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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-12-23

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Tuesday, 23 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.


  • Security Council welcomes decision of Somali leaders to resolve the political crisis in their country.
  • Security Council extends mandate of United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus through June 1998.
  • Secretary-General's team, back from Scotland, reports that Lockerbie suspects can get a fair trial there.
  • United Nations refugee agency appeals for $37 million to help displaced persons in Commonwealth of Independent States.
  • Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burundi says both Hutus and Tutsis are victims of fighting in the country.
  • Uganda is likely to suffer next year from prolonged unstable weather conditions caused by El Nio.
  • World Health Organization recommends use of telecommunications to promote health.
  • World traffic peaked in 1997, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The Security Council on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the Somali leaders to resolve the political crisis in the country.

In a presidential statement read out by Council President Fernando Berrocal Soto of Costa Rica, the Council welcomed the outcome of meetings between the Somali leaders, which concluded in Cairo on 22 December, in particular their decision to adopt a federal system with regional autonomy and their agreement to form a transitional government of national unity. It welcomed the signing of the Cairo Declaration on Somalia and other important agreements attached to it, particularly on the creation of an elected Constituent Assembly, the establishment of an independent judicial system, and the preparation of a transitional charter.

The Council also welcomed their decision to hold an inclusive conference on national reconciliation in Baidoa, through which a presidential council and a prime minister would be elected.

The Security Council called on all Somali leaders to contribute positively to the current momentum for peace and reconciliation created by the significant progress achieved in Cairo and by the other initiatives of Sodere, Nairobi and Sanaa. It called on Somali leaders to participate in the planned conference, and to cease immediately all acts of violence and to observe the ceasefire.

The Security Council urged all States to contribute generously to the appeals of the United Nations to ensure continued relief and rehabilitation efforts throughout Somalia, including the strengthening of civil society. It stressed the urgent need to address the humanitarian situation in the areas affected by the recent floods.

The Council reiterated its call on all States to implement the arms embargo imposed by resolution 733 (1992), and to refrain from any actions that might exacerbate the situation in Somalia.

The Security Council expressed its support for the efforts of the Secretary- General, who is exploring means for the United Nations to restore peace and stability in Somalia. The Council noted with appreciation the Secretary- General's decision to strengthen the United Nations Political Office for Somalia in Nairobi, and stressed the need for closer coordination of all peace efforts.

Expressing again its appreciation to all United Nations agencies, other organizations and individuals carrying out humanitarian activities in Somalia, the Council called on the Somali factions to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of all humanitarian personnel. It also called on the factions to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief, by, among other measures, immediately re-opening the airport and seaport of Mogadishu.

The Security Council has extended the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) until 30 June 1998.

By unanimously adopting resolution 1146 (1997) on Tuesday, the Security Council noted with concern that despite the further decrease in the number of serious incidents in the last six months, tensions along the ceasefire lines remain high and that restrictions to UNFICYP's freedom of movement have increased. The Council reminded both parties of their obligations to prevent any violence directed against UNFICYP personnel, to cooperate fully with UNFICYP and to ensure its complete freedom of movement.

Reiterating that the status quo is unacceptable and stressing its support for the Secretary-General's efforts, the Council expressed its full support for the Secretary-General's intention to resume open-ended negotiations in March 1998 to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

It reiterated its grave concern at the continuing excessive and increasing levels of military forces and armaments in the Republic of Cyprus and the rate at which they are being expanded, upgraded and modernized, including the introduction of sophisticated weaponry. The Council expressed concern at the lack of progress in the reduction of the number of foreign troops in Cyprus, which, it said, threaten to raise tensions on the island and in the region, and complicate negotiations for an overall political settlement.

It called on all concerned to commit themselves to a reduction in defence spending and the number of foreign troops to help restore confidence between the parties and as a first step towards the withdrawal of non- Cypriot forces. It stressed the importance of eventual demilitarization of the island in the context of an overall comprehensive settlement, and encouraged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts in this direction.

The Security Council called upon the leaders of the two communities to commit themselves to the process of negotiations initiated by the Secretary- General in July 1997, and to cooperate actively and constructively with him and his Special Adviser. It urged all States to fully support these efforts.

The Council reaffirmed its position that a settlement must be based on a single sovereign State of Cyprus with a single international personality and citizenship. The Council also reaffirmed that Cyprus should be independent with its territorial integrity safeguarded, and comprising two politically equal communities in a bi-communal and bi- zonal federation. Such a settlement, the Council said, must exclude union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession.

