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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-02-04
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
AFGHANISTAN A KEY PRIORITY IN 2009, BAN KI-MOON SAYS DURING VISIT TO KABUL
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a previously unannounced visit to
Afghanistan today to underscore the priority the UN is placing on its work in the country. During that brief trip, he met with President Hamid Karzai and with his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide.
In the Secretary-Generals meeting with the President, they discussed the security situation, social and economic development and upcoming elections. Speaking at a joint
press conference with the President afterward, the Secretary-General said, For the United Nations, Afghanistan remains a key priority in 2009.
He stressed the need to ensure that the elections scheduled for this August proceed as smoothly as possible. And, in response to questions, the Secretary-General reiterated his concerns about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. He stressed the need for close military coordination to ensure that civilian casualties do not occur in the course of military operations.
In response to a question about the visit, the Deputy Spokesperson said that, for security reasons, the Secretary-Generals visit could not be announced in advance.
BAN KI-MOON ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO ESTABLISH COMMISSION
TO LOOK INTO ASSASSINATION OF BENAZIR BHUTTO
The Secretary-General arrived a few hours later for his first state visit to
Pakistan. He met shortly after arrival with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. He also witnessed the signing between the UN Country Team and the Pakistani Government of a comprehensive programme, called the One Programme Document, which develops a framework for the UN systems development work in the country.
The Secretary-General then spoke to reporters, telling them about UN support for Pakistan as it deals with the threat of terrorism and with serious economic and financial constraints.
He said that he had discussed with the Prime Minister the importance of maintaining and strengthening the rapprochement between India and Pakistan that has taken its own momentum in the last several years.
And, regarding the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, he said, on the basis of extensive consultations with the Pakistani Government and members of the Security Council, that he intends to establish very shortly an independent Commission of Inquiry. The Deputy Spokesperson confirmed that a letter had been sent to the Security Council President informing him of the Secretary-Generals intention to appoint a three-member commission.
This evening, the Secretary-General is meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.
Asked who would be on the Commission of Inquiry, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has yet to announce the composition of that commission, although he has already informed the Security Council of his intention to establish that body.
Asked why it had taken so many months after Bhuttos assassination to set it up, she noted the extensive consultations that had been held with the Government of Pakistan and the members of the Security Council.
GAZA: U.N. AGENCY STRONGLY CONDEMNS SEIZURE OF AID BY HAMAS
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has
condemned in the strongest terms the confiscation of its aid supplies by police personnel in Gaza yesterday afternoon.
The seizure took place after UNRWA staff had earlier refused to hand over the aid supplies to the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs. The police subsequently broke into the warehouse and seized the aid by force.
The aid, which included more than 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels, was to be distributed to 500 families in the area. UNRWA has demanded that it be returned immediately.
UNRWA has a strict system of monitoring aid delivery and ensuring that its assistance reaches only the intended beneficiaries. In this case, the agencys officials were on the ground overseeing the delivery and taking all possible steps to prevent its diversion.
Meanwhile, also on Gaza, the UN Development Programme (UNDP)
estimates that more than 14,000 homes, 68 government buildings and 31 non-governmental organization offices were either totally or partially damaged during the latest conflict. As a result, some 600,000 tons of concrete rubble will need to be removed. Once funding is secured, UNDP will: clear rubble; demolish and clean up sites of damaged buildings; and identify and remove unexploded ordnance. This project will generate 200,000 workdays for unemployed Gazans.
Asked about an investigation into attacks on UN facilities, the Deputy Spokesperson recalled that the Secretary-General has announced that he would establish an independent investigation, which she expects will happen in the coming days.
DISPLACED WOMEN & CHILDREN FLOW INTO NORTH DARFUR AS MUHAJERIYA FIGHTING CONTINUES
The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in Muhajeriya today reports that firing continued throughout the day in the area.
In addition, Government of Sudan forces were allegedly observed conducting patrols around the town, approximately 500 meters from the UNAMID camp.
An unidentified aircraft flew over Muhajeriya today and dropped three bombs, approximately one kilometer from the UNAMID camp. There were also reports of ongoing shooting, which led to the converging of civilian population towards the UNAMID camp
The humanitarian community in Darfur reports that an influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has arrived in North Darfur following the recent fighting in Muhajeria. So far, the Al Salaam IDP Camp has received 520 new arrivals and the Zam Zam IDP Camp received 1,400 persons. Ninety percent of the new IDP population consists of women and children.
UNAMID has provided some tents to assist the humanitarian community in North Darfur.
Meanwhile, the Joint Special Representative, Rodolphe Adada, travelled to Chad today, where he is expected to hold consultations with the leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Khalil Ibrahim, on the current situation.
Asked whether the United Nations could confirm that JEM fighters had withdrawn from Muhajeriya, the Deputy Spokesperson said that UNAMID was not able to confirm those reports independently.
SUDAN PEACE AGREEMENT AT CRITICAL JUNCTURE
report to the Security Council on Sudan is available today.
With a little over two years of the interim period remaining, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has reached a critical juncture, it notes.
While progress in its implementation needs to be recognized, daunting challenges still lie ahead. Key benchmarks, including census results, elections, border demarcation, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and preparations for referenda and popular consultations, now need to be achieved within a tight time frame with very little flexibility for further delays.
