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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-12-09

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 9 December 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.


  • Secretary-General tells Organization of Islamic Conference that outside support fuels Afghan conflict.
  • General Assembly calls for elimination of nuclear weapons within specific time frame, by one of 43 disarmament resolutions adopted Tuesday.
  • General Assembly acts on six resolutions on Middle East and Palestine but takes no substantive action on latter's observer status.
  • IAEA says Iraq has returned approximately 50 tonnes of high explosives to original storage location.
  • Former Commander of UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission says it will stay in place for years to come.
  • Optimism about an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions expressed at Kyoto Conference on Climate Change.
  • General Assembly's Economic and Financial Committee breaks tradition by voting on development drafts; all are opposed by United States.
  • United Nations investigative team probing massacres in Congo- Kinshasa waits to begin its field work.
  • UN refugee agency says more than 1,000 Rwandans were expelled from Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Floods continue to inundate three refugee camps housing 123,000 people in northeastern Kenya.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization rushes farm assistance to flood victims in Somalia and Myanmar.
  • World Food Programme seeks $9.4 million to aid farmers affected by El Nino in Central America.

Peace remains elusive in Afghanistan because war lords profit from the conflict, which is fueled by foreign forces, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the eighth summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Tuesday. The Secretary-General said peace remains elusive because "too many groups in Afghanistan -- war lords, terrorists, drug dealers and others -- appear to have too much to gain from war and too much to lose from peace and the rule of law". Peace is also thwarted because "foreign military, material and financial support continues unabated, fuelling this conflict and depriving the warring factions of a genuine interest in making peace".

"The continued support by these outside forces, combined with the apathy of others not directly involved, is, I regret to say, rendering diplomatic initiatives almost irrelevant", the Secretary-General said. He stressed that any genuine peace process must begin with a complete ceasefire and an effective arms embargo. Only the establishment of a genuinely broad-based government, reflecting the interests of all political and religious groups, "would finally deliver the Afghan people from their agony and bring closer the prospects for a lasting peace".

While in Tehran, the Secretary-General met with Iranian President Mohamed Khatami as well as the country's Foreign Minister and Vice President.

The General Assembly on Tuesday urged nuclear-weapon States to immediately stop the qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems, by a resolution adopted by a vote of 109 in favour to 39 against, with 18 abstentions. The Assembly reiterated its call on the nuclear-weapon States to undertake a step-by- step reduction of the nuclear threat. It sought a phased programme of progressive and balanced deep reductions of nuclear weapons, and effective nuclear disarmament measures with a view to the total elimination of those weapons within a time-bound framework.

The Assembly was acting on the recommendation of its Disarmament and International Security (First) Committee. It adopted 43 resolutions and 2 decisions on the Committee's recommendation, addressing, among other issues, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, anti-personnel landmines and other conventional weapons, regional disarmament, verification and compliance, transparency, and international security.

The Assembly urged States not parties to the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to accede to it as soon as possible. It also called on the nuclear-weapon States to pursue systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating them. It adopted that text by a vote of 156 in favour to none against, with 10 abstentions. By a vote of 147 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 14 abstentions, the Assembly called upon the only State in the region of the Middle East not yet party to the NPT to accede to it without further delay.

By the a third nuclear disarmament text, the Assembly reiterated its request to the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations on an international convention to prohibit the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. The text was adopted by a vote of 109 in favour to 30 against, with 27 abstentions.

By the terms of another nuclear-related text, the Assembly once again underlined the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. It again called upon all States to fulfil that obligation immediately. That text was adopted by a vote of 116 in favour to 26 against, with 24 abstentions.

The Assembly also reaffirmed the urgent need to reach an early agreement on effective international arrangements on assurances to non- nuclear weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. It adopted that text by a vote of 116 to none against, with 51 abstentions.

