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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-04

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Thursday, 4 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.


  • In Iceland, UN Secretary-General says reform strengthens UN's capacity to tackle challenges ahead.
  • UN Secretary-General condemns triple bomb attack in Jerusalem and urges Israelis and Palestinians to restart peace talks.
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees condemns expulsion of Rwandan and Burundi nationals from Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Security Council members express concern about conditions in regroupment camps in Burundi.
  • UN International Police Task Force officers continue monitoring alleged mass grave near Bihac.
  • Secretary-General's Special Representative on human rights in Cambodia holds high-level meetings there.
  • Western Sahara talks will resume mid-September in Texas, United States.
  • At UN Headquarters, Nobel Peace Prize laureates call for declaring decade for culture of peace and non-violence.
  • Sri Lankan government forces and Tamil Tiger guerrillas will observe peace while UNICEF vaccinates children.
  • Francis G. Okelo appointed as UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Sierra Leone.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is on an official visit to Iceland, said reform is far more than the sum of its cuts. "Rather, we are strengthening the United Nations positioning ourselves to tackle the new and mounting challenges of a new age," he said.

The Secretary-General said the Organization's effective response to the crisis in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa showed "the spirit of reform in practice."

Addressing a public gathering at the University of Reykjavik, the Secretary- General said the United Nations was acting on all fronts to respond to the overlapping upheavals in the Great Lakes region, employing lessons from the past and ideas for the future. Political efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement have been carried out jointly with the Organization for African Unity. UN humanitarian efforts have alleviated some of the suffering, and have cemented welcome partnerships with non- governmental organizations, he said.

The Secretary-General further noted that human rights mechanisms have been deployed to the region, and an International Tribunal for the prosecution of war crimes in Rwanda has been established. "We now have more staff working on human rights issues in the field than at Headquarters," he noted.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was outraged to learn of the triple bomb attack today in Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem in which eight people were killed and more than one hundred wounded, including young children, according to a UN spokesman. He again condemned in the strongest possible terms "this appalling act of violence and extended his condolences to the Government of Israel and the families of those killed and injured," he said.

In a statement issued through his spokesman, the Secretary-General urged the Israelis and the Palestinians to "sit together and to take stock of the situation on the ground and in their negotiations, to decide what can be done to prevent violence, address its causes, and do everything possible to restart the peace talks."

Members of the Security Council were also outraged by the bombing, according to Council President Bill Richardson of the United States, who conveyed the Council's condolences to the families of the victims. Addressing reporters today, he said that such acts undermined the prospects for peace. "Members of the Security Council reaffirm their strong support for the peace process," he said.

The attack was also condemned by the Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ralph Zacklin said that such terrorist acts "are clearly designed to derail the peace process, which represents the best hope for safeguarding the human rights of people throughout the region."

Soldiers today forcibly expelled Rwandan and Burundi nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a predawn operation which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemned as a "blatant breach of international refugee treaties."

High Commissioner Sadako Ogata, who sent a letter of protest to President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will review UNHCR's continued operations in that country with UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan.

Ms. Ogata urged Rwanda to provide UNHCR with unhindered access to the refugees expelled from Kisangani, who have begun to arrive in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

Some of the refugees were survivors of a bloody attack in April in which more than 80,000 Rwandans and Burundis were dispersed by the military from two encampments south of Kisangani, according to UNHCR. The expulsion today followed a stepped-up hate campaign against the Rwandans in Kisangani on local radio, and threats to expel them by the military.

Members of the Security Council today expressed concern over conditions in the regroupment camps in Burundi.

Following a briefing this morning by Yasushi Akashi, Under- Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who recently travelled to Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda, Council President Bill Richardson of the United States said the Government appeared to be more receptive to the resettlement process.

During his trip, Mr. Akashi observed conditions in the regroupment camps where people have been moved from conflict areas and resettled. He assessed the current grave conditions there, as well as the humanitarian impact of the regional economic sanctions imposed on Burundi following a coup d'etat which overthrew President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya in July 1996.

Officers with the United Nations International Police Task Force (UNIPTF) are continuing to monitor the site of an alleged mass grave in Hrgar, near Bihac, according to a UN spokesman in Sarajevo. He said that yesterday, eight more bodies were recovered from the site.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Elisabeth Rehn, expressed concern about the situation in the Republika Srpska. She stressed that the restructuring and training of the police by UNIPTF must be effectively carried out.

The spokesman said that UNIPTF was continuing its ongoing weapons inspection visits to police facilities across the country. Over the past two weeks, UNIPTF officers have discovered unauthorized weapons in 11 locations out of some 40 inspections.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia met with King Norodom Sihanouk there this morning. The meeting was "cordial and constructive," a UN spokesman said, adding that the King was "very supportive of the efforts of the United Nations human rights office in Cambodia."

Thomas Hammarberg then met with Cambodia's Second Prime Minister, Hun Sen. Their meeting was also cordial and constructive, the spokesman said. "Mr. Hun Sen indicated to Mr. Hammarberg that the human rights report made available to the Government of Cambodia enabled the Government to clarify certain rumours which were found to be unfounded. The report signified constructive and positive relations between the human rights office and the Government of Cambodia."

Mr. Hammarberg had traveled to Cambodia to examine reported demands for the replacement of United Nations human rights workers in the country.

The fourth round of direct talks on Western Sahara will be held from 14 to 16 September at the James Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston, Texas, United States.

The talks, which are being facilitated by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James Baker III, are expected to focus on the code of conduct for the proposed referendum on Western Sahara. 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.

Twenty Nobel Peace Prize Laureates today appealed to the UN to declare the years 2000 to 2010 as the "Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence".

At a press conference launching the appeal today, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa said his country could be an example of conflict resolution in conflict-torn nations. The end of apartheid, he said, can show others that people who used to have a problem resolved it by "sitting down and saying peace is cheaper than conflict."

Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland told reporters, "the challenge facing us now as we move into the third century is to begin to solve our problems through dialogue and negotiation -- through the ways of non-violence -- because wars are obsolete. And as we abolished slavery and other things, we can, too, abolish war.

The Laureates proposed that during the decade, non-violence be taught at every level of society, "to make the children of the world aware of the real, practical meaning and benefits of non-violence in their daily lives, in order to reduce violence, and consequent suffering, perpetrated against them and humanity in general."

Other Laureates joining in the appeal include Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Aung San Suu Kyi, Betty Williams, Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, Dalai Lama, Elie Weisel, Frederik de Klerk, Jose Ramos Horta, Joseph Rotblat, Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Norman Borlaug, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Shimon Peres, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Yasser Arafat.

A new agreement has been reached between Sri Lanka's government forces and Tamil Tiger guerrillas to observe a cease-fire while UNICEF immunises children against polio throughout the country.

According to a UNICEF official, both groups will observe peace on 5 and 6 September and again on 10 and 11 October during UNICEF's polio immunisation campaign.

Francis G. Okelo, a national of Uganda, has been appointed by the Secretary- General as his new Special Envoy for Sierra Leone.

Mr. Okelo has been serving as the Deputy Head of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan since 1995. Previously, he had served as Director of the Office of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan and Pakistan (OSGAP), and as Senior Programme Officer and later chief of mission of the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan. Mr. Okelo also served with United Nations missions in Haiti and Namibia.

Mr. Okelo will succeed Berhanu Dinka of Ethiopia in the post of Special Envoy for Sierra Leone.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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