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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-02-20

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 OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

UN TEAM TO TRAVEL TO FORMIDABLE TO WITNESS RWANDA PULL-BACK

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, upon entering the building this morning, said he had a very good conversation by telephone Monday with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who called to inform him that his troops will be withdrawing from Pweto, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and they will withdraw 200 kilometers in the direction of Rwanda.

The Secretary-General said he has instructed the UN Observers and his Special Representative for the Congo, Kamel Morjane, to get the observers ready to go and work with them on their withdrawal.

Morjane, who is in New York to attend two days of Security Council meetings with the Political Committee, said that his force commander has instructed a reconnaissance and advance team to go immediately to Pweto.

The Secretary-General described Kagames decision as a very important one. He said he hoped it will set the tone and lead others to take the same initiatives and eventually have everyone withdraw from the Congo.

The Secretary-General, in his remarks to reporters, also mentioned the decision by President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to accept former President Katumile Masire of Botswana as the facilitator for the Inter-Congolese dialogue.

If you make progress on the dialogue and those who are fighting have a sense that they have a role to play and they can participate in national politics, you may be able to persuade them to stop the fighting, the Secretary-General said this morning.

Masire is also in New York today and was scheduled to meet with the Secretary-General later today.

This afternoon, at 4 p.m., the Security Council will hold consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in preparation for the meetings on the Democratic Republic of the Congo organized by the Council for Wednesday and Thursday.

Responding to questions on the schedule in New York of the Political Committee of the Lusaka Accords, the Spokesman later added that among the highlights of the schedule for the next couple of days is a public meeting of the Security Council Wednesday morning with the members of the Political Committee during which the Secretary-General will speak. That will be followed a private meeting of the Council as well as a luncheon hosted by the President of the Security Council for the members of the Political Committee. On the following day, the Security Council has scheduled a formal meeting for the adoption of a resolution on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thursday afternoon, the Council has scheduled a private meeting with Masire.

Asked as which members of the Political Committee of the Lusaka Accords would be attending the talks in New York, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General had said this morning that he expected them all to be present.

COUNCIL TO IMPROVE COOPERATION ON PEACE-BUILDING

Following closed consultations this morning, the Security Council held a formal meeting this morning to adopt a Presidential Statement on Peace-Building: Towards a Comprehensive Approach. The topic was the subject of a public meeting of the Council earlier this month.

In the statement, the Council, among other observations, reiterates its willingness to consider ways to improve its cooperation with other UN bodies and organs directly concerned by peace-building, in particular the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council which have a primary role in this area.

The Councils open debate on the monitoring mechanism on Angola sanctions, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed to Friday, 23 February.

ANNAN: AIDS IS THE MOST FORMIDABLE DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME

In the Secretary-Generals report for the General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, which was issued earlier today, the Secretary-General calls the AIDS epidemic "the most formidable development challenge of our time."

According to the report, by the end of last year, 21.8 million people had died from AIDS, while 36.1 million people are currently living with HIV.

Seventy percent of adults and 80 per cent of the children worldwide living with HIV live in Africa, and nearly three-quarters of the AIDS deaths so far have occurred there.

In his report, the Secretary-General calls on Governments to secure a global commitment for intensified and coordinated action.

He says that "leadership is fundamental to an effective response," and the report notes that an expanded prevention effort, steps to make medicines more affordable and focused international research on microbicides and vaccines are all needed.

The report has been issued in preparation for the General Assembly's Special Session on HIV/AIDS will take place in New York from June 25 to 27, 2001. The first round of substantive negotiations for that Special Session is set to take place here next week, starting on Monday, February 26.

IRAQ WRITES TO SECRETARY-GENERAL FOLLOWING US/UK RAIDS

Out as a document today is a letter addressed to the Secretary-General from the Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Al-Sahaf concerning last Fridays bombing raid conducted by the United States and the United Kingdom.

In the letter, Al-Sahaf calls for condemnation of the attack, and points out that the attack comes a few days before the beginning a talks between himself and the Secretary-General on the question of Iraq and sanctions.

The letter also criticized the UN mission along the Iraq-Kuwait (UNIKOM) border for not doing in its mandated task to report these types of attacks.

In response to a question on the composition of the UN delegation for the upcoming talks in New York, the Spokesman said we do not yet have a list that can be released. The Spokesman added that these talks are clearly a priority for the Secretary-General as he intends to be present in as many meetings as he can over the two-day period during which the talks will be held.

