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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-12-19

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







Wednesday , December 19, 2001

The Secretary-General's news conference substitutes for the daily noon briefing.


"Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As usual I wanted to meet with you before the holidays -- to thank you for all your interest and support in the year 2001, and to wish you all the very best for 2002.

This has been an extraordinary year for the United Nations, for New York, for the United States and for much of the world.

But there may be parts of the world for which it was all too ordinary.

When I said in my Nobel Lecture last week that we have entered the third millennium through a gate of fire, I was of course thinking of what happened on 11 September.

But for Afghans, or Israelis or Palestinians or many other peoples suffering from conflict and poverty, my statement would have a different meaning.

And there are many people in the world for whom it might have no particular meaning, because 2001 was not different from 2000 or 1999 just another year of living with HIV/AIDS, or in a refugee camp, or under repressive rule, or with crushing poverty, or watching crops dwindle and children go hungry as the global environment comes under greater threat.

Those are the realities we have to remember, even as we find new inspiration in the honour conferred on us by the Nobel Committee.

And those are the realities we must keep in mind even as we muster our energy and determination for the worldwide struggle against terrorism.

We face daunting challenges in Afghanistan, but today we need global support, and there is global support for that unhappy country. Indeed, the people of Afghanistan have an unprecedented opportunity to begin anew, and to construct a state that defends their rights and their interests. We will still face a grave humanitarian challenge, as well as acute security problems that must be addressed.

But today there is also hope of a new broad-based government, and a new effort to rehabilitate the country and set it on the path of development. The chance must not be missed by Afghans, by their neighbours, or by the international community.

The situation in the Middle East, if I may turn to that region, looks much less hopeful right now. The parties clearly cannot solve this conflict alone. A concerted effort is needed to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, and the time for it is now.

Still, we must not lose sight of the broader challenges affecting the region.

We must keep working to resolve conflict in Africa, Latin America and wherever else it keeps people from focusing on the essential work of economic and social development.

We must continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, and build on the good progress we made earlier this year in forging a global strategy and raising awareness as well as funds.

And we must keep our sights firmly fixed on the Millennium Development Goals. And next year there are two conferences that offer unprecedented opportunities for progress -- that is the conference in Monterrey on financing for development and the Johannesburg conference on sustainable development.

Of course, the United Nations needs the resources to fulfill the many challenges before it. I am conscious that the Fifth Committee has still not achieved agreement on our budget for the next biennium. I call upon all Member States to overcome their differences, and provide the Organization with the funds we need to carry out the vital work that the world expects of us.

Thank you very much. I will now take your questions."

On the war against terrorism Asked about the UN position on how trials of al-Qaeda members should be carried out, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations as such has not taken a position, but that international law and national legal instruments should guide how nations try such people. I would hope that, whatever happens, the basic rule of law and the basic principles, at the international level and the national level, will be respected, he said.

In response to a question about whether the war on terrorism could move to other countries besides Afghanistan, the Secretary-General said that discussions on that matter were taking place outside the United Nations, and that, as far as he was aware, no decisions on other targets had been taken.

He added that that, in the long term, nations need to focus on the resolutions passed by the Security Council on issues like international cooperation and the financing of terrorism. He declined to speculate on how the Security Council would respond if the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks moved from Afghanistan to another country.

Asked whether he would try to restrain U.S. actions in its war against terrorism, he said that the Security Council and General Assembly resolutions provide a good basis for the struggle against terrorism. He noted Security Council Resolution 1373 and its focus on diplomatic and financial means of dealing with terrorism, which he said would be important in the long term.

The Secretary-General also urged nations to sign, ratify and implement the 12 international legal instruments dealing with terrorism.

Asked how the General Assembly might define terrorism, the Secretary-General acknowledged that the definition of terrorism has preoccupied Member States and became particularly acute as the Assembly discussed a comprehensive convention on terrorism. The draft before the Assembly, he said, does not take away any of the rights of the accused or interfere with other legal instruments. What we can all accept, he argued, is that anyone who killsand targets innocent civilians cannot claim that it can be justified, regardless of their cause.

On Afghanistan Asked about the UNs role in Afghanistan on the eve of the Interim Authoritys December 22 inauguration, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations would work to get leaders to come together to serve the interests of the country. He said the agreement reached in Bonn had been good, but needed to be brought into reality on the ground.

Some leaders, he conceded, may balk, and he added that Afghanistans neighbors must also be made to understand how a stable Afghanistan is in their interests. Annan also stressed the importance of effective security arrangements to create the right environment.

In that regard, he noted that humanitarian workers had wondered, if the proposed multinational force focuses on Kabul, what would happen to other parts of the country that were unsafe.

Asked about Afghan leaders who indicated differences with the Interim Authority arrangement, the Secretary-General said that the Bonn Agreement was a decision taken by the Afghans themselves. Since then, he said, his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, had met with many leaders who had not been present at Bonn, and had received assurances from them that they would cooperate with the new arrangements. The United Nations, he said, would take leaders at their word to implement the agreement they had willingly signed.

On the Middle East Asked about what he would recommend in the Middle East peace process, the Secretary-General emphasized the need for a collective international effort, including the United Nations and United States, to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

In response to a question on how Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat could comply with demands that he crack down on militants at a time when the Palestinian Authority is being attacked, the Secretary-General noted that some think that Arafat should do more to contain extremist acts emanating from his territory, but that he would need the right environment to be able to do so.

In his conversations with the Palestinian leader, the Secretary-General said Arafat had indicated the difficulty to carry out functions while bombing and shelling are occurring and his police cannot move around. The Israeli side should help create conditions to allow Arafat to accomplish his tasks.

He added that his own choice is for parties to continue negotiations while dealing with terrorism, since making negotiations conditional on total peace would give a veto to the extremists.

