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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-08-22

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


Friday, 22 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.


  • At Disarmament Conference in Geneva, US confirms its support for Ottawa process negotiations on landmine ban.
  • UN urges Republika Srpska leadership to ensure calm as International Police Task Force starts training programme.
  • UN refugee agency, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo agree on plan to repatriate Congolese voluntarily.
  • Parties to Biological Weapons Convention to examine allegations of attacks on Cuba.
  • UN agencies coordinate relief efforts to address urgent humanitarian needs in Iraq.
  • UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team will travel to Seychelles in wake of torrential rains there.

The United States representative to the Conference on Disarmament yesterday confirmed her country's decision to participate in the Ottawa process negotiations aimed at preparing a draft treaty banning anti- personnel landmines for signature in December. Katherine Crittenberger said the United States wanted to take advantage of the momentum of growing support for the Ottawa process. She said that, "step-by-step negotiations toward a global ban in the Conference on Disarmament" remain essential because the membership of the Conference, "includes most of the major historical producers and exporters of anti-personnel landmines, a number of whom have said that they will not participate in the Ottawa process, nor sign any treaty that results from those negotiations."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday had welcomed the United States participation in the Ottawa process negotiations. Through a spokesman, he said he 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".

A UN spokesman in Sarajevo today urged the leadership of the Republika Srpska to ensure that the area remained calm and peaceful. He called on all concerned to avoid making comments which could inflame the situation.

He also announced that the UN International Police Task Force (UNIPTF) had begun its training programme in Banja Luka this morning. The UNIPTF is monitoring the activities of the police, training and vetting police officers, and continuing its investigation into allegations of human rights abuses.

Some 74,000 Congolese refugees in camps in Tanzania's Kigoma area will be repatriated voluntarily under a new agreement reached yesterday between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Republic of Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. UNHCR reports that more than 10,000 of these refugees have returned spontaneously, and an additional 12, 000 have signed up to go back. But new clashes in the southern part of South Kivu have sparked a fresh exodus of refugees to Tanzania.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, UNHCR has received reports that refugees are being harassed and killed. In some areas, extremist forces among the refugee groups have emerged to block repatriation, according to UNHCR.

Meanwhile, plans are under way to hold high-level consultations on the plight of the Rwandan and Burundi refugees -- numbering several thousand -- who refuse to return home. Set to take place in Africa under the auspices of UNHCR and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the meetings could be held as early as the first week of September.

Allegations of biological aggression against Cuba will be examined at a meeting on Monday of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition, Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction.

States parties decided to convene the upcoming meeting after holding informal consultations on 31 July at Cuba's request following formal complaints that it had been the target of aggression. The consultative process is carried out in accord with Article 5 of the Convention and a procedure elaborated at the Third Review Conference in 1991. A UN spokesman said this is the first time that such a meeting will take place in accordance with the procedure.

The meeting, which will be held in Geneva under the chairmanship of the United Kingdom, is expected to last for one day.

Article 6 of the treaty -- commonly known as the Biological Weapons Convention -- states that in the event of actions in breach of the obligations deriving from provisions of the Convention, parties can lodge a complaint with the Security Council.

In Iraq, where at least 20 per cent of children under five are malnourished, United Nations agencies are coordinating their efforts to provide urgently needed relief, a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) official told UN Radio. Speaking from Dohuk in northern Iraq, Philippe Heffink said UNICEF is distributing food rations in cooperation with the World Food Programme (WFP) and is implementing a mine-awareness programme in collaboration with the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA). Noting that Iraq ranks third in the world in the number of mines on its territory, he said UNICEF is trying to teach children how to recognize these dangerous weapons. "Many mines look like a toy. You have mines made by different countries, of different shapes, and it's important for children to be aware of them and avoid them as much as possible," he said.

Working in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF is expanding its immunization programme, and working to equip 200 health care centres in the north, according to Heffink. Other priority areas he cited were providing sanitation to the districts where less than half of all people have access to clean water, and giving 550,000 children in primary schools adequate study materials. Disability is also a big problem in Iraq, Heffink told UN Radio, "not just because of anti- personnel mines, but also other mental and physical disabilities." In addition, the phenomenon of street children has also grown in recent years. "Something has to be done in a more organized fashion for these children, who have been traumatized by armed conflict and need special attention," he said.

Following freak weather conditions in Seychelles from 13 to 17 August, including torrential rains which caused two deaths, DHA is dispatching a Disaster Assessment and Coordination team there. Also as part of its response to requests by the Government of Seychelles, DHA will continue to disseminate reports on the situation.

In addition to the toll on human life, torrential rains in Seychelles have caused extensive damage to homes and infrastructure, as well as to forests and agricultural land. Fragile habitats, including wetlands and coral reefs, have also been affected. The damage is estimated at $5.5 million.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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