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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-08

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

ARCHIVES

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MICHELE MONTAS

SPOKESPERSON

FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, January 8, 2009

BAN KI-MOON CONDEMNS ISRAELS ATTACK ON U.N. AID CONVOY IN GAZA

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemns the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) firing on a United Nations aid convoy in Gaza, the killing of two UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) staff in separate incidents and the injuring of a contract worker. Since the conflict began 13 days ago, four UNRWA local staff have been killed. The United Nations is in close touch with the Israeli authorities about full investigation of this and other incidents, and about the need for urgent measures to avoid them in the future.

The Secretary-General calls once again for an immediate ceasefire in order to facilitate full and unhindered humanitarian access, and to allow aid workers to work in safety to reach persons in need. UNRWA has been forced to suspend food distribution as it cannot guarantee the safety of its staff. The inability of the United Nations to provide assistance in this worsening humanitarian crisis is unacceptable.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPEALS URGENTLY FOR A BINDING AGREEMENT TO END VIOLENCE IN GAZA

The Secretary-General continues his around-the-clock efforts with world leaders to achieve an immediate cease-fire in

Gaza. He is appealing urgently to the Security Council to come to a binding agreement to this effect, so this devastating violence can be brought to an end.

Those efforts continued this morning with calls to Prince Saud, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, and he is trying to reach Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Yesterday, the Secretary-Generals many discussions included meetings with the U.S. Secretary of State and the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, Egypt, France, Jordan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

On the ground, the

UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that the situation is dire, with one million persons at least in Gaza without electricity and 750,000 persons without water. All the hospitals in Gaza are running on emergency generators 24 hours a day.

UNRWA has food supplies for some days, not weeks. The Agency underscored the problems it has in distributing aid. In addition to the attacks on its own personnel, UNRWA says that the only company authorized to pick up and distribute goods in Gaza has also had its personnel shot at twice over the past 24 hours.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres this morning told the

Security Council, in an open meeting, his concerns that Gazas civilian population is not allowed to flee to safety elsewhere. He reasserted his call for a strict adherence to humanitarian principles in and around Gaza, including respect for the universal right to seek and receive asylum.

Meanwhile, the

World Health Organization, in a press release, says that health services in Gaza are on the verge of collapse, if steps to support and protect them are not taken immediately.

UNICEF said it used todays three-hour cease-fire to provide some 560 family water kits and five health kits to families in Gaza.

And, in a letter to Israels Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka requested that the Israeli Government ensure immediate access for international journalists into Gaza. He recalled Security Council

resolution 1738, in which the Council urged all parties involved in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists.

In response to a question, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General supports the call from UNRWA for an independent investigation into the Tuesday attack on the school in the Jabaliya Camp which he had qualified as "totally unacceptable".

BAN KI-MOON CONDEMNS FIRING OF ROCKETS INTO ISRAEL

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the firing of rockets against Israel from southern Lebanon on 8 January. Israel Defense Forces returned fire with several artillery rounds directed at the location from where the rockets originated.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is investigating the circumstances of the incident in close cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.

The Secretary-General is relieved that today's incident did not escalate and urges both parties to exercise maximum restraint. He takes this opportunity to remind the parties of their obligation to fully adhere to Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and respect the cessation of hostilities agreement.

UNIFIL today confirmed that at least three rockets were fired into Israel from the general area of Tayr Harfa, in south Lebanon. The Israeli Defense Forces returned fire with a few artillery rounds directed at the location from where the rockets originated. In coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces, UNIFIL has taken immediate measures to identify the perpetrators of this attack. There has been no claim of responsibility.

Additional troops have been deployed on the ground, and patrols have been intensified across UNIFILs Area of Operations to prevent any further incidents. The Lebanese Armed Forces have also decided to deploy additional units in the south in order to further enhance security in the area.

UNIFIL is investigating the circumstances of the incident, in close cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.

General Claudio Graziano, the UNIFIL Force Commander, is maintaining close contact with the parties and has called for maximum restraint in order to prevent any escalation of the situation. The parties reassured the Force Commander about their continued commitment to maintain the cessation of hostilities, in accordance with Security Council

resolution 1701.

Asked whether Hezbollah has denied responsibility for the firing, the Spokeswoman noted media reports suggesting that. Asked whether the Secretary-General believes, following what happened in Lebanon, that the violence in Gaza is threatening peace and security in the region, Montas said that the UN Secretariat was assessing the situation. So far, she added, the incident in southern Lebanon was believed to be limited.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ACCEPTS RESIGNATION OF HEAD OF U.N. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME

The Administrator of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), Kemal Dervi&#351;, has

conveyed to the Secretary General his intention to leave the position of Administrator on March 1, 2009, due to personal and family reasons. The Secretary General has accepted Mr. Dervi&#351;s decision with regret, and will initiate the process of selection to identify a suitable successor.