By the terms of one of three texts concerning anti-personnel mines, the Assembly urged all States to ratify without delay the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti- personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The vote was 142 in favour to none against, with 18 abstentions. The Assembly also urged all States to intensify their efforts to contribute to the elimination of landmines, voting 147 in favour to none against, with 15 abstentions.

The Assembly further called upon all Member States to implement the recommendations unanimously approved by the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms, bearing in mind Member States' views on them. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 158 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions. The Panel's report states that "virtually every part of the United Nations system is dealing with the direct and indirect consequences of recent armed conflicts fought mostly with small arms and light weapons". It contains a series of recommendations for curbing the illicit use and transfer of small arms.

A draft resolution on the full participation of Palestine in the work of the General Assembly was withdrawn by its cosponsors today after a procedural motion to disqualify a proposed amendment to the text was defeated by a close vote.

The draft would have had the General Assembly decide to confer on Palestine similar rights and privileges of participation in Assembly sessions and work, and United Nations international conferences, as those conferred on Member States, except for voting and candidature.

An amendment to the text would have had the Assembly review whether Palestine's current rights were adequate to ensure its proper participation and would request the Secretary-General to report on the issue as soon as possible, and before the end of the current session.

On behalf of the sponsors of the original draft, the representative of Yemen, citing the General Assembly's rules of procedure, said that the amendment would so alter the text that it could not strictly be considered an amendment. Yemen's proposal was defeated by a vote of 65 against to 57 in favour, with 32 abstentions. Following this, the draft was withdrawn.

Also withdrawn was a draft resolution on the Middle East peace process sponsored by Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States.

The Assembly adopted six texts by large majorities, five of which the United States and Israel were alone in opposing. The sixth, on Jerusalem, was opposed by Israel with the United States abstaining. By a resolution on Jerusalem, the Assembly determined that the decision of Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem is illegal and therefore null and void, with no validity whatsoever.

Under the terms of another resolution, the Assembly demanded once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967, as called for by the relevant Security Council resolutions. It declared that the Israeli decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and has no validity whatsoever. Israel was called on to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks.

Another resolution requested that the Secretary-General provide the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat with resources for the further development of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine and other activities.

By another resolution, the Assembly considered the special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Office of Communications and Public Information useful for, among other reasons, contributing effectively to an atmosphere conducive to dialogue and supportive of the peace process.

The Assembly also called on the concerned parties, the co-sponsors of the peace process and the international community to exert all the necessary efforts and initiatives to bring the peace process back on track and ensure its success.

It endorsed the recommendations of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and asked the Committee to keep the question of Palestine under review.

Iraq has returned high explosives it had removed from the Al Qa Qaa facility, according to the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, Mohamed Elbaradei says that in accordance with its notification of IAEA, Iraq had removed IAEA seals from five of the six high-explosive bunkers at the Al Qa Qaa facility and dispersed approximately 50 tonnes out of a total of 228 tonnes of high explosives (HMX) to other locations at Al Qa Qaa. Mr. Elbaradei says that IAEA inspectors have witnessed the return of this material to its original storage location and have taken measures to account for the original inventory. "There are no indications that any of this material has been diverted", the IAEA Director-General says.

In addition to these activities, other IAEA personnel and experts from United Nations Member States have serviced and upgraded the video surveillance systems at two facilities. They have also carried out an extensive campaign for the collection of environmental samples.

The IAEA Director-General says that the agency has directed is resources towards verification of the status of critical dual-use equipment.

On 25 November, the IAEA team was temporarily increased to 12 persons in order to restore the technical basis of the IAEA's monitoring and verification activities as quickly as possible, says Mr. Elbaradei. Since that time, he points out, the Nuclear Monitoring Group has carried out more than 42 inspections at 40 locations, some of which have been inspected more than once.

Following an impasse caused by Iraq's objection to the United Nations weapons inspectors, IAEA inspectors returned to Baghdad on 21 November and resumed their inspections the following day.

The former Force Commander of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) has predicted that UNIKOM will be monitoring the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait for the foreseeable future. He said that "it is not a matter of borders, it is a matter of trust between countries" and that he thought that as it was a matter of trust, UNIKOM was due to stay there for "long years".

