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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-18
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, 18 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.
Expressing concern about the effect of the current political tensions on the stability in the country, the Security Council on Thursday called on the Government of the Central African Republic to take concrete steps to implement political, economic, social and security reforms and to fulfil the commitments it had made in its recent letters to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In a statement read out by its President, Robert Fowler (Canada), the Council stressed that the future mandate and the ongoing presence of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) were closely linked to the fulfilment of those commitments, in particular to the immediate resumption of a constructive political dialogue. The MINURCA mandate expires on 28 February.
The Council reaffirmed that the complete implementation of the Bangui Agreements and of the National Reconciliation Pact was essential to peace and national reconciliation in the Central African Republic. It pointed out that the Government, the political leaders and the people bore the primary responsibility for national reconciliation and the reconstruction of their country.
The Council noted that a smooth preparation of free and fair Presidential elections required a degree of political consensus and a genuine dialogue between all the constituent parties of the National Assembly. The Council also expressed support for the Special Representative of the Secretary- General in his call to the country's leaders and authorities to resolve the political impasse to enable the country move forward.
The General Assembly this afternoon reappointed Rubens Ricupero as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), for another four-year term of office, beginning on 15 September 1999 and ending on 14 September 2003. The extension was proposed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Speaking after the appointment, representatives of several Member States praised Mr. Ricupero's achievements at UNCTAD. They said he had increased UNCTAD's importance and relevance, and expressed satisfaction at UNCTAD's performance as focal point for the integrated treatment of development issues. They hoped that improved efficiency at the organization would continue to be important in Mr. Ricupero's second term of office.
Also this afternoon, the Assembly decided that its current session would end on Monday, 13 September, and the next session open on 14 September. It further decided that in the course of the 53rd session, it would give further consideration to the question of the opening and closing dates of future regular sessions of the Assembly.
In another action today, the Assembly decided to include on the agenda of its current session the question of observer status for the Customs Cooperation Council, which had been recommended by the General Committee. That item would be considered in plenary.
The Assembly was informed by its President, Didier Opertti (Uruguay) that 40 Member States were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations. Under the Charter, a Member State cannot vote if its arrears equalled or exceeded the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.
A major United Nations conference to mobilize international support for the celebration of the new millennium in Bethlehem opened in Rome on Thursday amid calls to turn the upcoming event into a powerful symbol of global peace and reconciliation.
The Bethlehem 2000 International Conference, which is held at the headquarters of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, also aims to build support for a project of the Palestinian Authority, designed to improve Bethlehem's municipal infrastructure and public services while restoring and preserving the city's rich archaeological, cultural and historical heritage.
In his message to the two-day forum, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that the Bethlehem 2000 Project was crucial in ensuring the success of the anniversary, since the ancient city was in dire need of renovation to cope with the expected huge influx of pilgrims and visitors.
Mr. Annan noted, however, that all the endeavours to celebrate the millennium "will come to naught" if peace continued to elude the Palestinians and the Israelis. He therefore called on all the parties to the peace process to "strive to forgive the transgressions of the past and to build bridges of tolerance and trust for the future".
The Bethlehem 2000 International Conference, which is organized in accordance with two resolutions adopted by the General Assembly last December, has been convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, with the support of the Government of Italy. According to its organizers, the forum will provide an opportunity for Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, religious and cultural personalities, and the private sector to engage in further dialogue for the promotion of peace and reconciliation.
As part of a continuing wave of worldwide demonstrations, Kurdish supporters of Abdullah Ocalan on Thursday forced their way into the United Nations Office in Vienna, a third UN building to be broken into since the protests began.
A group of Kurdish demonstrators numbering 60 to 70 men, women and children entered the UN premises around 10 a.m. by overpowering United Nations security guards. UN security and Vienna police sealed of the UN building with the demonstrators inside, while a group of some 100 protesters remained outside.
After handing over a petition to Deputy Director-General of the UN Office in Vienna, Nandasiri Jesentuliyana, who agreed to transmit it to New York, the Kurdish demonstrators left the UN building peacefully in about two hours.
Meanwhile, demonstrations protesting Ocalan's arrest continued outside several other UN offices, a UN spokesman said in New York on Thursday. Peaceful protests were reported in the Iranian city of Teheran, and in Yerevan, Armenia, where some 18 Kurds were reported to be on a hunger strike. Another demonstration reportedly took place in Suleminiya, in northern Iraq.
The United Nations and its various specialized agencies are sending relief supplies to the scene of the earthquake that struck two Afghan provinces south of Kabul last week, the Office of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan announced on Thursday.
The Islamabad-based UN office reported that the supplies included shelter and food, with the UN World Food Programme allocating 55 tons of wheat, beans and high energy biscuits to 400 of the worst-affected families. According to the Coordinator's Office, more than 5,500 homes were damaged and destroyed in the quake, which left at least 30,000 people homeless. Ninety mosques were also ruined.
Although international UN staff have been out of Afghanistan since August 1998, the United Nations sent in a team of four international staff members to Kabul earlier this week to help coordinate earthquake relief efforts. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Habitat are sending shelter materials and blankets. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the UN World Health Organization sent medical supplies to treat the injured.
In the wake of the condemnation of a woman for genital mutilation by a French court, two United Nations experts on the women's rights on Thursday said that improved information and education remained the best means to fight effectively such harmful traditional practices.
In a joint statement issued in Geneva, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women, and Halima Warzazi, the Special Rapporteur on traditional practices affecting the health of women and children, stressed that genital mutilation was a universal problem affecting many countries and cultures.
The UN experts noted that alternative initiation rites, respectful of the girls' physical integrity, had successfully been put in place in several communities.
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