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United Nations Daily Highlights, 03-05-05

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

OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, May 5, 2003

UN OPERATIONS INCREASE IN IRAQ DESPITE LOOTING OF OFFICES

UN humanitarian operations in Iraq are intensifying day by day as international staff returns to the country.

In Baghdad today, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, held a symbolic ribbon cutting ceremony at the local offices of the World Health Organization to express the UNs appreciation to the national staff for the job they did rehabilitating the offices, which had been severely looted.

The damage to other UN offices was severe. As the UN team moved into the UN Development Programme compound, which also hosts the UN Environment Program (UNEP), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and UNESCO offices, it saw the results of looting: furniture, equipment, doors, windows are all gone. Out of the five buildings, only one had not been burnt. All others are seriously damaged.

During a press briefing in Baghdad on Saturday, Lopes da Silva said he will meet in the coming days with the Iraqi bureaucrats in various technical ministries so they can guide the United Nations in trying to establish urgent needs and how they can best be addressed.

Lopes da Silva said that in that process his office intends to establish a collaborative relationship with the U.S.-run Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. Our aim here is not to replace the administration, he said. Our duty is to fill gaps, not to duplicate efforts.

Over the weekend, the United Nations established a permanent presence of humanitarian staff in Basra. Twenty-five staff from the Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, the UN Childrens Fund and the World Food Programme arrived in Basra from Kuwait to set up offices and living accommodation in the city.

The United Nations will help coordinate emergency relief efforts, working with non-governmental organizations and making contacts with local authorities in Basra to evaluate critical needs and provide targeted assistance to those most in need.

Asked about the guidelines under which UN agencies work in Iraq, the Spokesman said that the UNs agencies, funds and programs have universal mandates under which they operate. He added that the UN system had been asking coalition forces whether conditions were secure, as they go about their work.

Asked about the cause of damage to UN facilities, he said it had resulted from looting.

Asked about Iraqs status, he said Iraq is a founding member of the United Nations, which is occupied by coalition forces, and that the Security Council would deal with the question of the UN role in Iraq.

IAEA ASKS FOR U.S. PERMISSION TO SEND MISSION TO IRAQ

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said over the weekend that it found reports that there had been looting at Iraqs nuclear facilities disturbing, and it has requested that the United States confirm the situation and allow for an IAEA team to investigate.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, in a letter, requested that the United States allow an IAEA investigative mission to find out what the state of Iraqs nuclear facilities are. The Agency has not yet received a response to that letter.

Last month, ElBaradei had written to the US Government, asking that it ensure the security and safety of all the nuclear material in Iraq, which has been under IAEA seal since 1991. ElBaradei indicated that, until the Agencys inspectors return to Iraq, the US has responsibility for maintaining security at Iraqs nuclear storage facilities.

MIDDLE EAST ENVOYS MEET TO DISCUSS "ROAD MAP" FOR PEACE

The Middle East Diplomatic Quartet is meeting at the envoys level today in Tel Aviv.

This includes the UN envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, Russian Envoy Andrei Vdovin, EU Envoy Miguel Moratinos and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns.

They are to discuss how to move ahead with the implementation of the Road Map.

REPORT SAYS PARTS OF ISRAELI WALL LOCATED INSIDE WEST BANK

International donors to the Palestinians yesterday released a report detailing the socio-economic impact of Israels construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank.

The donor community commissioned the report because of concern that the wall could harm Palestinian livelihoods and the viability of local economies, and that it might have a negative impact on the delivery of humanitarian aid and could also damage assistance projects.

The 67-page report says that in some places the wall is located as much as six kilometers inside the West Bank. When completed, as many as approximately 12,000 Palestinians could be left on the western side of the wall, facing Israel, cut off from their land, workplaces and essential social services.

The separation barrier is a complex series of walls, barriers, trenches, and fences commonly referred to as the Wall. Israel began construction of it in summer 2002 in the context of continuing violence and terror attacks against its civilians.