Asked about the submission of an agenda for these talks by the Iraqi delegation, the Spokesman said that the fact that one has yet to be submitted in no way diminishes the hopes of the Secretary-General that he can make another effort at breaking the impasse in the relations between the United Nations and Iraq.

ANNAN CALLS ON RENEWED AID FOR PALESTINIAN ECONOMY

This morning in Vienna, Kieran Prendergast, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, delivered a speech on behalf of the Secretary-General at the opening session of a UN seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People.

In this speech, the Secretary-General expressed his utmost concern at the deepening spiral of violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory that began in September. He also appealed strongly to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint so as to prevent a further escalation, which could have very serious consequences for the entire region.

In light of the rapid deterioration of the Palestinian economy with its possible catastrophic consequences, the Secretary-General called on the international community to renew its efforts to assist the Palestinians in both their long term as well as short-term development needs.

The seminar, which is organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will close tomorrow afternoon.

ANNAN: REPORTED ABUSE OF REFUGEES IS ABOMINABLE

In response to questions from reporters this morning on the reports of extortion of refugees by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nairobi, the Secretary-General said: the moment we had a hint that some wrong doing was going on, the local Office started an investigation which was inconclusive and now we have the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) with authorities from other governments and we are determined to go to the bottom of this and deal with those who are responsible

He added: I think it is abominable that refugees who are already suffering, who are displaced, whose lives have been uprooted, should be exploited in this manner. And those responsible should be dealt with harshly.

UN REFUGEE CHIEF RETURNS TO GENEVA AFTER WEST AFRICAN TOUR

The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers had returned to Geneva on Monday, ending an eight&#8209;day mission to five West African nations in which he had enlisted the support of regional leaders for ensuring safe access to and passage for tens of thousands of refugees.

Todays briefing notes from the UN mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) report on the continuing contacts with the Revolutionary United Front, including a scheduled meeting with Non-Governmental Organizations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a release today on the health care needs of areas in Sierra Leone faced with large numbers of returning refugees and displaced persons.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said the organization was continuing to transport food and other supplies in Guinea.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Today in Rome, the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) began a two-day session, to which the Secretary-General delivered a video message in which he noted the Fund's Rural Poverty Report 2001, issued earlier this month. The report, the Secretary-General noted, "reminds us that if we do not focus on the rural areas where three-fourths of the worlds poor live, work and struggle to support their families, we will not achieve our targets for eradicating abject poverty."

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva following his recent trip to Afghanistan, Kenzo Oshima, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), said that about one million Afghans, half of whom are internally displaced within the country, are at risk of famine. Adding that the situation could become a major humanitarian catastrophe and would require more assistance from the donor community. Asked about the effects of the closure by the Taliban of the UN office in Kabul, Oshima said he saw few effects so far for the United Nations' humanitarian, as opposed to political, activities.

The second and final Preparatory Conference for Istanbul+5 the five-year review conference for Habitat II got underway Monday in Nairobi. A draft declaration on cities and other human settlements in the new millennium is being finalized and will be taken up by the Special Session of the General Assembly from 6 to 8 June here in New York.

In a press release issued today, World Food Programme (WFP) noted concerns about rising malnutrition in Burundi. The agency is stepping up food assistance, including the distribution of 5,700 tons of rations to more than 700,000 people, so that they do not immediately eat seeds that could be planted later during the rainy season.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a press release concerning a conference on alcohol and youth that began yesterday in Stockholm. According to a WHO survey of 30 European countries, binge drinking and the frequency of drunkenness are on the rise in many countries, while illicit drug use is up in almost all the countries surveyed.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) today said it had found 163 child soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had been found in a political education school in Uganda. The children -- who were between the ages of 9 and 17 -- said they wanted to return to their families in and around the Congolese town of Bunia, and UNICEF is making arrangements for their return.

Late Friday afternoon, the newly established UN Forum on Forests decided to locate its secretariat right here in New York.

In response to a question on a meeting in Washington between the Secretary-General and President George W. Bush, the Spokesman answered that we were still waiting for a date from the White House but it is expected to happen before the end of the first week of March.

When asked if the Secretary-General had ever met John Negroponte, the reported nominee of the post of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the Spokesman said he did not think the two had ever met.

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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