The Security Council welcomed the agreement reached between the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities on 31 July 1997, on the issue of missing persons in Cyprus. It recognized that the decision of the European Union on the opening of accession negotiations with Cyprus is an important development.

It welcomed the ongoing efforts of UNFICYP to implement its humanitarian mandate regarding Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the northern part of the island, and Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part.

The Council further welcomed the efforts of the United Nations and others to promote the holding of bi-communal events in order to build cooperation, trust and mutual respect between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. Commending the increase of such activity in the last six months, the Council acknowledged the recent cooperation of both sides and strongly encouraged them to facilitate such bi-communal events and ensure that they take place in conditions of safety and security.

The Secretary-General's representatives dispatched at the request of the United Kingdom to evaluate the judicial system in Scotland have determined that the Lockerbie suspects can get a fair trial there.

The Lockerbie affair began with the crash of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988. Two Libyans were suspected of bombing the aircraft. In response, the Security Council imposed sanctions against Libya pending a resolution of the matter.

Libya has called for a trial to be held either at The Hague or in a neutral country. The United States and the United Kingdom want the suspects tried in Scotland.

Enoch Dumbutshena, former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, and Professor Henry G. Schermers of Leiden University in the Netherlands, reported that the accused would get a fair trial under the Scottish judicial system. "Their rights during the pre-trial, trial and post-trial proceedings would be protected in accordance with international standards." They added that the presence of United Nations and other international observers could be easily accommodated.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has launched an appeal for $37 million to help millions of destitute people in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Launching the special appeal on Tuesday, UNHCR said the funds will bring relief to many of the nine million people displaced by conflicts since the collapse of communism. Although fighting has ended in all the seven major conflicts which erupted since 1988, UNHCR said, the area is still suffering the after-effects of some of the largest and most complex population movements in recent history.

The United Nations refugee agency's projects for 1998 include provision of food and shelter for the most needy, rebuilding destroyed infrastructure in the former conflict zones, and funding income- generating projects. Extra emphasis will be given to schemes to help governments develop their capacity to care for returnees and the displaced, said UNHCR.

Ten million dollars are needed to help Russian authorities cope with an influx of four million people, who include refugees, returning ethnic Russians and a large number of illegal immigrants and transit migrants in the entire region.

In the Caucasus region, $10.3 million will be used for relief assistance in Georgia, $7.1 million in Azerbaijan, and $4.2 million in Armenia. More than 1.7 million people remain displaced in the region as a result of conflicts in Georgia, Chechnya and Nagorno Karabakh. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, the displaced persons are reported to be living in abject poverty, some facing their fifth winter living in railway carriages, tents or abandoned building.

Some $2.3 million is earmarked for assistance to Ukraine where UNHCR will continue to work with the authorities to reintegrate some 250,000 Crimean Tatars who have returned after fifty years in exile in Central Asia. The United Nations refugee agency will launch schemes to provide shelter and income generating projects to help some 90,000 potentially stateless Crimean Tatars become Ukrainian citizens.

Other programmes to be funded under the 1998 special appeal include technical assistance for Belarus to help it cope with an estimated 200,000 illegal migrants, and to help refugees and displaced persons in Moldova.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burundi has said that both Hutus and Tutsis are victims of armed clashes in the country.

Following his recent trip to Burundi, Paulo Sergio Pinhiero of Brazil said that in a situation of war, it is very difficult to improve the situation of human rights. He told the press in Geneva on Monday that he has been receiving fewer allegations about large massacres in Burundi.

Mr. Pinhiero said that there are reports of people who have been caught in the cross fire between Government forces and the rebels. He said that people are being attacked irrespective of their ethnicity. The rebels, he said, are not only attacking the Tutsis but also the Hutus who are not cooperating with the rebellion.

The Special Rapporteur said that during his recent visit to Burundi, he got the sense that the authorities "are very conscious" of the fact that people are victims of either sides to the conflict. Mr. Pinhiero said that the Minister of Defence informed him that 500 Burundi soldiers have been punished for attacking civilians.

Mr. Pinhiero added that when he was in Burundi, the Government was dealing normally with this question. "I did not see any intention of trying to hide" or of denial, he said. According to the Special Rapporteur, the Government of Burundi does acknowledge that there are problems which must be dealt with.