In response to a question, Annan noted that the Palestinians had brought the topic of the Middle East for discussion by the General Assembly on Thursday afternoon, although he declined to speculate on what the outcome of that meeting might be.

He said, in response to another question, that the parties bear a responsibility for the failure of recent efforts, which he said was not a UN failure. The parties, he said, must be ready to sit down and negotiate.

On Iraq Asked whether UN weapons inspectors would return to Iraq, the Secretary-General said that he had not received any indications that Iraq would allow the weapons inspectors to return. His conversations with the Iraqi Foreign Minister during the General Assembly debate last month did not yield any new development on that issue.

Asked about whether Iraq might be attacked in a later phase of the war on terrorism, the Secretary-General reiterated that it would be unwise to attack Iraq, and that such an action could exacerbate tensions in the region. He added that he had not seen any evidence linking Iraq to the September 11 attacks on the United States.

At the same time, he said, Iraq must understand that it should respond to UN Security Council resolutions and allow the UN weapons inspectors to return.

Asked about the no-fly zone over parts of Iraq, the Secretary-General said that, as far as he is concerned, he did not see anything in the Security Council resolutions that authorize those zones, but some countries had independently decided to implement them.

On India and Pakistan Asked about recent statements indicating a worsening of relations between India and Pakistan, the Secretary-General said he hoped that what was happening would not lead to war and that diplomacy would be considered. He drew attention to the tensions in the region, including Afghanistan, and said that he has always encouraged the parties to resolve their problems through dialogue, since there is no military solution to their dispute.

On Bosnia and Herzegovina Asked whether there was an opportunity for a successor conference to the Dayton meetings in 1995 that resulted in a peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations has not had time to discuss the issue in depth and would need to discuss it further.

He reiterated that the United Nations would complete its mission in Bosnia by December 2002, having trained police there, and that it would be time to hand over the bulk of operations to Bosnians and to relevant regional bodies.

On Haiti Asked whether the United Nations would return to Haiti, the Secretary-General noted the leading role in that country of the Organization of American States. The United Nations, he said, has its own developmental operations on the ground, but did not envision a return to a peacekeeping or similar role.

At the same time, Annan urged the Haitian political leaders to find a way of bridging their differences, for the sake of their nation and their people, and to move toward a stable Haiti that would allow people to exercise their political rights.

On other matters Asked about allegations concerning the questioning of two Arab UN staff members by U.S. authorities, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations was not aware of the visits paid to the staff members by U.S. officials until after they occurred. The United Nations, he said, did not agree to them, and the UN Legal Office was asking the appropriate authorities for further details. Asked about the UN budget, the Secretary-General underscored that the budget has not grown for several years, and there is a limit to what can be done on a shoe-string budget. He said he hoped that resources to bolster UN peacekeeping would be forthcoming and that Member States would resolve their differences to provide the United Nations with the resources it needs.

Asked about areas for optimism, the Secretary-General pointed to the UN operations in East Timor and Sierra Leone, where the return to normalcy was gradually being accomplished.

Asked why the United Nations and its Secretary-General had received a Nobel Peace Prize when problems in the world were worsening, the Secretary-General pointed to the UNs achievements over the years, and added that, despite the enormity of the crises it faces, the United Nations keeps trying. Without hope, we are all lost, he said, urging those gathered, Keep hope alive.


The Security Council is scheduled to resume consultations at 4:45 p.m. during which a draft resolution on Afghanistan is expected to be introduced.

During the morning consultations, the Security Council was briefed by the UN Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, on the issue of eligibility of judges to be assigned to the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR). The second item taken up by the Council was the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Jean Marie Guehenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed Council members on the deployment of the UN Mission in that country.

The World Food Programme says it is expected to receive more than 29 metric tons of emergency food assistance in Kabul on Friday from a group of New York City fire-fighters and police officers. The team left New York City yesterday and will arrive in Belgium today where it will load cooking oil, rice, powdered milk and wool blankets onto a cargo plane.

In its weekly update, the Office of the Iraq Programme indicates that Iraqi oil exports, now in the second week of Phase XI, remain well below average. Exports under the oil-for-food program registered a total of 6.4 million barrels in the week ending 14 December 2001, for a revenue estimated at $100 million. The total value of contracts placed on hold by the Security Councils 661 sanctions committee continued to rise, standing at almost $4.63 billion.

A panel of three international judges in the Kosovo Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the petition for the further detention of three Kosovo Albanians suspected of involvement in the attack on a public bus last February, in which 11 Kosovo Serbs were killed. The three suspects were released today, the UN Mission in Kosovo ( UNMIK) reported.

In a speech delivered in Yokahama, Japan, this week, UN Childrens Fund ( UNICEF ) Executive Director Carol Bellamy told delegates to a meeting on the commercial sexual exploitation of children that children forced into the sex trade are especially vulnerable to contracting the HIV virus. She urged international cooperation to confront childrens sexual exploitation, including an end to the shameful silence that keeps commercial exploitation and abuse a secret.

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language: UN mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) today said that peacekeepers brought under control skirmishes that took place in Koidu between rival diamond miners. The clashes began when an unidentified group of people gathered to protest mining activities within the town. The group that was involved in mining at the time responded with stone throwing, which resulted in injuries.

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism was signed by the Central African Republic and Somalia today, bringing the number of signatories to 131. The Central African Republic also signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which now has 165 signatories.

"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:black; The global average surface temperature in 2001 is expected to be the second warmest on record, 0.42C above the 1961-1990 average. The warmest year in the 1860 to present record occurred in 1998, according to records maintained by Members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990, including 1999 and 2000.

Eritrea today became the 135th Member State to pay its regular budget dues for 2001 in full, with a payment of just over $10,000.

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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