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United Nations Daily Highlights, 04-03-25

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

Thursday, March 25, 2004

ANNAN URGES STOP TO ALL CONFRONTATIONS IN COTE DIVOIRE

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is deeply disturbed that, despite his personal appeals and the interventions by ECOWAS leaders, demonstrations that were held in Abidjan, Cote dIvoire on March 25 resulted in a tragic loss of lives.

In a statement, the Secretary-General urges all Ivorian parties and every citizen of Cote dIvoire to put the national interest foremost, stop all confrontations, and resume, without further delay and without any preconditions, the full implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. At a time when the UN is preparing the deployment of a peacekeeping operation, the Ivorian parties must demonstrate the political will to reject all forms of violence and engage in genuine reconciliation and mutual accommodation.

The UN Mission in Cote dIvoire reports that violent attacks have taken out in various parts of Abidjan, and says that sporadic shooting was heard throughout the city. Initial reports indicate that some 20 to 25 people may have been killed, and many others reportedly injured.

Demonstrations have also taken place in Yamassoukro, where one person was reportedly killed, and in Bouaké, where the demonstration was generally peaceful.

The Secretary-Generals Special Representative, Albert Tevoedjre, has been maintaining phone contacts, urging all sides to halt fighting.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations intends to brief the Security Council on the developments in Cote dIvoire on Friday.

ANNAN CALLS FOR REGIONAL APPROACH ON WEST AFRICA

A multi-faceted regional approach is needed if we want to deal effectively with West Africas problems, the Secretary-General told the Security Council in its open debate this morning on that region.

He said that the root causes of West Africas problems are linked above all to questions of governance, human rights and transparency. Regrettably, such abuses are all too prevalent in the region.

He urged Governments in the region to build on the gains they have recently made and establish solidly democratic organizations and effective regional organizations. We have copies of his speech upstairs.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told Council members that too many communities in West Africa remain in a crisis of protection, with killings, sexual abuse and the harassment of civilians becoming a norm.

While highlighting considerable progress made in countries such as Sierra Leone, Egeland noted that many communities in the region still suffer widespread human rights abuses. He said that the efforts of the humanitarian community should not be quick fixes. Instead, they should also address root causes, such as the spread of small arms, poor governance, absence of the rule of law, and poverty.

Council members, as well as Ghanaian Foreign Minister Nano Akufo Addo and Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, are continuing their debate, which is chaired by Frances Minister Delegate for Cooperation and Francophonie. A Presidential Statement is expected at the end of the meeting.

SECURITY COUNCIL CONSIDERS VOTE ON MIDDLE EAST RESOLUTION

The Security Council intends to hold consultations, followed by a formal meeting this afternoon, to vote on a draft resolution on the Middle East, concerning the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. That meeting is tentatively planned for 4:00.

Asked whether the Secretary-General had offered Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, during a Wednesday meeting, assistance in Gaza after an Israeli disengagement, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had received a briefing from the Foreign Minister on the Israeli Governments plans on a withdrawal from Gaza.

There was mention, he added, of the UNs role in the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, with the Foreign Minister first raising the issue. The Secretary-General suggested that Israel might want to look at the successful experience in Lebanon as a useful model, particularly the role of the Security Council. There was no specific discussion of the nature of UN involvement, Eckhard added.

ANNAN, SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS OIL FOR FOOD INVESTIGATION

In response to questions, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General on Wednesday night informally shared with members of the Security Council the draft terms of reference for his proposed independent panel to look into the allegations of wrongdoing in connection with the Oil for Food Programme for Iraq.

He has asked Council members to meet with him informally this afternoon at 3:00 to review the draft.

Asked whether the Secretary-General would provide the Council members with the names of the panel members, the Spokesman said that he was still talking to possible panel members, and may not finalize the names by Friday. The Secretary-General still hopes to put out a letter about the investigation by the end of Friday, but that schedule may slip into next week.

The Secretary-General, he added in response to another question, wanted the Councils support for the panel, since, without the cooperation of Governments and companies, the investigation was not likely to succeed. He is looking for a nod from the Council, Eckhard said, and is confident that he will get it.

