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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-02-16

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





Friday, February 16, 2001


Secretary-General Kofi Annan met today with his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed Larsen.

The two discussed the current situation in the Middle East, including the rising level of violence, and a statement is expected later today on the recent violence, including the incident that occurred today in the Shebaa Farms area.


The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Kosovo, Hans Haekkerup, issued a statement condemning in the strongest terms possible an attack carried out this morning against a convoy of buses carrying Kosovo Serbs. At least seven Serbs were killed, and dozens more were wounded, including 10 seriously wounded, in the attack, which Haekkerup described as a cowardly act of terrorism.

Haekkerup said the attack, which occurred just after the buses entered Kosovo from Serbia, was clearly well-planned. A remote-controlled bomb had been placed in a drainage ditch, which was detonated when the first bus in the convoy crossed a command wire.

"It is a terrible tragedy, not only for the victims and their families, but for all the people of Kosovo," Haekkerup said. "Those who believe that such a contemptible act might in some way advance the political aspirations of a small, extremist and marginalized sector of Kosovo's society are seriously mistaken."

He added that the attack marks "a serious blow against the people of Kosovo and the future of Kosovo."

The Security Council was briefed on the attack by Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. [Council members also condemned the attack in a statement.]

Asked about the United Nations' response, the Spokesman said that the UN Mission would be expected to strengthen its efforts to provide security in Kosovo to prevent further violence. He added that the death toll in the attack could rise, given the number of people who had been seriously wounded.


The Secretary-General today appointed Gary Matthews of the United States as Principal Deputy Special Representative in Kosovo, replacing Jock Covey, also of the United States.

Matthews had most recently been serving as Deputy High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Supervisor for Brcko. Before that he was Regional Director in that country in Mostar for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He is a retired U.S. ambassador who served in the US Foreign Service for 30 years.


The Security Council held consultations this morning to hear a briefing by Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, of Bangladesh, chairman of the Councils working group on general sanctions issues. He updated Council members on the work done by the group so far.

Under other matters, Council members were briefed by Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on recent developments in Lebanon and Kosovo.


In a statement issued in Geneva today, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) confirmed that low traces of plutonium had been found in depleted uranium (DU) ammunition that was collected from sites in Kosovo and analyzed at two Swiss laboratories.

The amount of plutonium found in the DU shells is very low and does not have any significant impact on their overall radioactivity, according to UNEP.

The Executive Director of UNEP, Klaus Toepfer, said, "These newest findings about the composition of the depleted uranium only lead to a minor change in the overall radiological situation and should therefore not cause any immediate alarm."

UNEPs recommendations concerning the issue of depleted uranium will be presented in a full report expected in early March.


The preliminary hearing into the first case of Crimes Against Humanity committed in East Timor in the wake of the 1999 popular consultation started today at the Dili District Court.

Eleven persons are accused of committing crimes, including murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer of the civilian population in Los Palos, between April and September 1999. The accused, most of whom were members of the pro-autonomy militia group "Team Alfa," were allegedly involved in at least 13 murders, including what became known as the Los Palos massacre: the ambush and killing on September 25, 1999 of a group including clergy, church workers, a journalist and a youth.

The indictment also contains the first accusation against an Indonesian Army Officer, Lt. Sayful Anwar, Deputy Commander of the Special Forces Command (called KOPASSUS) stationed in Los Palos. He is accused of the mutilation, torture and murder of a Timorese in April 1999, at the Team Alfa base.


UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kenzo Oshima, at a news conference today in Islamabad, Pakistan, called Afghanistan, which he had visited over the past three days, "one of the worst places in the world to try to live, and it's going to get a lot worse very quickly. A real tragedy is unfolding in front of us."

Oshima visited Kabul, Faizabad and Herat, where he personally saw tens of thousands of people in camps, and called the situation for many Afghans, as a result of the continued conflict and the drought, as "extremely bad," with many people unable to manage any more suffering.

