the Russian Federation are participating in the Summit.

The United Nations Committee on Information on Friday approved a draft resolution which would have the General Assembly take a number of steps to improve the Organization's capacity to communicate its message to the press and public at large.

The draft resolution would have the Assembly encourage the Secretary- General to continue exploring ways and means of improving the Organization's global access to airwaves of United Nations Radio, "bearing in mind that radio is one of the most cost-effective and far- reaching media available." The Secretary-General would also be requested to report to the Committee as soon as possible on his efforts to develop an international broadcasting capacity for the United Nations.

Underlining the continued importance of traditional and mass media channels, the Assembly would encourage the Department of Public Information to take full advantage of recent developments in information technology, such as the Internet. The Assembly would also welcome the steps being taken by the Department to strengthen its capacity to carry out its responsibility for the United Nations home page.

The proposed text would also have the Assembly express concern about the trend to reduce the resources allocated to the Department of Public Information, and reiterate that all changes or reductions must be carried out according to the rules.

A major intergovernmental meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity concluded on Friday in Bratislava with important agreements on a future biosafety treaty, international programmes on inland water ecosystems and forests, and other critical issues.

The Fourth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity agreed on the need to complete a protocol on biosafety by February 1999. Talks on that issue had begun in 1996, in recognition of the considerable benefits and risks inherent in biotechnology. Negotiations will continue this August, with the aim of concluding all talks in February 1999.

"The adoption of the biosafety protocol will demonstrate the practical impact that the Convention on Biological Diversity can have for all of us living on this planet," said Klaus Topfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which administers the Convention through a secretariat based in Montreal.

"Both communities and businesses will benefit from a widely accepted system for minimizing the risks from transboundary movements of living modified organisms," he said.

Among other matters, the Conference also took decisions on the importance of traditional knowledge and indigenous peoples, the equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources, and incentives for conservation and sustainable use of resources.

Over 1,300 participants from 152 countries attended the meeting, which began on 4 May.

"It is within the family that the notion of human rights becomes a reality lived on a daily basis," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday. "If tolerance, respect and equity permeate family life, they will translate into values that shape societies, nations and the world."

Marking the International Day of Families, the Secretary-General pointed out that it is within the family that children learn the values that will guide them for the rest of their lives. "It is within the family that they form their earliest relationships, learn to communicate with others and interact with the world around them," he said.

A society afflicted by instability, economic hardship or violence will impair the family's ability to educate, protect and support its members, Mr. Annan noted.

"This year, as we reaffirm our commitment to human rights, let us also rededicate ourselves to making the family the first bastion of progress and democracy," he said.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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