The report was written by humanitarian experts from the European Union, Norway, the United States, the United Nations and the World Bank.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO REVIEW SANCTIONS ON LIBERIA

At 3:00 p.m. today, the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations to review sanctions on Liberia.

Members of the independent panel of experts investigating compliance with those sanctions will be present as the Council discusses their report, which says that Liberia's conflict is spilling over into neighboring countries and poses new risks of a vicious cycle of violence in the sub-region.

It notes, Armed youths from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and now Cote dIvoire who have become accustomed to a life of conflict, banditry and lawlessness have joined armed groups in Liberia and in western Cote dIvoire.

The panel makes a number of observations and recommendations regarding violations of the arms embargo, control of diamonds, government accounting and civil aviation in Liberia and in the sub-region.

On the humanitarian front, the panel notes that in recent months many humanitarian agencies have withdrawn most of their staff because of the widening conflict and because the Government is unable and unwilling to provide for the basic needs of Liberians.

The World Food Programme today demanded that the Liberian Government provide security guarantees before the resumption of food distributions to refugees and internally displaced people in camps near the capital, Monrovia.

SIERRA LEONE COURT ASKS LIBERIA TO HAND OVER TWO SUSPECTS

On Sunday afternoon in Freetown, Sierra Leone, David Crane, the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, offered specific details regarding the whereabouts of the two remaining indictees who are not in the Courts custody, Johnny Paul Koroma and Sam Bockarie.

Crane said he had credible information that, as of Sunday morning, Koroma was in the Foya Kamala area in Liberias Lofa County, and Bockarie was in Kahnple, a small village in Nimba County, also in Liberia. He called on Liberian President Charles Taylor to arrest and turn over the two indicted war criminals.

The Courts Chief of Investigations, Alan White, said that both men were reportedly accompanied by armed rebels belonging to Sierra Leones Revolutionary United Front.

UN MISSION RESPONDS TO CLASHES IN EASTERN DR-CONGO

In Bunia, in the Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, five persons were killed and many others wounded during armed clashes on Saturday.

Firefights broke out in a number of neighborhoods during the morning hours. There was also specific targeting of facilities belonging to the UN Mission in the DRC. The Urugayan peacekeeping contingent, which was in the local UN Mission headquarters, returned fire when fired upon.

The UN Mission says that at least 50 civilians, mostly women and children, are being housed in a UN compound after seeking the protection of peacekeepers.

In a separate incident, a UN facility used by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was subsequently looted. No UN staff were injured during the weekends fighting.

According to the UN Mission, the fighting took place between armed Lendu and Hema groups, which are vying for the control of the town in anticipation of the complete withdrawal of Ugandan forces.

The UN Mission, in a statement issued Sunday, strongly denounced the clashes, which constitute an unacceptable violation of the cease-fire agreement signed on March 18.

The UN Military Force Commander, Gen. Mountaga Diallo, will travel to Bunia Tuesday as part of the Missions efforts to address this problem at the highest level.

UNHCR AIRLIFTS SUPPLIES TO REFUGEES AFTER KENYA FLOODS

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began airlifting much-needed supplies for thousands of refugees rendered homeless by massive flooding in Kenya's Dadaab camp close to the border with Somalia after heavy rains wrecked their homes four days ago.

Garissa district, where the three-camp Dadaab complex for 130,000 refugees, is located, is considered one of the worst flood-affected areas in north-eastern Kenya. Last week's flooding was caused by the Tana river bursting its banks into the valley where the camps are located.

DE-MINING VEHICLE SHOT AT IN AFGHANISTAN, DRIVER KILLED

The Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi is in New York to brief Security Council members on Tuesday.

In weekend news from Kabul, the UN Mission in Afghanistan reports that a vehicle belonging to the Afghan Development Association (ADA), a demining non-governmental organization, was shot at by unknown assailants on the main Kabul to Kandahar road. The driver, an Afghan national was killed instantly in the Saturday evening incident and one of the two passengers, both of whom were national staff, was seriously injured.