He said he has asked all authorities to divert resources from fighting, and that he would also ask for more short-term emergency support from donors to deal with Afghans newly displaced by fighting.

On Saturday, Oshima will visit refugee camps near Peshawar, where some of the new caseload of Afghan refugees is housed.

Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement today calling for an "international investigation into massacres and other serious human rights abuses committed by warring parties in Afghanistan." The High Commissioner added that the ongoing violence is making "a catastrophic humanitarian situation even worse."


The Political Committee of the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement, comprising ministers from the Governments involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), will meet in New York next week.

The Security Council will meet with the members of the Political Committee next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to address the Political Committee.

Ketumile Masire, the former Botswana President who is the facilitator of the political dialogue, is also expected be in New York next week and attend a private meeting of the Security Council.

Participants at the summit meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, on Thursday reaffirmed their commitment to revive the stalled peace process in the Congo. The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for the DRC, Kamel Morjane, and the UN Force Commander, Gen. Mountaga Diallo, attended that meeting.

In response to questions about UN deployment in the DRC, the Spokesman said after the briefing that, for planning purposes, a group of 40 military observers is scheduled to begin deployment on February 26. The current mandate of the Mission authorizes deployment of up to 500 military observers. Another group of observers is scheduled to be deployed in March.

Asked about attendance at next week's meeting of the Political Committee to the Lusaka Agreement, the Spokesman noted that the six signatories to the agreement -- Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe -- as well as three Congolese rebel groups would be expected to attend.


In a statement issued by his Spokesman, the Secretary-General expressed his sadness at the news of the death of F.T. Liu, the distinguished UN civil servant who was recruited by, and worked closely with, Ambassador Ralph Bunche and did much to ensure the continuation of Bunche's legacy.

Liu was a man of great kindness and acute political judgment, who played a key role in many of the most challenging UN missions from the 1950s to the 1980s, including decolonization and the crises in Congo, Cyprus and the Middle East. The Secretary-General today said he had lost a friend and valued colleague, who would be mourned by the whole UN family.


Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), is heading to Tehran this weekend to attend the Asian regional preparatory conference for the upcoming World Conference against Racism, which is scheduled to begin on August 31 in Durban, South Africa.

The High Commissioner will make the opening statement at the Tehran meeting, which opens next Monday and runs through Wednesday.

In response to a question on reports that some Jewish non-governmental organizations have faced difficulties in attending next week's meeting, the Spokesman said that the Office of the High Commissioner was attempting to confirm those reports with the Iranian authorities.

In preparation for the regional conference, it was emphasized that non-governmental organizations that meet the requirements for attendance should be able to participate. Robinson and the Office would be concerned if properly accredited organizations were not permitted to attend.


The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that Commissioner Ruud Lubbers, in a meeting Thursday, received the crucial endorsement of Liberian President Charles Taylor for UNHCRs efforts to provide safe access and passage for tens of thousands of West African refugees.

UNHCR said Taylor has now joined his counterparts in Guinea and Sierra Leone in endorsing the absolute priority for safe access to, and safe passage for, refugees.


The Secretary-General, in a letter to the President of the Security Council, noted last week's Security Council meeting on peace-building, as well as the Fourth High-Level UN-Regional Organizations Meeting, which dealt with the same topic.

The Secretary-General informed the Council that, at the meeting with regional organizations, it was decided that "the promotion of self-reliance should be the fundamental goal of all cooperative peace-building activities by the United Nations and regional organizations." The letter included a summary of the proposals presented at that meeting for cooperation on peace-building issues.

He also noted that participants at the meeting drew attention to a lack of political support, and insufficient resources, provided by Member States for long-term peace-building.


The International Narcotics Control Board will launch its annual report this coming Wednesday, February 21, with the widespread overuse of psychotropic substances is the main topic of the report. Ambassador Herbert Okun, a member of the Control Board, will be the guest at the noon briefing on Tuesday to discuss the subject.

