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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-08

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 8 February, 1999

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.


  • At UN, late King Hussein eulogized as a tireless champion of peace and reconciliation.
  • Talks on East Timor end amid spirit of "accommodation, understanding, and high statesmanship".
  • Review of global progress in reproductive health, gender equality opens in The Hague.
  • Secretary-General urges Ethiopia and Eritrea to stop fighting and give diplomacy a chance.
  • UN mission in Lebanon hit by round of mortar fire.

The United Nations General Assembly on Monday paid glowing tribute to the late King Hussein Ibn Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, remembering him as a man who had pursued the cause of peace in the Middle East through every obstacle.

After the Assembly had observed a minute of silence, Assembly President, Didier Opertti of Uruguay, mourned King Hussein as the "moving, guiding spirit of the forces moving towards stability in the region."

Representatives of all regional groups at the General Assembly praised the late monarch for promoting peace and dialogue. Roland Yao Kpotsra of Togo, on behalf of the African States, said that the late King would be remembered for his extraordinary spirit of tolerance. Even under the most trying times and most difficult of circumstances, noted Felipe H. Mabilangan of Philippines, speaking on behalf of the Asian States, King Hussein always held out hope, and at critical points in the Middle East peace process, renewed faith in abiding peace. On behalf of the Eastern European States, Danilo Turk of Slovenia said that the memory of King Hussein would be an inexhaustible source of inspiration for all those striving for peace in the United Nations.

Robert Fowler of Canada, speaking on behalf of the Western Europe and Others Group, said of King Hussein that the United Nations Charter could have had no stronger champion of its ideals. In his eulogy, Mohammad J. Samhan of the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of the Arab States, said that the King had left his imprint on just causes, notably the question of Palestine and peace in the Middle East. Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, praised the King as firm in his principles and convictions; in a region shaken by tensions and conflicts, the late monarch was able to create stability in his own country.

In their tribute to King Hussein, representatives of the United States, Israel, Egypt and the Russian Federation described him as a charismatic, visionary leader whose efforts had conferred on the nation of Jordan respect and admiration beyond its geographical size.

Reacting to the news of the Jordanian leader's death, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Sunday that the world was mourning the passing of a King whose true majesty found expression in a lifelong struggle to bring peace to the ordinary men and women of the Middle East.

Mr. Annan further paid tribute to King Hussein's contributions during negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian delegations last October in the United States. Overcoming his own pain, the Secretary- General noted, King Hussein showed again the courage that is an essential ingredient in any peace process.

The ministerial-level talks on East Timor, which ended at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday, were conducted in a "spirit of accommodation, understanding, and high statesmanship", according to Secretary-General's Personal Representative for East Timor, Ambassador Jamsheed Marker. The ministerial talks were to have been held with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who, however had to leave for Amman to attend the funeral of King Hussein of Jordan.

Speaking at a joint news conference at the conclusion of two days of extensive talks between the Foreign Minister of Indonesia Ali Alatas and Jaime Gama, the Foreign Minister of Portugal, Ambassador Marker said that an understanding had been reached on a number of major issues on the proposal for a wide-ranging autonomy for the territory.

Ambassador Marker said that substantive meetings the Secretary- General had held with the two Foreign Ministers on Sunday "set the tone, the pace and the track" for the subsequent meetings. He noted that notwithstanding the complexity of the problems, the desire to find a solution was paramount in the deliberations. He said that the ministers had been presented with a text on a wide-ranging autonomy for East Timor.

According to Ambassador Marker, the ministers were able to remove most of the outstanding major issues and there were very few important issues on which there was an understanding but which required consultations with the governments. He said he was confident that by the next round of talks scheduled for 9 and 10 March, the United Nations would have a set course and direction to proceed.

In his remarks at the press conference, Foreign Minister Jaime Gama of Portugal underscored the "substantive" nature of the discussions and said that they were now assessing final points of the draft document regarding the autonomy model. He stressed that his Government had been establishing dialogue with the Indonesian side to get direct information on the reality of the two societies in East Timor and on their political ideas.

For his part, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said that the meeting was productive notwithstanding a number of points which still needed further discussion and thinking on both sides. He said that the text should be presented to the East Timorese people inside and outside Indonesia in order to get their reaction to it. He noted that his side had asked the United Nations to find the best way to determine whether the draft on a wide- ranging autonomy would be acceptable to the Indonesian people. If the people accepted the proposal, Mr. Alatas said, the Indonesian side would implement it but should they reject it, then Indonesia would bring the matter to the People's Consultative Assembly to be elected in June, which would consider rescinding the decision to integrate East Timor.