Afghanistan is to take a major leap toward entering the age of digital communication with the release of an important report Tuesday by a team of Afghan, Iranian and Irish computer experts and linguists that provides, for the first time, the comprehensive information needed by software programmers and vendors to bring this countrys languages to life on computer keyboards and screens. Until now, there has been virtually no way for the people of Afghanistan to communicate digitally in their own tongue. With no existing software to support the official languages, Pashto and Dari, the use of computers for communication has been effectively blocked, forcing most government and business offices to rely on typewriters.

ANNAN ISSUES MESSAGE TO UN-HABITAT GOVERNING COUNCIL

The 19th session of the Governing Council of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) opened today in Nairobi.

In a message delivered on his behalf by Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world expected the Programme to create a strategic vision to guide our collective efforts to build peaceful, prosperous cities.

He added that good governance was a crucial factor in attracting the financing necessary to improve conditions in slums and provide safe water and sanitation services. He urged the Council to take a holistic approach that took into account the economic and environmental concerns of a citys neighboring rural communities.

The first order of business for the Council was the election of Bo Goransson of Sweden as the President of the Council for a two-year term, along with three vice-presidents. The meeting continues until Friday.

WHO TEAM ARRIVES IN TAIWAN TO DEAL WITH SARS OUTBREAK

A World Health Organization (WHO) team has arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, to support health authorities in combating the SARS outbreak. The two-person team, with expertise in epidemiology and virology, will visit hospitals and consult with local health authorities.

The latest statistics indicate a total of 6,234 cases, with 435 deaths, reported from 27 countries.

SPOKESMAN CLARIFIES REPORTS OF LOOTING AT UN CAFETERIA

The Spokesman responded to several questions about reports of looting or theft at the UN Cafeteria last Friday by correcting the record, denying several recent reports.

Last Friday afternoon, there was a transfer of responsibilities for the UN cafeteria services from the previous contractor, Restaurant Associates, to a new one, Aramark. Restaurant Associates had said that the cafeterias would close at 3:00 p.m., but the company announced at 1:00 p.m. that staff wouldnt have to pay for meals at the cafeteria.

The company had made it clear that they wouldnt charge staff for meals at the main cafeteria, and that they had already shut down their registers and removed all cash from them. UN Security was present and observing the situation.

The situation was complicated by an apparent dispute about labor conditions involving the transfer from Restaurant Associates to Aramark. The United Nations plays no role in the contract negotiations between the contractors and cafeteria staff.

In any case, staff have been working under normal conditions since Saturday, as Aramark employees.

The United Nations looked into reports that silverware and other valuables were taken last Friday afternoon, and UN Security said today that the vendors did not report any complaints about missing silverware or other such items.

The Spokesman also denied a report that the Security Councils monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General, which had taken place at the Delegates Dining Room that day, had been interrupted. Management took over service at that luncheon, which passed without interruption.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

WHO SUPPORTS PRODUCTION OF ANTI-MALARIAL MEDICINE: The World Health Organization will provide technical support for the development and commercial production of a plant-based anti-malarial medicine with the highest cure rate for the disease. The medicine is extracted from a Chinese medical plant, which also flourishes in Tanzania. WHO plans to provide the government of Tanzania with the process technology for the local production of the medicine.

UNICEF DIRECTOR DISCUSSES AIDS IN ASIA: Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund, Carol Bellamy, told a meeting in Bali today that the Asia and the Pacific region must make a concerted effort to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. All the hard earned gains for children, she said, in such area as poverty reduction, education and nutrition will be swept away if we do not confront the HIV/AIDS threat with all our resources, courage and commitment.

UN BUDGET: Canada made a payment of more than $5 million to the UN peacekeeping budget, and the United States paid more than $80 million, also to peacekeeping.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162 - press/media only

Fax. 212-963-7055

All other inquiries to be addressed to (212) 963-4475 or by e-mail to: inquiries@un.org


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