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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-16

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 16 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.


  • As fifty-second session of General Assembly opens, newly elected President pledges to support reform efforts.
  • UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara reports substantial progress as latest talks conclude.
  • Security Council members say results of recent elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina must be respected.
  • Government of Congo-Kinshasa says UN Secretary-General's investigative team cannot go to Mbandaka.
  • Eight West African leaders call for establishment of UN peacekeeping operation in Congo-Brazzaville.
  • Looters in Afghanistan compel United Nations to withdraw staff from Mazar- I-Sharif.
  • Welcoming completion of UN Mission in Liberia, Security Council encourages assistance for recovery there.
  • UN Special Commission on Iraqi Disarmament can now account for almost all Scud missiles.
  • UN Secretary-General reports that new, more sophisticated techniques are being used to launder drug money.
  • UN's Vienna Office to focus on organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, its new Director-General says.
  • UN Secretary-General calls for recommitment to protection of ozone layer.
  • UN Secretary-General says building peace requires the participation of all citizens, nations and continents.
  • Actor Harrison Ford joins other leading entertainers backing UN food agency's appeal against hunger.

"It is now time to reunite the United Nations," Hennadiy Udovenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said today in his opening address to the fifty-second session of the General Assembly, following his election as its President.

Pledging to support all efforts aimed at reforming the United Nations, Mr. Udovenko stressed that the time had come for the potential of the General Assembly to be fully discovered and exploited. In particular, he said he was determined to do everything possible to streamline a constructive discussion on the issue of Security Council reform.

Efforts to reform the United Nations must not eclipse its substantive work, he said. "We all know what a tremendously difficult job it is to try to repair a vehicle in motion," he said, "However, this session cannot afford to suspend the fulfilment of its responsibilities under the United Nations Charter."

Mr. Udovenko said he would like to witness a visible landmark in United Nations history. "I strongly believe that we have enough power to make this session a turning point marking a new era in the history of this Organization."

Mr. Udovenko, who has been Minister for Foreign Affairs since 1994, has worked in the service of his country and for the United Nations for many years. As Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations, he served in various capacities on several of its intergovernmental bodies, including the Security Council and the General Assembly. He also worked as an Administrative Officer at the United Nations Office at Geneva from 1965 to 1971. From 1977 to 1980, he was the Director of the Interpretation and Meetings Division of the United Nations Department for Conference Services.

The Assembly also elected the following 21 Vice-Presidents: China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guinea, Ireland, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Panama, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Togo, United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.

In addition, the following officers were elected to the Assembly's Main Committees: Mothusi Nkgowe of Botswana, Chairman of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security); Oscar R. de Rojas of Venezuela, Chairman of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial); Alessandro Busacca of Italy, Chairman of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural); Machivenyika Tobias Mapuranga of Zimbabwe, Chairman of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization); Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, Chairman of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary); and Peter Tomka of Slovakia, Chairman of the Sixth Committee (Legal).

Representatives of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) have reached agreement on a code of conduct for a referendum in Western Sahara as their fourth round of talks concluded today in Houston, Texas, United States.

The Secretary-General's Special Envoy, James Baker III told reporters this afternoon that agreement had also been reached on the authority of the United Nations during the transition period from the time the identification of voters would be completed until the time that the referendum campaign would begin. In addition, agreement was reached on a document containing the principles governing the resumption of the identification process.

Because the agreements on Western Sahara were being treated as a package, today's results make previous accords official, Mr. Baker said. "Under the principle that we were operating under, that is that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed, all of the agreements that we have achieved now and in our prior discussions and negotiations we take, the parties take, the United Nations takes and observer countries take as having been agreed, " he declared.

The talks are aimed at reviving the stalled implementation of a United Nations plan to resolve the dispute between Morocco and POLISARIO over the territory. Under the plan, the people of Western Sahara are to decide, through a referendum, between independence and incorporation into Morocco. Mr. Baker is scheduled to report to the Security Council before the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) expires on 30 September.

Mr. Baker today estimated that the process would involve an electorate of 80,000 voters and that 11 months would be required to prepare for the referendum. "It is a lot easier to agree to do certain things sometimes than it is to do them, so the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We may or may not see full implementation of this Settlement Plan for Western Sahara that was first agreed to back in 1991," he said.

Noting with satisfaction that preliminary information indicated that the recent elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina were held with wide participation from all ethnic groups, members of the Security Council today called for the results to be implemented quickly.