In an interview with United Nations Radio, Major-General Gian Giuseppe Santillo said he was confident that when the Secretary-General visits UNIKOM troops on Saturday, he will find the mission on steady ground. "In Italy we have a saying that you can put a military unit to the test when the commander is absent", Major General Santillo told United Nations Radio on Tuesday.

Major-General Santillo, who was Force Commander for two years from December 1995, was recently succeeded by Major-General Esa Kalervo Tavanien of Finland.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to arrive in Kuwait on Friday.

At the Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, there is increasing optimism that delegates will reach agreement on legally binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases.

United Nations Radio reports that with just one day to go before the talks end, two of the major parties, the United States and the European Union have been showing flexibility and a willingness to move from their original positions.

Negotiators have been meeting until the early hours of the morning to hammer out an agreement.

At a Tuesday evening press conference, the European Union's Commissioner, Ritt Bjerregaard, said that Tuesday's negotiations were fruitful. He said negotiators were making the point that industrialized countries are responsible and that there is need to come up with an ambitious target and solution.

United States Chief negotiator Stuart Eizenstat said that his Government had shown new flexibility in its position and had held extensive conversation with key players in the negotiations. "These discussions have yielded some progress but we still have far to go and we do not sense the urgency on the part of the many countries that is necessary, given the lateness of the hour", he said. He nevertheless expressed the hope that despite the short time remaining, negotiators would be able to bridge the gap and reach a successful conclusion.

The General Assembly's Economic and Financial (Second) Committee has broken a long-standing tradition of reaching agreement, or "consensus", on draft resolutions before it by voting on Tuesday on six drafts concerning development. Traditionally, the Committee avoids voting, although often, delegates make statements in connection with the approval of texts expressing their reservations or opposition, but stating that they did not want to break the "consensus" and so did not call for a vote.

The votes today were by no means close; in each case, the United States was alone or almost alone in its opposition to the drafts. The country's representative expressed objection to the phrase "sustained economic growth and sustainable development" in each of the drafts, and requested that votes be held.

In explaining this objection, he said that his Government could not accept the equation of "sustained economic growth" and "sustainable development". The United States had recognized at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development that sustainable development required economic development, social development and environmental protection, but sustained economic growth was only one component of sustainable development.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, expressed regret at the lack of agreement between the United States and that Group on the six texts in question. The United States, he said, believed that sustainable development should be based on private sector growth, but most countries recognized that that approach to development was restrictive.

The drafts concerned industrial development, human resources development, women in development, renewal of the dialogue for development through partnership, external debt problem of developing countries, and global financial flows and their impact on developing countries.

The drafts, which were supported by an average of 150 countries each, were all opposed by the United States. Four of those were also opposed by Israel.

The United Nations investigative team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in Mbandaka but cannot yet start its field work.

The team, which is in the country to probe allegations of human rights violations, on Tuesday morning met with the local authorities, including the Deputy Governor of the Province, to inform them of the exact locations where the investigators wanted access. The Deputy Governor told the team that he had not yet received the go ahead from Kinshasa and that he needed to convene the Provincial Security Committee before the team could begin its work, according to United Nations Associate Spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt.

Members of the team also paid a courtesy visit to the local police and the military commanders of the city.

Mr. Brandt said that the team hoped to be able to start its field work on Wednesday.

More than one thousand Rwandans have been expelled from the Goma area of the Democratic Republic of Congo over recent days, according to the Untied Nations refugee agency.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that this is the largest expulsion of its kind so far.

UNHCR Spokeswoman Pam O'Toole has said that the expelled Rwandans were mostly women and children who had fled the Gisenyi and Ruhengeri prefectures to escape fighting between Government forces and Hutu insurgents. She said that when they were discovered by the Congolese military, the refugees were formed into groups and made to walk towards Goma. They were then transported across the border on trucks during the night of 5 December and taken to the Gisenyi stadium.

