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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-08-19

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


Tuesday, 19 August 1997

This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.


  • UN Secretary-General welcomes United States participation in Ottawa talks on landmine ban.
  • Security Council will work with West African States to address situation in Sierra Leone.
  • UN Secretary-General expresses appreciation to Uzbekistan's president for supporting Tajik peace process.
  • Olara A. Otunnu appointed as UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to study impact of armed conflict on children.
  • UN refugee agency distributes food to Cambodians fleeing to Thailand.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the announcement that the United States will participate in the "Ottawa process" negotiations on a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. A spokesman for the Secretary- General said he is convinced that such a treaty is urgently needed to put an end to the enormous suffering caused every day by these indiscriminate weapons.

The action by the United States comes at a critical moment, as arrangements are being made to open formal negotiations in Oslo on 1 September, said the spokesman, adding that the Secretary-General hopes that the Oslo Conference will succeed in concluding a truly comprehensive ban, which will come to the General Assembly for endorsement at its coming session. The Secretary- General looks forward to opening the treaty for signature in Ottawa in December, and hopes for progress in parallel efforts in the Conference on Disarmament to achieve universality of a total ban on these horrific weapons, the spokesman concluded.

Following a briefing on the situation in Sierra Leone by the Secretary- General's Special Envoy, Berhanu Dinka, Council President Sir John Weston of the United Kingdom reiterated the Council's condemnation of the violence in Sierra Leone and its insistence that there be freedom of movement access for humanitarian agencies.

Noting that there would be a ministerial meeting of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) within the next few days, Mr. Weston told reporters the Council wanted to ensure that it would be "speaking and acting with the same voice" as ECOWAS States. Consultations would be held with ECOWAS foreign ministers to ensure that "when we move to the adoption of measures in the absence of compliance by the junta, we are doing so in full knowledge of what the ECOWAS group has decided and in a way which reinforces the efforts of the Security Council and the ECOWAS group." He said the Council would return to the matter in a few days, "in an operational frame of mind, not simply giving a further recitation of the Council's views."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed appreciation today for the strong support by President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan for the peace process in Tajikistan, and thanked him for allowing Tajik refugees in Afghanistan to transit through on their way home.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has evacuated all staff from the area of Shartuz, Tajikistan amid reports that fighting could break out there. A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman said its staff, along with others from the United Nations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) crossed into Uzbekistan and then to the Tajik capital of Dushanbe over the past few days.

The United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) is planning to send a team to the southern part of the country to assess the situation.

Olara A. Otunnu, a national of Uganda and current President of the International Peace Academy, has been appointed as the UN Secretary- General's Special Representative to study the impact of armed conflict on children. Mr. Otunnu will serve a three-year term with a mandate to assess progress achieved, steps taken and difficulties encountered in addressing the plight of children affected by armed conflict. He will also be charged with fostering international cooperation and coordinated efforts to ensure respect for children's rights in those situations.

In announcing Mr. Otunnu's appointment, the Secretary-General conveyed his warmest appreciation to Graca Machel of Mozambique for her ground-breaking work in the protection of children affected by armed conflict. Ms. Machel conducted a major study last year demonstrating the centrality of the protection and care of children in conflict situations in relation to international human rights, peace and security, and the development agenda. The Secretary-General said this study will provide a solid basis for Mr. Otunnu's work to promote urgent and resolute international action to redress the plight of children in situations of armed conflict.

As President of the International Peace Academy, Mr. Otunnu heads an institution dedicated to promoting the prevention and settlement of armed conflicts between and within States. Prior to assuming that post, he was a member of the Ugandan National Council. From 1980 to 1985, Mr. Otunnu served as his country's ambassador to the United Nations.

More than 20,000 Cambodian refugees fled into Thailand overnight to escape fighting between government forces and those loyal to the first Prime Minister, according to the UNHCR, which has provided them with some 40 metric tonnes of rice and 50,000 tins of fish. Tomorrow, UNHCR will conduct another distribution, giving the refugees enough rations to last for 10 days. "We are ready to provide any other items to help the Thai authorities cope with the exodus should Thailand ask," said a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva.

Although some of the refugees are suffering from malaria, UNHCR determined them to be in relatively good shape, and characterized their transfer across the border as well-managed and orderly.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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