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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-01-22

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, January 22, 2001

ANNAN VISITS CHINA, TRAVELS TO JAPAN

Following the Africa-France summit in Cameroon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan returned to Paris, arriving early Saturday morning. From Paris he flew to Beijing, where today he met with China's President Jiang Zemin, Vice Premier Qian Qichen and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan.

The talks ranged from follow-up to the Millennium Summit and UN reform to peacekeeping, disarmament, the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East.

In these meetings, the Secretary-General also discussed human rights, and specifically the continuing work following up on the Memorandum of Understanding signed last year between China and Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He welcomed the news that China will soon ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

This morning, the Secretary-General joined his wife Nane to visit World Food Programme staff member Xie Hongyi, who is recovering in a Beijing hospital from injuries suffered when, on January 14, a helicopter crashed in Mongolia, taking nine lives, including those of four UN staff members.

The Secretary-General had two press encounters while in Beijing, and responded to one question on the transfer of power in the Philippines by saying that he was happy that the change had taken place peacefully and call it "a victory for democracy." In a joint press encounter with Carolyn McAskie, the UN Acting Emergency Coordinator, he discussed the humanitarian crisis in Mongolia.

He also spoke to the press upon his arrival in Tokyo today.

Asked about whether China supported a second term for the Secretary-General, the Spokesman said he did not know whether the subject had come up and added that Annan had not raised it.

MEETING WITH IRAQI DELEGATION TO TAKE PLACE FEBRUARY 26-27

In response to questions, the Spokesman confirmed comments from Iraqi officials that an Iraqi delegation will meet with the Secretary-General and other senior officials in New York on February 26-27. The Iraqi delegation is expected to be headed by Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf. The Secretariat has not yet received anything in writing on the contents of those talks.

The Vice Chair of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim, proposed the idea for these talks when he met with the Secretary-General in Qatar last year.

A four-person inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is currently in Iraq conducting an on-site inspection of nuclear material.

This inspection is not related to any Security Council resolution, and is being conducted under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iraq is a signatory.

The work of the inspectors, which should be concluded by February 24, consists of verifying that significant amounts of low enriched and natural uranium remain under IAEA seal at sites in Iraq.

As part of its Security Council-mandated work, the IAEA had removed all weapons-useable uranium from Iraq. Like the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspectors, the IAEA has not been able to conduct its work related to Security Council resolution 687 since December 1998.

The IAEAs Director-General, Mohamed El Baradei, had said this inspection, as part of the NPT obligations, can not serve as a substitute for weapons inspections mandated by the Council.

In response to a question on a proposal by Iraq to pay 100 million Euros to poor people in the United States, the Spokesman noted that such a request, if it used money obtained by the "oil-for-food" program, would have to go to the Security Council's 661 Sanctions Committee for Iraq for approval.

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES EXPLOITATION OF RESOURCES IN CONGO

This morning the Security Council discussed the exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Safiatou Ba-N'Daw of Cote d'Ivoire, the Chairperson of the Expert Panel on the Illegal Exportation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the DRC, introduced the panel's interim report, which was issued last week.

The final report is due in mid-March, but the panel members are asking for an additional three months to complete their work.

At the Council's request, the Secretariat also briefed them on the current political situation in the DRC.

Asked about that briefing, the Spokesman said that the situation in the DRC has been reported as largely calm in recent days, despite fighting, unrelated to the larger conflict, in northeastern Congo.

On Tuesday, the UN flag will be flown at half mast in observance of official mourning for the late President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laurent Desire Kabila, whose funeral will take place that day in Kinshasa. As is the custom, no other flags will be flown that day.

CLIMATE CHANGE PANEL PREDICT RISING TEMPERATURE, SEA LEVELS

Meeting in Shanghai, the worlds leading experts in climate change say that evidence of mans effect on global climate change is now stronger then ever before. New evidence suggests that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activity.

These experts, who gathered as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up under the auspices of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), also predict an increase of up to 5.8 degrees celsius (42 Fahrenheit) in global temperature and a possible rise of sea levels up to 0.88 meters over the next century.

These findings are part of the first volume of the IPCC Third Assessment Report, which was issued today. The previous assessment report was issued in 1995.

Also included in the reports conclusion is the finding that snow cover in the high and mid-altitudes in the northern hemisphere has decreased by 10 percent since the late 1960s and that there has been a likely 40 percent decline in Arctic sea-ice thickness during late summer and early autumn in recent decades.

ANNAN ASKS PARTIES IN GEORGIA TO SHOW FLEXIBILITY

The Secretary-General's latest report on the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) emphasizes the continued lack of progress on the issue of the future political status of Abkhazia. The Secretary-General calls in the report for both sides, particularly the Abkhaz, to show flexibility to overcome the present impasse.

The report also notes the recurring pattern of abductions of UN military and civilian personnel, and says the two sides should make improved cooperation between their law enforcement agencies a priority.

The Secretary-General also recommends that the Mission, which currently comprises 103 military observers, be extended by six months until July 31.

The Secretary-General's report on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is expected to come out later today.