A meeting to review progress in carrying out the action plan agreed to at the watershed United Nations Cairo conference of 1994 opened in The Hague on Monday amid calls for enhanced cooperation to carry forward the progress made since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) nearly five years ago. The Hague Forum for the operational review of the ICPD Programme of Action, which will run through Friday, is expected to hear statements by about 250 delegations and organizations.

In her opening statement, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Nafis Sadik, said that the background document before delegations showed that, in the short time since the Cairo Conference, a great deal had been achieved. "Most importantly, countries have set up a firm policy basis for reaching the Cairo goals. This sets the stage for changes in social attitudes and practices which will be needed, most significantly, in moves towards women's empowerment and equality and the acceptance of the right to reproductive health."

Louise Fr‚chette, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the goals set in Cairo could only be achieved with the full commitment and action of decision makers at all levels, from the local to the international. "Success requires that we, the United Nations, act in an integrated collaborative fashion," she said. "By acting as a team, we are having a greater impact and can develop a more productive partnership with civil society."

Ms. Fr‚chette expressed the hope that The Hague Forum will generate renewed political commitment to ensure the enactment of necessary policies and the allocation of resources. "At the end of the day, the follow-up to Cairo is not about papers, plans or strategies. It is about treating people with real needs.

The UNFPA-organized Hague Forum is part of ICPD+5, a series of review activities leading up to a high-level special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York from 30 June-2 July 1999. The Forum is organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and hosted by the Government of the Netherlands.

The meeting--officially "The International Forum for the Operational Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development"--will examine countries' achievements in carrying out the Cairo agreement, identifying constraints to be overcome and priorities in further implementation efforts.

Its findings will be summarized in a Forum Report, and presented to the Commission on Population and Development when it meets from 24-31 March as the preparatory committee for the General Assembly special session.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to immediately cease hostilities in order to give a diplomatic solution to their border dispute a chance.

In a statement issued by his spokesman on Saturday, the Secretary- General said that he was especially concerned that serious fighting between the two countries had broken out while international peace efforts, including by his own envoy, Mohamed Sahnoun, were continuing.

The Secretary-General was distressed that these two countries, which had so much to gain from working together towards economic prosperity in the Horn of Africa, should instead be locked in battle over their border dispute, the statement said.

Mr. Annan called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to stop hostilities regardless of who had initiated them and stressed that continued fighting was completely unacceptable to the international community.

Meanwhile, nine dependents of United Nations staff and 21 consultants were relocated on Saturday and Sunday from Asmara in Eritrea to Yemen, including three staff members who accompanied their infant children, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, who had concluded his mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia, was en route to New York, and was expected to brief the Security Council in the middle of this week, the spokesman said.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has strongly protested the shelling of its position by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and its local Lebanese auxiliary, the de facto forces (DDF), as a result of latest hostilities in the area.

UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Monday that armed elements had carried out attacks against the IDF/DDF in the Irish battalion sector of UNIFIL. The IDF/DDF retaliated with artillery and mortar with one mortar round impacting inside a United Nations position located in the suburbs of Haddatha, while eight other rounds impacted in close proximity to the position.

Two Irish soldiers were injured by shrapnel and were evacuated to the UNIFIL hospital in Naqoura, Spokesman Eckhard said, adding that they were not in any danger. The mortar rounds also caused considerable damage to the equipment and building. Mr. Eckhard said that UNIFIL was gravely concerned at the incident and the pattern of firing.

The UN spokesman said that in the aftermath of the Qana incident which killed a number of people in Lebanon in 1996, UNIFIL had obtained a commitment from IDF to respect the zone around the UN force's positions. Later, UNIFIL had also received assurances from the Islamic Resistance, which accounted for the vast majority of operations against IDF/DFF, that it would not operate in the vicinity of its positions.

Mr. Eckhard noted, however, that there had been some slippage with incidents of armed elements operating close to United Nations positions becoming more frequent, while the number of firings at or close to those positions by both IDF/DFF and armed elements had increased, resulting in potentially serious incidents. Mr. Eckhard said that UNIFIL was vigorously pursuing the matter with both sides.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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