A decision is expected this afternoon from the newly established United Nations Forum on Forests regarding the location of its Secretariat. The Forum is finishing up a week-long organizational session here in New York. It was created last year as a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to be a permanent negotiating forum on forest issues and to monitor action on agreed recommendations for sustainable forest management.

Nearly one year after massive floods devastated large tracts of southern and central Mozambique, killing some 700 people and leaving thousands homeless, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today that sufficient food is available to help those affected by the current wave of floods.

The 18th Session of the UN Commission on Human Settlements (HABITAT) completed its work today in Nairobi on a positive note by supporting the call by the Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka for a strengthening of Habitat. The Commission voted an increase in the budget and endorsed the new work program for the biennium 2002-2003.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today that overcoming trauma could be one of the main challenges in helping India to recover from the earthquake in the western state of Gujarat. UNICEF staff have heard consistent reports of post-disaster stress in children and adults alike.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) welcomed contributions from Ireland and Norway for the agency's reproductive health work, including safe motherhood programs and HIV/AIDS prevention.


Monday, February 19

Today is a U.S. national holiday, and the UN Headquarters in New York will be closed.

In Geneva, the World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment Programme Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will finalize the second volume of its Third Assessment Report. This volume will address how global warming is expected to affect Africa, Europe and other regions of the world over the next 100 years. The document will be posted at at 10 a.m. GMT.

Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala begins a two-day visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he will deliver an address at the International Conference on Small Arms Proliferation and Trade in the Asia-Pacific.

Government delegates, human rights experts and non-governmental organizations from Asia will gather in Teheran, Iran, through Wednesday to define their common regional position in preparation for the World Conference against Racism, Xenophobia, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance. That Conference will be held in Durban, South Africa, from August 31 to September 7.

In Montreal, Canada, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization will begin its 163rd session.

In Nairobi, the preparatory committee for the General Assembly special session to review the implementation of the Habitat Agenda will meet through Friday.

In Abuja, Nigeria, U.N. Development Programme Resident Representative Mbaya Kankwenda will deliver a message on behalf of the Secretary-General to the First Pan-African Congress on Human Trafficking.

Tuesday, February 20

The Security Council will hold an open meeting to discuss the report of the Monitoring Mechanism dealing with sanctions against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

The Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on Western Sahara is expected toward the middle part of the week. The Secretary-General's report to the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS is also expected during the course of this week.

The UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will host a two-day seminar in Vienna on promoting sustainable economic and social development for the Palestinians. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast and Francis Okello, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, will attend the meeting.

At The Hague, the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will meet through Friday.

The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board will be launched in Vienna and New York. The guest at the noon briefing will be Ambassador Herbert Okun, who will launch the report. Key topics of this years report include online trafficking and the successful control of key chemicals used in illicit cocaine and heroin manufacturing.

Wednesday, February 21

The Political Committee of the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement, comprising ministers from the Governments involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), will meet in New York. The Security Council will hold both a formal meeting and a private meeting with the members of the Political Committee.

In Vienna, the College of Commissioners for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) will meet for two days to consider the next report to the Security Council on UNMOVIC's activities. That report is due on March 1.

Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala begins a two-day visit to Seoul to meet with officials in the Republic of Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on disarmament matters.

Today is International Mother Language Day.

Thursday, February 22

The Security Council will follow up Wednesday's meeting of the Political Committee of the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement with another formal meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There will be a meeting of the troop contributing countries for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

The Secretary-General is to receive the Joseph Prize for Human Rights, in a ceremony at the National Leadership Conference of the Anti-Defamation League.

Friday, February 23

The Security Council expects to hold consultations on Western Sahara, where the present mandate of the UN Mission is set to expire at the end of February.

  • The guest at today's briefing was Terje Roed Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who discussed the violence in the Middle East and the economic problems facing the Palestinian Authority.

    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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