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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-02

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

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Tuesday, 2 September 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.

HEADLINES

  • In Copenhagen, UN Secretary-General welcomes plans for UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade.
  • UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy reports progress on Western Sahara talks.
  • Foreign Minister of Democratic Republic of Congo says UN investigative team can resume work.
  • UN refugee agency repatriates first groups of Congolese refugees in Tanzania.
  • Croats prevent return of Bosniacs, UN refugee agency reports.
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees will visit Ukraine to urge implementation of laws allowing Crimean Tatars to become citizens.
  • UNICEF-sponsored study finds 85,000 children heading households in Rwanda.
  • Reacting on Sunday to death of Diana, Princess of Wales, UN Secretary- General recalled her commitment to banning anti- personnel landmines.


During an official visit to Copenhagen, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the establishment of the planning element for the Multinational United Nations Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade. He said these Forces will be a vital part of the UN's efforts to strengthen its ability to respond quickly when a crisis erupts. Given the proper political backing, he said the Stand-by Forces, "could prove invaluable in the years ahead."

The Secretary-General also noted that Member States are working to create a rapidly deployable mission headquarters. Nearly 70 countries have identified 88,000 troops as potentially available for service in the framework of United Nations stand-by arrangements, he said.

Also while in Copenhagen, the Secretary-General yesterday addressed the Danish Foreign Policy Society. On the subject of United Nations reform, he said, "we have derived many lessons from Denmark's own reform proposals." In particular, he cited Denmark's policy of active multilateralism as, "a model of targeting productive programmes while eliminating waste and duplication."


Direct talks on Western Sahara held in Lisbon have achieved a compromise agreement on the questions of containment of troops, prisoners of war and political detainees, according to a UN spokesman.

The Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, James Baker III, said the private talks were "full and productive." They ended on 29 August, one day earlier than expected.

"These talks under James Baker III are making rather substantive progress," said the spokesman. "They really are picking up momentum now."

The next round of talks is scheduled to take place between 12 and 14 September in the United States at a place to be determined. The aim is to report to the Security Council before 30 September, when the mandate of the Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) will expire. "If we are able to get an agreement on the code of conduct, then the other agreements which have been initialled by the parties will come into force and I will be able to make a positive report -- an affirmative report -- to the Security Council," Mr. Baker told reporters.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Western Sahara, Erik Jensen, also attended the talks, as did observers from Algeria and Mauritania.


A high-level official of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has given the go-ahead for the resumption of the work of a UN investigative team charged with examining allegations of past massacres in the country.

According to a UN spokesman, the Congolese Foreign Minister, Bizima Karaha, informed Secretary-General Kofi Annan by phone yesterday that the UN investigative team which is already in the country can continue its work.

Last week, in a letter to the Secretary-General, two Congolese Government Ministers had placed certain conditions on the team's work. Those conditions, the spokesman said today, had since been dropped.

The spokesman said that while the United Nations was awaiting a written confirmation from the Congolese Government, the UN team was already preparing for an immediate resumption of its work.


The United Nations refugee agency has started a voluntary repatriation programme for some 74,000 Congolese refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the first group of 573 refugees were transported by ferry on Monday from the Tanzanian town of Kigoma to the Congolese port town of Uvira.

A spokeswoman for UNHCR in Geneva said that up to 1,200 returnees were expected to be repatriated each week. That figure should rise to between 4, 000 and 5,000 weekly when a second ferry has been repaired.

The repatriation of the Congolese, most of whom are former civil servants and shopkeepers in Uvira, followed the signing of an agreement on 21 August by representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and the UNHCR.


The UNHCR today expressed concern about the possible disruption by Croats of the scheduled return of 21 Bosniac families to their homes in Stolac.

A mob of Croats yesterday prevented a busload of Bosniacs from Mostar from entering Stolac, according to UNHCR. The mob also reportedly caused problems for some 40 Bosniac construction workers trying to rebuild houses for returning Bosniac families. The workers were escorted from the city by soldiers from the Stabilization Force (SFOR). According to UNHCR, when the workers tried to re-enter the city today, their bus was stoned, two windows were broken and two workers were injured. The incident forced workers to abandon their tasks and return to Mostar.

Meanwhile, no agreement has been reached on a list of an additional 37 families awaiting clearance to return.

Stolac was one of four cities designated under the Dayton Peace Accord for pilot projects under which minority groups would be allowed to return, demonstrating the commitment of both parties in the Federation for minority returns.


UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata will travel to Ukraine tomorrow to urge President Leonid Kuchma and other officials to implement new legislation allowing Crimean Tatars who are now stateless to become Ukrainian citizens.

According to a UNHCR spokeswoman, there are some 70,000 Crimean Tatars who are either stateless or at risk of becoming so. "The plight of these people is desperate," said a UNHCR representative in Kiev. "Many are living in abject poverty on the fringes of society. About 40 per cent of returning Crimean Tatars are unemployed. Until they receive Ukrainian citizenship, they cannot have access to free higher education, government jobs, or take part in Ukraine's privatization process," he said.

The Crimean Tatars who have returned to Ukraine are among some 3 million people forcibly removed from their homes across the Soviet Union between 1936 and 1952, according to UNHCR. Some 500,000 Crimean Tatars were relocated to Central Asia and Siberia. Of those, some 260,000 have returned to Crimea, mostly since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is currently implementing an integration and development project aimed at easing the reintegration of returning deportees.


According to a survey conducted recently by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Rwandan Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Affairs, there are some 85,000 children who head their families in six prefectures in the country.

A UNICEF spokesman said these children were left to head their families as a result of the genocide, refugee situations or illness.

"We found out about this vast number of child-headed households when we were looking for foster families for unaccompanied children," the spokesman told reporters in Geneva. He said the children, who ranged in age from seven to 21, were receiving assistance in the form of food, schooling and, wherever possible, tracing to find their parents. "The most immediate needs of these children are shelter -- many live in flimsy mud huts on tiny plots of land -- and food." Many of those children are malnourished, he added.


On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan learned with shock and sadness of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, the Secretary-General said the Princess had made a major contribution to alleviating suffering, especially among the poor, the weak and the sick throughout the world. "Her unflinching commitment to the cause of banning anti-personnel landmines not only helped in placing that cause high on every humanitarian agenda, but endeared the Princess to millions around the globe."

The Secretary-General said the tragedy of her death had robbed the world of a "consistent and committed voice for the improvement of the lives of suffering children worldwide."

The Secretary-General conveyed his deep condolences to the family of the Princess, the Government and people of the United Kingdom, and the families and friends of the others who died in the accident.


For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org


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