The Secretary-General writes that the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are yet to present a convincing case for unity to the people of Southern Sudan. The Secretary-General calls upon the parties to use the remaining two years to explore all options available to make unity attractive, as stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The International Criminal Courts actions have a major impact on Sudanese political dynamics and have diverted much attention at a time when outstanding issues related to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement require the parties cooperation and renewed commitment, the Secretary-General notes. He says that while he is encouraged by the assurances of continued support by the Government, he is also concerned about remarks by some of its officials that the Government may redefine its relationship with UNMIS should an arrest warrant be issued against President al-Bashir.
The Secretary-General calls upon the Government to fulfil its obligations to ensure the safety of United Nations staff and of nationals of the State Members of the United Nations in the Sudan.
The Security Council is scheduled to take up this report tomorrow.
U.N. MISSION REPATRIATES FORMER HUTU FIGHTERS TO RWANDA
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) says that it has repatriated 335 former Rwandan Hutu fighters and their dependents to Rwanda in the past month alone. During the same period, the Mission has also transferred 120 Rwandan civilians to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for further consideration as potential refugees in the Congo.
As of today, another 219 Rwandan nationals are awaiting repatriation at UN-run facilities in northeastern Congo. The Mission says the number of former Rwandan Hutu fighters willing to go back home to Rwanda continues to increase daily. It adds that its doors remain open to those willing to join the process.
Meanwhile, the Mission welcomes the increasing number of children leaving the ranks of ethnic Mayi Mayi fighters since the start of the accelerated integration of armed groups into the national army. During the past week, the Missions section of child protection separated 195 children from these groups in the province of North Kivu.
Asked about a report from Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) criticizing MONUC for inaction in protecting the Congolese population from Lords Resistance Army (LRA) attacks in Haut Uélé, the Deputy Spokesperson said that MSFs charge of MONUC inaction is totally unfounded.
She said that MONUC has provided the maximum possible support to the DRC Government to deal with the situation. Since early 2007, the Mission has worked with the Congolese Armed Forces to establish a presence in this remote area and contain the threat of the LRA. Primary responsibility, she added, rests with the Congolese Government, which MONUC is mandated to support for this purpose.
Okabe said that, to date, MONUC has transported Congolese troops to different points in the region to protect the population and deter attacks. MONUC is also sustaining 2,200 of the 3,400 Congolese troops in the area by providing rations, fuel and essential logistical support (such as casualty evacuations), as well as aerial reconnaissance to support protective deployments by the Congolese Armed Forces.
She said that MONUC has increased its presence in the area by deploying an additional Moroccan infantry company, as well as elements of its Guatemalan Special Forces company, to provide for rapid response.
She noted that the Security Council has called on MONUC to give its highest priority to addressing the crisis in the Kivus, so MONUC has concentrated there, but continues to carry out action on three fronts simultaneously: the Kivus, Ituri and Haut Uélé.
Asked about reports that UN peacekeepers had stayed in their base when the population in Dungu was attacked, she noted the close support that MONUC had provided to the Congolese Armed Forces in Dungu.
Asked about helicopter evacuations, she said that the evacuation of casualties is part of MONUCs mandated tasks.
SRI LANKA: HEAVY SHELLING AND AERIAL BOMBARDMENT REPORTED IN HOSPITAL AREA
On Sri Lanka, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that heavy shelling and aerial bombardment of the Puthukkudiyiuppu hospital area in the northeastern Mullaithivu District continued yesterday.
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) is continuing to negotiate for an adequate window that would allow a food convoy into the Vanni region. WFP has been told that the earliest possible window would be this Friday. The last batch of food aid to the area in question went in on 29 January.
Asked about reports that cluster munitions had been used in Sri Lanka, the Deputy Spokesperson said that some UN staff on the ground reported today that cluster munitions had been used close to their positions. These reports have not been confirmed, she underscored. The United Nations has received assurances from the Government of Sri Lanka that they do not procure or use cluster munitions.
FARMERS URGED TO SWITCH TO CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE
A top Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) crop expert, speaking at an international farm congress in New Delhi today,
urged the worlds farmers to quickly switch to Conservation Agriculture, in order to feed a growing world population. Conservation Agriculture does away with regular tilling in favor of permanent soil cover and diversified crop rotation. Besides preventing environmental damage, this promotes healthy soil, which retains more water and requires less irrigation.
BAN KI-MOON EXPECTS TO BRIEF PRESS IN NEW YORK ON 10 FEBRUARY
Asked about the Secretary-Generals next press conference in New York, the Deputy Spokesperson said that it would take place on Tuesday, 10 February, at 10:30 a.m.
COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT SESSION OPENS: The Commission for Social Development opened its
47th session this morning, here at UN Headquarters. The President of the Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, and the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Sha Zukang, opened the meeting. Social Integration is the priority theme for the Commissions 2009-2010 review and policy cycle, which will take up the relationship between poverty eradication, full employment and decent work for all. The Commission will also address the impact of current global crises on development as an emerging issue. The Chair of the Commission is Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen of Finland.
U.N. IN TOUCH WITH POLAND OVER PEACEKEEPING REPORTS: Asked about reports that Poland may pull out its personnel from UN peacekeeping missions, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was in touch with the Polish Government to clarify its intentions.
EXPERTS VISIT AREAS OF LIBERIA AFFECTED BY CATERPILLAR PLAGUE: An FAO team of experts has
visited areas of Liberia affected by the caterpillar plague. The insects are not armyworms, as previously thought, but a different type of moth species. This has experts cautiously optimistic, since this type of insect makes cocoons above ground, where it is easier to get rid of them.
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