DRUG REPORT SAYS HEROIN, COCAINE PRODUCTION MORE LIMITED

The World Drug Report 2000, launched today in London by Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), says that global production of drugs such as heroin and cocaine shows signs of stabilization and even decline.

Production is now limited to fewer countries than ever before: Afghanistan and Myanmar together account for about 90 percent of global illicit opium production and Colombia alone is responsible for two-thirds of global coca leaf production.

The main consumer markets have stabilized or even experienced a decline in numbers. In the United States, cocaine use fell by some 70 percent over the 1985-1999 period, compared with a 40 percent fall in overall drug use.

However, more than 130 countries, both developed and developing, reported drug abuse problems. The most significant increase worldwide in the 1990s was in consumption of amphetamine-type stimulants such as methamphetamine and Ecstasy.

The report adds that the drug problem is neither unstoppable nor irreversible. Arlacchi said that "the time has come to change the way we think about drugs." The world community, he added, must "focus on a pragmatic, long-term approach to reducing both the supply of and demand for illicit drugs."

This morning in London, shortly before launching the report, Arlacchi and Keith Halliwell, the United Kingdom's national drugs coordinator, demonstrated the effectiveness of anti-drug tactics when they mingled with journalists, with Arlacchi holding a briefcase full of money and Halliwell carrying a small amount of drugs in his pocket. Police-trained dogs came in and sniffed the drug and the money, identifying Halliwell and Arlacchi as carriers of the smuggled articles.

UNHCR STAFFER ABDUCTED FROM GUINEA IS FREED IN LIBERIA

A radio operator for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who has been missing since he was abducted in southern Guinea on December 6 was freed today in Liberia, 47 days after he had been seized.

UNHCR reports that the radio operator, Joseph Loua, is in good shape, and the agency is trying to arrange for his speedy transfer to Conakry, Guinea.

Loua had been abducted from the town of Gueckedou by gunmen as he had tried to send a radio message about an attack on that southern Guinean town. UNHCR subsequently pulled its staff out of Gueckedou, although some relief work has now resumed in nearby areas.

UNHCR continues to be concerned about the fate of some 250,000 people stuck without aid in Guinea's "parrot's beak" area, where fighting has hampered access by aid workers.

UNHCR CALLS ON TAJIKISTAN TO ADMIT STRANDED AFGHANS

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today called on the government of Tajikistan to admit thousands of Afghan refugees stranded on the border with Afghanistan.

The group, including more than 6,000 children, has been living in appalling conditions on two fingers of land in the Pyani River for several months, many in shelters that are little more than holes in the ground covered with reeds. Food is in short supply, drinking water is unsafe and sanitation inadequate.

The refugees are also within range of artillery on the Afghan side of the river, and a number of shelling and shooting incidents have been reported. The first interagency mission since December 26 made a brief visit last week and found 1,000 people in a very poor state, with up to 60 percent suffering from illness.

AFRICAN PREPARATORY MEETING BEGINS FOR RACISM CONFERENCE

The three-day African regional preparatory meeting for the World Conference against Racism began its deliberations in Dakar, Senegal today with a call by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal for more democracy in Africa.

In his keynote address, Wade said that Africans should courageously look into the future where respect for human rights and genuine democracy would be the real challenge.

Speaking to the delegates gathered for the conference, Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary General of the World Conference, called for a discussion during the conference of gender discrimination as an essential element in the preparation of the World Conference against racism.

She underlined the multiple forms of discrimination suffered by women and commended the role of Africans womens organizations in the mobilization of support for the world conference.

Robinson added that Africa should continue to speak up and determine its priorities, articulate its recommendations, listen to civil society, express its commitments and underline what it expects from others.

The Dakar meeting is the third of a series of regional meetings in preparation for this year's World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to be held in Durban, South Africa from August 31 to September 7.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about any impact from the proposed withdrawal of US funds from agencies that advocate or provide abortions internationally, the Spokesman noted that the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) neither funds nor supports abortion as a means for family planning. Previously, he said, UNFPA and the US Government had reached an understanding on the issue of abortion advocacy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expert mission is due to arrive in Kosovo today. The mission will collect information on the population's exposure to depleted uranium and other toxic substances, and will verify available data on the incidence of cancer and leukemia in the Kosovo population.

A global forest assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization shows reduction in the global rate of loss of forests to about 9 million hectares a year, 20 percent lower than the global figure reported in 1995. The rate of disappearance varies from region to region, with Africa and Latin America have the highest rate of disappearing forests while Europe and North America have a net increase.

Today the number of Member State to pay their regular budget contribution in full this year has reached 25, with payments by three countries. Cameroon made a payment of more than $93,000, Canada over $26.6 million and Hungary over $1.2 million. At the end of January 2000, 43 Member States had paid their dues in full.

According to an updated background note on UN peacekeeping operations, some 38,000 military personnel are currently serving in a total of 15 UN peacekeeping operations. The peacekeeping budget from the beginning of July last year until the end of June this year is estimated to be between $2.6 billion and $3 billion.

The UN Development Programme, along with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has started a web site containing information on relief efforts in El Salvador following the recent earthquake there.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055


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