Asked about reports that the Pentagon has found signs of overpricing in the Oil for Food Programme, the Spokesman said that experts from the Programme did meet with Pentagon contracting experts involved in the study of oil contracts and shared information.

He added that the United Nations had not yet seen the Pentagon report and would not be able to comment until it had been reviewed.

Asked whether the Secretary-General would agree to appear before an inquiry, the Spokesman noted that the panels draft terms of reference have not been finalized, but added that the Secretary-General would give the panel his full cooperation.

SWITZERLAND TALKS ON CYPRUS ARE ON SCHEDULE, UN ENVOY SAYS

The talks taking place on Cyprus in Burgenstock, Switzerland, are on schedule, the Secretary-Generals Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto, told the press today.

He said the setting is in many ways ideal, since we have the participants from the Greek Cypriot side, the Turkish Cypriot side, Greece and Turkey now able to interact in a way that is unusual for them. I think that to that extent, he said, it is a successful endeavor.

The real test, he added, is whether it will be possible by March 31 to have an agreed text that goes to referenda, rather than one that is finalized by the Secretary-General.

UNHCR OPENS NEW CAMP FOR SUDANESE REFUGEES IN CHAD

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has opened the first camp for Sudanese refugees in the southern part of the affected border zone with Chad. Until now, UNHCR had four camps, all along the northern part of the border.

The new camp offers refugees encamped along a 300-kilometer stretch an opportunity to move to a safer location further inside Chad.

The camp received the first convoy of 78 refugees on Tuesday and the second convoy of 130 today. In all, some 110,000 Sudanese refugees are estimated to have fled to Chad from fighting in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

ANNAN STRESSES WORLD INTEREST IN INTERNET GOVERNANCE

This morning the Secretary-General spoke at the opening Session of the Global Forum on Internet Governance, saying that the Internet has revolutionized trade, health, education and, indeed, the very fabric of human communication and exchange.

But, he added, the world has a common interest in ensuring the security and dependability of this new medium and in ensuring that it is accessible and responsive to the needs of all people.

The Secretary-General has appointed Markus Kummer of Switzerland as the head of the secretariat that will assist the Secretary-General in setting up a Working Group on Internet Governance. The Secretary-General was asked to establish such a working group by the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, which was held in December. The secretariat will support the working group once it has been established.

Asked whether the Secretary-General was proposing a greater UN role in governing the Internet, the Spokesman said that he wanted to see Governments coordinate their policies more effectively, so that the benefits of the Internet can be shared more widely.

WOMEN STILL LAGGING BEHIND IN CHINA, SAYS UN REPORT

Chinas impressive economic achievements have left women lagging behind, according to an unprecedented United Nations report on China, launched jointly today in Beijing by the UN and the Government of China.

Gender discrimination contributes to disproportionate poverty rates among elderly women and rising female suicide rates, the Report says.

The 45-page report, Millennium Development Goals, Chinas Progress, also notes that the country will probably achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

ANNAN MARKS DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH MISSING STAFF: The Secretary-General spoke today on the Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, saying that feelings at the UN on that subject are especially raw after last years horrific attack in Baghdad. He said that the United Nations is trying its utmost to ensure that staff can work in safety, as far as that is possible.

UNHCR NOTES FRESH RETURNS TO AFGHANISTAN FROM PAKISTAN: The UN Refugee Agency says that the rate of returns by refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan has increased steadily since UNHCR resumed its voluntary repatriation program on March 3, with more than 1,000 people a day going back to Afghanistan. In the first three days of this week, UNHCR helped more than 3,700 Afghans come home from Pakistan.

CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL SIGNED BY 100 COUNTRIES: With the signature of Ecuador and the Republic of Congo this week, a total of 100 countries, plus the European Community, have so far signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. According to the World Health Organization, the signing countries have underscored their commitment to protect their populations, some 4.5 billion people, from tobacco-related diseases. However, WHO also notes that the tobacco epidemic is still expanding, especially in developing countries where seven out of every ten tobacco-related deaths now occur.

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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