Speaking on behalf of the members, Council President Bill Richardson of the United States told reporters that the "calm and peaceful" elections had marked an important step forward in the peace process. "It will now be necessary to ensure that the balloting results are respected and quickly implemented and that the elected councils are constituted without delay in all municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said.

The team sent by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate allegations of past human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been told that it cannot go to Mbandaka.

According to a UN spokesman, members of the team were told by Government ministers that they could not go to the northern town where Rwandan refugees were allegedly massacred in May.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has halted its operations in the country because of the Government's failure to provide basic protection for the refugees on its territory.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva today, UNHCR spokeswoman Pam O'Toole said that screening staff and vehicles had been withdrawn from the country. Although some projects would continue, the bulk of the agency's work would have to stop. The UNHCR has knowledge of only about 900 refugees in the country, but an additional 25,000 are believed to be hiding in the rainforest. "The High Commissioner has made it clear that while we cannot go on in the way we were going on without basic guarantees for the rights of refugees, neither can we completely abandon people who are coming out of the forest," Ms. O'Toole said.

Leaders of eight West African countries have called for the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Congo- Brazzaville, where fighting persists, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said today.

At a summit meeting held yesterday in Libreville, the African leaders called on supporters of President Pascal Lissouba and Denis Sassou Nguesso to agree on a lasting ceasefire.

The summit was chaired by President Omar Bongo of Gabon and Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, the Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity.

Brazzaville is reported to have been badly damaged by the fighting, which broke out three months ago when President Lissouba tried to disarm former President Denis Sassou Nguesso's cobra militiamen in advance of presidential elections scheduled for 27 July.

United Nations agencies are being compelled to temporarily withdraw aid workers from Mazar-I-Sharif because their offices have been so severely looted that they can no longer function, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan.

"The World Food Programme (WFP) compound has been stripped bare," said Bronek Szynalski, WFP Regional Director and Acting UN Coordinator for Afghanistan. He said there was no way the United Nations could continue providing its vital help to those in need until security conditions improve.

WFP has lost 735 tonnes of food, while the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has been robbed of 800 tonnes of fertilizer, hundreds of tonnes of seeds, and agrochemicals set aside for next year's crop. Large quantities of drugs and other medical supplies have been stolen from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In addition, United Nations offices have been looted, and equipment valued in the thousands of dollars has been stolen. Dozens of vehicles have been taken as well.

"This is the second time this year that our Mazar premises have been robbed in this way, in clear violation of United Nations immunities," Mr. Szynalski said. "The patience and generosity of donors have been stretched to the limits and many are now asking themselves about the wisdom of providing aid in such circumstances."

Members of the Security Council today welcomed the successful conclusion of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) and encouraged the international community to continue providing assistance to that country.

Addressing reporters today, Council President Bill Richardson of the United States, speaking on behalf of the members, said they had taken note of the Secretary-General's intention to maintain an office in Liberia to assist with national reconstruction and development after UNOMIL's withdrawal, scheduled for 30 September.

According to Mr. Richardson, Council members also supported the Secretary- General's plan to convene a special conference on Liberia in October. In his report to the Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the 3 October ministerial conference would provide an opportunity for Liberian President Charles Taylor to outline his Government's priorities and strategic vision for recovery.

All but a handfull of the 819 Scud missiles possessed by Iraq had been accounted for by the United Nations Special Commission on Iraqi Disarmament, its Executive Chairman, Richard Butler, told reporters in New York this morning. He said that all of the missile launch vehicles had also been accounted for, meaning they were known to have been either used, removed or destroyed.

"We now do have the full, final and complete declarations from Iraq in the three main fields: missiles, chemical and biological," he said, adding, "That means that we can stop the business of arguing about what the declaration should look like and get on with the much more vital business of verifying it."

Ambassador Butler also expressed concern about the way in which two recent inspections were conducted in Iraq, and said he would discuss the matter today with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. "Cooperation has many faces," he said, "it has the day-to-day courteous stuff -- willing to talk to you and meet you and so on, but the hard edge -- the cutting edge -- is what happens to our inspections, and we are keeping a very close eye on that."

New and more sophisticated techniques are being employed to support the drug money-laundering industry, according to a report of the Secretary- General released today. "Criminals are making increasing use of corrupt lawyers, financial specialists and other experts who are sufficiently knowledgeable in the mechanisms and dynamics of financial markets to exploit available loopholes in legal and regulatory defences against money- laundering," the report states. The growth of high-tech payment facilities that enable coded global financial transactions and the misuse of the Internet pose further challenges to the fight against money-laundering.