The Secretary-General is deeply grateful to Mr. Dervi&#351; for the services he has rendered to the Organization and for so ably leading UNDP at a critical juncture. The Secretary-General is particulalry appreciative of the great leadership displayed by Mr Dervi&#351; in the implementation of his mandate. Mr. Dervi&#351; has led the UNDP programmes in support of the developing countries to expand substantially over the last four years and to make solid progress in the

Delivering as One agenda, concerning the UNs development work as a whole at the country level.

Asked about a replacement for Dervis, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General would nominate a successor, in consultation with the Executive Board of UNDP, for confirmation by the General Assembly.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY HEAD BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL

António Guterres, the

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, briefed the

Security Council this morning, saying that the number of refugees under his Agencys mandate currently exceeds 11 million.

Speaking at a Council meeting on forced displacement, he discussed displacements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said that the most effective means of addressing the issue of forced displacement is by means of preventive activities that anticipate and avert the conflicts that make people abandon their homes.

NUMBER OF CHOLERA CASES IN ZIMBABWE TOPS 35,000

New cases of cholera cases and deaths continue to be reported in nine of Zimbabwes 10 provinces.

Since the outbreak in August 2008, all 10 provinces of the country have reported a cumulative total of 35,931 suspected cases and 1,778 deaths to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The humanitarian community has boosted its response capacity and coordination in order to manage the outbreak. |

During the past one week, relief agencies in the health cluster launched a cholera awareness campaign and announced an operational framework where cholera command centres will be established from national to household levels with rapid response teams established at every level.

WHO aims to link cholera alerts, generated through notification and data analysis, with coordinated response. The World Food Programme (WFP) is coordinating local logistical support.

Preparedness measures and contingencies need to be strengthened because cholera cases are likely to be on the increase with the beginning of the rainy season.

DR CONGO PEACE TALKS MAKING STEADY PROGRESS

Political negotiations continue in Nairobi between the Congolese government and the armed opposition group Congres National Pour la Defense du Peuple (CNDP). At stake is peace in the northeastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Co-Mediator Benjamin Mkapa, the former President of Tanzania, who chaired this second round of resumed talks, said that the parties have made steady, albeit slow, progress on substantive issues. The talks will continue tomorrow.

In the DRC, meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has

begun a work plan to contain Ebola in the Kasai Occidental province. The agency says that its staff and other humanitarian workers will visit all parts of the province and sensitize the population. It is estimated that 42 people, including at least 28 female patients and 14 children, are now infected with the Ebola virus. 13 people have already died of complications related to the virus, and some 160 are under watch, including 3 in an isolated ward.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

U.N. HAITI MISSION HELPS REINTEGRATE FORMER PRISONERS INTO SOCIETY: The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Haitian authorities have launched a

reinsertion programme for prison detainees in major urban centers. A three-step curriculum, including basic writing and reading skills, anger management and professional education, the UN-funded initiative will focus on Port-au-Prince and Petionville in its first attempts. Some 400 former inmates will benefit from it with a view to enlarging its scope in due time.

JAPAN TO PROVIDE US$17 MILLION BOOST TO U.N. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME IN SUDAN: The Government of Japan signed an agreement today with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to provide 1.575 billion yen (about $17 million) in grant assistance to the Disarmament and Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme in Sudan. Japans grant marks a major contribution to the $385 million in funding needed to ensure the reintegration of some 180,000 ex-combatants into civilian life. Signed on 9 January 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended the longest civil war in Africa. The DDR programme formed a key part of this agreement.

U.N. WORKING CLOSELY WITH CANADA TO FIND MISSING ENVOY AND COLLEAGUES IN NIGER: Asked about the Secretary-Generals Special Envoy for Niger, Robert Fowler, and his two colleagues, who went missing three weeks ago, the Spokeswoman said that the United Nations is working closely with the Government of Canada on that issue. Considerable work is being done to find out what happened to the three missing men, she said.

  • *The guests at noon were John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for

    Humanitarian Affairs and U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator; and John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza for the U.N. Refugee and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who briefed on the situation in Gaza.

    Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

    United Nations, S-378

    New York, NY 10017

    Tel. 212-963-7162

    Fax. 212-963-7055


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