The Special Rapporteur also spoke about the effects of regional sanctions imposed on Burundi. He also expressed concern that since the mediation efforts led by the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, have not succeeded, the sanctions have remained in place and Burundi is undergoing "a dangerous isolation". In the absence of a ceasefire, he added, the sanctions continue with no possibility that they will end soon.

Mr. Pinhiero said the sanctions are causing sufferig among ordinary people, while the elite in Burundi find ways to get around those sanctions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the use of telecommunication technologies to promote health, particularly in the poorest countries.

The recommendations were adopted at the conclusion of a meeting of some 50 participants at WHO headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday. The Deputy Director- General of WHO, Dr. Fernando Antezana, described telehealth as "the integration of telecommunications systems into the practice of protecting and promoting health, while 'telemedicine' is the incorporation of these systems into curative medicine".

In his closing speech, WHO Director-General Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, said that telematics offers the developing countries new possibilities for strengthening their national capacities for health research and the quality of their health services.

According to WHO, telematics has an increasingly important contribution to health education, the training of health personnel, and the management of emergency situations. As an example, the World Health Organization adds that it already has worldwide electronic networks for surveillance of the spread of drug resistance, pollution levels, reactions to toxic chemicals and the adverse side effects of pharmaceutical substances.

The Geneva meeting also recommended the improvement in the collaboration that already exists with such organizations as the International Telecommunication Union, the World Bank and interested non- governmental organizations to take advantage of telematics.

The Director-General of WHO has been requested to set up an Advisory Committee on Telematics for Health which will meet regularly to review progress and make recommendations in this area.

Uganda is likely to suffer well into 1998 from prolonged unstable weather conditions caused by the El Nino phenomenon, according to the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA).

In its latest situation report on Uganda, DHA says that additional floods and landslides may occur in the country which has suffered from floods and landslides in the eastern and western districts.

An estimated 100 people have been killed, many have been critically injured, and several others have not been accounted for. About 150,000 people have been displaced. Farm properties, including homes and crops have been destroyed by floods. The floods have also destroyed thousands of acres of food and cash crops. Primary schools have been laid to waste and closed, and roads leading to schools have been cut off.

The floods have also damaged other infrastructure such as water treatment plants and bridges. Quoting government sources, the Department of Humanitarian Affairs says that Uganda has lost 40 per cent of its trucks roads with serious consequences for the country's economy.

The main road linking Kampala to the Eastern and Northern parts of the country, and which serves as the entry and exit point to Kenya, has been cut off by a 4 metre wide trench. As of Monday, all vehicles, including heavy trucks remained stranded on either side of the trench across the road, says DHA.

The Government of Uganda is currently soliciting funds to purchase seeds and seedlings of fast early maturing crops and the necessary farm implements to distribute to the affected people.

The United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) sent a mission to Uganda which brought along relief supplies from the World Food Programme, (WFP) the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), and the Uganda Red Cross.

DHA says that the likelihood of further disruption of the livelihoods of the population requires the strengthening of the Government's capacity to access affected areas, to quickly collate information necessary for rapid direct response, and the mobilization of resources from donors. DHA-Geneva is prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions for immediate relief assistance in coordination and consultations with the relevant agencies of the United Nations system.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has reported an increase in world airline traffic and load factors in 1997.

Preliminary figures for 1997 released by ICAO on Tuesday indicate an 8 per cent increase over 1996 in total scheduled traffic in world's airlines, as measured in tonne-kilometres performed, and a 9 per cent increase in international scheduled traffic.

A tonne-kilometre is defined as a combined measure of passenger, freight and mail traffic which also takes into account distance flown.

The figures are based on statistics supplied by the 185 Member States of ICAO, which was created in 1944 to promote safe and orderly development of civil aviation in the world.

According to the statistics, passenger traffic based on passenger- kilometres performed, rose by 7 per cent in total, and by 8 per cent on international services. ICAO says that capacity increases for passenger services reached their highest annual level of 69 per cent in total and 70 per cent for international services. The number of passengers carried worldwide on scheduled services is now approaching one and a half billion.

ICAO says that freight traffic grew by 11 per cent. The number of freight tonnes carried is in the order of 25 million.

ICAO which is a specialized agency of the United Nations, sets international standards and regulations for the safety, security, efficiency, and regularity of air transport. The agency also serves as the medium for cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its Contracting States.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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