Ms. O'Toole said that the latest expulsions also coincided with an order from the DRC Government last week for seven non-governmental organizations to leave the Goma area. UNHCR has been assisting those who have been expelled once they go back to Rwanda and has been asking the Government not to send them back to areas where fighting was going on, she added. "Obviously we are deeply concerned about the security of these people because they left their homes in the first place to escape fighting." Pam O'Toole said that the United Nations refugee agency did not want the Rwandans to be sent back to that area.

Floods continue to inundate three refugee camps with some 123,000 people in Ifo, Dagahely, and Hagadera in northeastern Kenya.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), mud- walled refugee homes are crumbling in the Ifo camp where some 20,000 refugees are in need of new shelters. In Dagahaley camp, home to some 40, 000 refugees, more than 5,000 of them have been similarly flooded out.

The flow of water in and around the camps is so strong that donkey carts, the main form of transportation for the refugees, cannot operate. The UN refugee agency says that the water has risen again to 1.5 metres in some areas forcing the refugees to leave to other locations.

UNHCR Spokeswoman Pam O'Toole said that the sanitation situation was worrying with more than 2,600 latrines flooded in the Ifo and Dagahaley camps. The refugees' domestic animals and poultry have died, increasing the risk of illnesses afflicting the refugees, particularly the children who swim in the waters flowing through the region.

Access to the camps, 100 kilometres from the Somali border is difficult as all roads have been cut and food supplies are expected to run out at the end of December.

The refugees have been issued 20,000 burlap sacks to stave off the waters from settlement areas, water pumps, hospitals and food warehouses. Canals are also being dug in and around the camps to divert the water. UNHCR, which began flying fuel into Dadaab last week, has delivered 17 metric tonnes to the camps to keep the fresh water pumps working. The agency is also purchasing 40 metric tonnes of high protein biscuits and sending in 5, 000 plastic sheets from stocks in Nairobi for urgent distribution in the camps.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is rushing assistance to flood victims in Somali and Myanmar, the agency announced on Tuesday.

About 20,000 farm families in Somalia will receive $400,000 worth of emergency agricultural supplies and farm implements from FAO. The agency expects to immediately begin to buy 2000 packs of assorted vegetable seeds which it will airlift to Somalia. Other seeds will include sesame and cow pea.

The assistance will also include small hand tools which will be manufactured by blacksmiths in the stricken districts.

Myanmar will receive $310,000 worth of aid to rehabilitate its 510,000 hectares of crops which were devastated by unusually widespread floods in July and August.

The floods destroyed the crops of some 124,000 farmers. There is an acute shortage of seeds for planting in the country.

At the request of the Government, FAO will provide sunflower, soya bean, and vegetable seeds to be distributed by the Myanmar Agriculture Service free of charge to the flood affected farmers.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is seeking $9.4 million to assist farmers affected by El Nino in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador Guatemala and Panama.

The aid would go to 323,000 poor farmers and their families in the five countries, which are among those world wide where the El Nino meteorological phenomenon has caused drought and floods. More than half of the people are children under the age of six and women living in rugged areas in these countries. Most of the recipients are engaged in subsistence farming on poor soils and have little access to credit, seeds, fertilizer or technical assistance.

WFP will provide a total of 19,566 metric tonnes of emergency food rations to the affected families until their next harvest.

To support relief and rehabilitation, WFP will provide farmers with food in exchange for work on irrigation systems and soil and water conservation projects. The projects are aimed at making the people less vulnerable to drought and floods in the future.

Most of Central America had insufficient rainfall during the second and third quarters of this year -- the main planting seasons. The drought seriously affected agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and forestry.

In certain areas there were subsequent floods which damaged wells, dams, irrigation systems, canals and access roads.

"The weather changes caused by El Nino during the planting season in 1997 have worsened the already weak food security condition of these families", according to Jean-Jacques Graisse, the Chairman of WFP's Global El Nino Task Force.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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