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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-17

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Wednesday, 17 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.


  • Alarmed at flow of arms to Democratic Republic of Congo, Security Council members urge parties to end fighting.
  • Security Council deplores ongoing violence in Burundi.
  • Kurdish protestors leave UN Geneva offices peacefully.
  • Angolan Government sees no reason for continued presence of UN peacekeepers.
  • UN special envoy calls for end to massive atrocities in Sierra Leone.
  • UN health agency maps out new ways of fighting influenza.

Security Council members on Wednesday called on all parties, especially the rebel movements, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to stop fighting, put a ceasefire in place and resolve their differences through democratic means.

In a press statement, the President of the Council, Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada, said Council members were particularly concerned about the continuing flow of illegal arms and military training to the country and called for an end to those activities. He noted that Council members were also deeply concerned about the continuing impact of hostilities on civilians and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The statement stressed the vital importance of ensuring a broad- based, multi-ethnic involvement in the peace efforts. Council members were pleased with the return of Special Human Rights Rapporteur Roberto Garreton to the country and stressed the need for full and thorough investigations into reported massacres so the perpetrators did not escape impunity.

Members of the UN Security Council on Wednesday deplored the ongoing violence in Burundi and expressed concern at reports of armed activities by Burundian rebel groups operating from outside the country.

Addressing the press after the Council was briefed on the latest situation in Burundi, Council President Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada said the members urged all the Burundian parties to stop fighting. They also urged the parties to guarantee the safety of civilians and respect the principles of humanitarian assistance, including unhindered access to displaced persons and refugees.

Council members expressed support for international assistance to communities in Burundi and welcomed the 23 January decision by the Heads of States of countries in the Great Lakes Region to suspend regional sanctions. They also welcomed progress during the fourth session of the Arusha peace negotiations and expressed support for the efforts of former Tanzanian President Mwalimu Nyerere in his role as the Facilitator of the peace process.

The group of Kurdish demonstrators occupying the United Nations building in Geneva left the premises peacefully on Wednesday, according to a UN spokesman.

The group, which broke into the Palais des Nations building early Tuesday morning, agreed to leave with the understanding that their demands be made public, said spokesman Fred Eckhard. They demanded that the "legal procedures and fundamental principles of law should be fully respected concerning Abdullah Ocalan".

In a separate incident, another group of 18 Kurdish demonstrators who forced their way into the Geneva offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Wednesday morning also ended their protest peacefully about two and a half hours later after their demands were made public.

According to a UNHCR spokesman, they demanded a conference on the Kurdish people, safety guarantees for Mr. Ocalan and for the UN to look into Kurdish issues. Kurdish supporters of Mr. Ocalan, meanwhile, continued to demonstrate outside UN offices in Geneva and Yerevan, Armenia.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture has appealed to the Turkish authorities for clarification of the circumstances of Abdullah Ocalan's detention.

Sir Nigel Rodley called on the Turkish Government to ensure Ocalan was granted immediate access to legal counsel and that an independent monitoring system be put in place to see that his human dignity was respected.

The Special Rapporteur said on Tuesday that he had been following closely reports that Abdullah Ocalan had been forcibly returned to Turkey from Nairobi, Kenya. Fears had been expressed, the Special Rapporteur said, that Mr. Ocalan might be subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment.

The Government of Angola sees no reason for United Nations peacekeepers to stay in the country although it does not object to the continued presence of UN humanitarian agencies, according to the contents of a letter made public at UN headquarters.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told the press that Secretary-General Kofi Annan received the letter on Friday from President Jose Eduardo dos Santos outlining his Government's position regarding the continued presence of the United Nations in Angola. President dos Santos was writing in response to an earlier letter from the Secretary-General on that issue.

In his letter, President dos Santos also noted that he had no objection to the Secretary-General's proposal to have his Special Representative for Angola based in New York.

After receiving the letter on Friday, the Secretary-General shared it with the Security Council which is expected to hold consultations on the situation in Angola on Thursday.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, has condemned massive atrocities against civilians, especially children and women in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Otunnu was speaking at a UN press conference on Wednesday before leaving for a trip to Africa. He described the destruction of homes and other structures in Sierra Leone, especially in the cities, as a kind of scorched earth policy and said the rebels were overwhelmingly responsible.

The Special Representative called on the leader of the rebel fighters in Sierra Leone, Foday Sankoh, to order an immediate end to "unspeakable atrocities", including amputations and the use of children as fighters on a massive scale.

Mr. Otunnu said he still felt hopeful about Sierra Leone's future. It was rare for a country that had suffered such a protracted conflict to remain as cohesive as Sierra Leone, especially given its diversity, he noted. The government, whatever its difficulties, also enjoyed universal political legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, he added.

Marking 50 years since it began monitoring influenza outbreaks, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday that despite major strides in combatting the deadly disease, there was still much that could and should be done to reduce the toll it exacted around the world.

With over 300 leading international experts gathered at WHO headquarters in Geneva, the UN health agency reported that influenza continued to kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, caused millions cases of illnesses and was a major drain on economic productivity as sick employees took time off work.

Opening a two-day meeting in observance of the anniversary, WHO Director- General Gro Harlem Brundtland said that the major challenges revolved around influenza vaccines. The vaccines had to be made more efficient, she said, stressing the need to reach at-risk populations and to make the correct vaccines as universally available as possible.

"Our goal is clear: to further reduce the mortality and morbidity related to influenza, particularly in those areas of our globe where resources are scarce," said Dr. Brundtland.

Among major steps towards improving influenza prevention and control, WHO will, for the first time, distribute a "pandemic plan" to help prepare for an eventual influenza pandemic. "Time to react may be very short - from the first recognition of a new subtype and the onset of a full-blown pandemic," warned Dr. Brundtland. She said that WHO would maintain a Pandemic Task Force during inter-pandemic periods to initiate measures whenever a possible pandemic virus was reported, and to monitor the level of preparedness.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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