Despite the efforts of drug law enforcement agencies, substantial amounts of smuggled drugs have continued to escape detection, according to the report. While unprecedented numbers and quantities of seizures have been made recently, they represent only a fraction of the actual amount of drugs being trafficked throughout the world. The Secretary- General stresses that the exchange of information both within and between regions is vital to cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking.

The report does find some positive developments; cooperation between Member States and the International Narcotics Control Board has resulted in the diversion of at least 16 tonnes of ephedrine during 1996. That amount would have enabled traffickers to illicitly manufacture more than 10 tonnes of methamphetamine. Shipments of 18,000 tonnes of chemicals used in the manufacture of cocaine were also stopped.

Meanwhile, the United States Food and Drug Administration has just requested the withdrawal from the market of a popular diet drug -- fenfluramine -- which had six months ago been termed dangerous by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board. Today, a UN spokesman commented, "The INCB has 13 members, a staff of 25, a modest budget and, I would argue, a valuable service for the money."

The United Nations Office at Vienna will become more specialized in fighting three major threats to world security: organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, its new Director-General told reporters today.

Director-General Pino Arlacchi said the United Nations would harness its accumulated expertise in the service of elaborating new strategies to reduce the illicit drug supply and demand, and to combat new addictive synthetic drugs.

In regard to the fight against terrorism, Mr. Arlacchi said there was wide agreement that priority should be given to implementing the 12 existing treaties aimed at combating that scourge. Those international agreements were poorly implemented and not widely ratified, he added.

Mr. Arlacchi also reported that he had just returned from meetings with diplomats who had responded positively to a proposal to intensify international action against the trafficking of persons. He said the United Nations was formulating a plan to mobilize the international community's efforts on the issue, with special attention to the illegal smuggling of immigrants, trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation, and new forms of economic slavery.

On the occasion of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a recommitment to the goal of a renewed and healthy ozone layer.

The Secretary-General said the thinning of the ozone layer was "without question among the most alarming environmental and scientific discoveries of the century". The subsequent discovery of what ozone depletion could mean for people's health and economies was equally shocking.

Noting that while in some areas of global endeavour there had been more talk than action, the Secretary-General said that "in the case of ozone depletion, the international community moved with astonishing speed from concern to discussion, from discussion to agreement, and from agreement to action".

Since the conclusion of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Secretary-General pointed out, worldwide consumption of those substances had diminished dramatically, with consumption dropping by nearly 75 per cent in developed countries. In developing countries, projects were under way to phase out 50,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances -- approximately one third of their consumption.

Stressing that the ozone layer would only heal if the phase-out of all ozone depleting substances continued on an urgent basis, the Secretary- General called for vigilance to protect life on earth and to safeguard the environment on which all life depends.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today reiterated that peace is not just the absence of conflict but a phenomenon encompassing economic development, social justice, environmental protection, democratization, disarmament and respect for human rights.

In his message today on the occasion of the International Day of Peace, the Secretary-General said that governments, non-governmental organizations, private sector businesses and industries, academic institutions, trade unions and other members of civil society could come together at the United Nations to work to solve the world's complex problems.

As the General Assembly opened its new session, the Secretary- General called for making the Organization as effective as possible in rendering its diverse services to the global community. "And let us always remember the ideals of peace -- both within and among all nations and peoples -- that inform and inspire our efforts," he said.

United States film star Harrison Ford and other leading figures of the movie world gathering in Venice for the fifty-fourth annual International Film Festival have joined the Appeal Against Hunger launched by the FAO.

Signatories to the Appeal term it unacceptable that over 800 million people in the world continue to suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and pledge to do all they can to end this state of affairs.

According to the Appeal, the tragedy of widespread hunger cannot be resolved through government action alone; it requires a broad mobilization of both the public and private sectors, drawing upon collective and individual resources.

The Appeal Against Hunger was launched by FAO at the Cannes Film Festival in May and has attracted the support of more than 100 prominent persons, including film directors Bernardo Bertolucci, Tim Burton, Franco Zeffirelli, Mike Leigh, Micheangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders. Actresses Francoise Arnoult, Jeanne Moreau, Isabelle Adjani, Gina Lollobrigada and Gong Li have also joined the Appeal, as have singer Tina Turner, writer John Le Carre and opera star Placido Domingo.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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