31 October 2000

Press Briefing



The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Susan Markham, Spokeswoman of the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General

Happy Halloween, everyone. I'm not going to do a Sylvana Foa by putting this on my head, but anyone who asks a dumb question has to sit in the corner and wear that. We'll start with a statement on the Middle East.

**Middle East Statement

The Secretary-General is increasingly concerned at the continuing wave of violence in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. He is dismayed by the ongoing loss of innocent lives. The Secretary-General believes that a full and immediate implementation of the understandings reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit is the only way to break the current cycle of violence and to stabilize the situation.

He calls on both sides to honour their commitments under this agreement and to exercise maximum restraint. For his part, the Secretary-General continues to follow developments closely. He remains in close contact with the participants at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and with other international leaders. His good offices remain at the disposal of the parties.

**Africa's Free Trade Agreement -- COMESA

The Secretary-General today welcomed the creation of Africa's first subregional free trade area, involving nine nations in East and Southern Africa.

“In an age of globalization”, he said in a statement delivered in Lusaka, Zambia, where the effort was launched today, “there is no alternative to creating these larger economic spaces”. In addition to removing tariff barriers, the Secretary-General also urged these nations to tackle the issue of non-tariff barriers that also stand in the way of truly open markets. "In the past", he said, "regional integration may have sounded like the fanciful dream of politicians. Today, it is an absolute economic necessity if Africa is to survive in the global marketplace". He pledged continued United Nations support for these efforts. The complete text of his statement is available in my office.

**Security Council

During consultations held this morning, the Security Council took up a letter by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, requesting "the admission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to membership in the United Nations". The letter has an annex with a statement by President Kostunica, where he "solemnly

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 31 October 2000

declares that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia accepts the obligations contained in the Charter of the United Nations and undertakes to fulfil them".

Council members are expected to go into a formal meeting by the end of the morning to refer the matter to the Committee on Admission of New Members. The Committee is expected to conclude its deliberations by mid-afternoon. The Council will then hold a formal meeting at 4 o'clock this afternoon to make recommendations to the General Assembly.

Following up on the open debate held last week on "Women and peace and security", Council members reviewed a draft resolution during consultations held this morning. The text is expected to be adopted during a formal meeting, which is about to happen. The resolution has 18 operative paragraphs and, among other things, "urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels". It also "urges the Secretary-General to appoint more women as special representatives and envoys to pursue good offices on his behalf", and to "expand the role and contribution of women in United Nations field-based operations".

Between the consultations and the formal meetings I just mentioned, the Council is holding a private meeting, which has just concluded, to hear a briefing by Judge Gilbert Guillaume, President of the International Court of Justice.

**Sierra Leone

The Secretary-General has sent a letter to the Security Council announcing his intention to appoint Lieutenant General Daniel Opande of Kenya as the Force Commander in Sierra Leone. This is the first of three appointments as part of the overhaul of the military leadership of the mission. The Council has until 10:30 Thursday morning to respond to the letter. The Secretary-General in the Council meeting yesterday announced Ghana's contribution of an additional battalion to the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone. The Secretary- General's report to the Council on Sierra Leone will be out by the end of the week.

The United Nations mission, meanwhile, reports that the overall situation in the country remained generally calm, with the exception of the areas along the Guinea-Sierra Leone border, which remain tense.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

A United Nations helicopter was hit by small arms fire over the town of Zongo in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the border with the Central African Republic. There were no casualties in yesterday's incident and the aircraft landed safely at Bangui airport.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, telephoned the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Kamel Morjane, and apologized for the incident, explaining that the shooting was a personal lapse by one soldier who had been arrested and would be put on trial. Bemba promised a written apology and assured that United Nations aircraft could continue to fly without restrictions over territory his group controlled.

Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that it was preparing for an influx of up to 18,000 refugees from neighbouring Angola into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is already host to some 170,000 Angolan refugees.


The next round of the Cyprus proximity talks is expected to resume tomorrow in Geneva. This round will be held under the guidance of the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto. We expect de Soto to hold a press conference in Geneva before the first session begins.


We had mentioned to you yesterday that partial results from the weekend municipal elections in Kosovo were to be announced last night. With an estimated voter turnout of 80 per cent and some 90 per cent of the vote counted, partial results announced indicate that the Democratic League of Kosovo won approximately 58 per cent of the vote. You can see the unofficial results on the Web site for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a partner in the United Nations Interim Administrative Mission of Kosovo, which is responsible for the polling, counting and certification of the ballots.

**East Timor

One hundred and twenty one refugees who were in West Timor, Indonesia, spontaneously returned to the Oecussi enclave in East Timor yesterday. Since international personnel left West Timor in September, following the murder of three United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staffers, 1,070 refugees have returned to East Timor on their own -- nearly 800 during October alone. The new arrivals said that militia gangs continue to control West Timor refugee sites, preventing departures and threatening those who leave. The Indonesian military is present in some camps during part of the day, allowing some refugees to repatriate, they said.

More details are in the UNHCR note we have available in my office upstairs. Also available is the briefing note from the United Nations Mission in East Timor with details on the training of the new National Council and the development of the East Timor National Archive.

**Iraq Programme

We have from the Office of the Iraq Programme, the latest figure for the week ending 27 October, during which Iraq exported 18.7 million barrels of oil for an estimated revenue of $495 million. Since the start of the current phase, which is phase eight of the “oil-for-food” programme, Iraq has exported 301.2 million barrels of oil worth almost $7.7 billion.

**Bosnia and Herzegovina

The briefing notes from the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina tell us that late last night the United Nations International Police Task Force assisted local police in a raid on a night club near Sarajevo, as part of the continuing crackdown on the illegal trafficking of women. Twelve women of Eastern European origin told the United Nations police that they had been held against their will there and sought United Nations assistance in returning to their homes in Moldova, Ukraine and Romania. This raid was one of the most significant anti-trafficking actions taken so far by the police in Bosnia. The full briefing notes from the mission are available in my office.

**Press Releases

Other press releases for today, the World Food Programme has announced a six-month expansion of its relief operation in Uganda's drought-stricken north- eastern Karamoja region. One hundred and ninety semi-nomadic people will be provided with 12,000 tons of emergency food rations. The expanded operation will provide maize, beans, vegetable oil and blended fortified food to the most vulnerable in the region. You can see the press release for more information.

And then from the United Nations Environment Programme, the Executive Director, Klaus Topfer is in China today to attend a meeting of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development. Toepfer described China as "poised to become an environmental superpower". The press release also announces that Mr. Toepfer will make a short visit to North Korea later this week.

Then the World Health Organization has issued a revised fact sheet on Hepatitis C, a viral infection of the liver, which affects 170 million persons with 3 million to 4 million new infections annually. The fact sheet is available upstairs.

**Treaty Signings

Senegal this morning became the seventy-eighth state to sign the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. And also this morning, Panama signed the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Germany is expected to sign tomorrow a Standby Arrangements Agreement with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The signing ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in the Department's conference room. Germany has already signed an agreement covering civilian contributions in 1998. The agreement tomorrow includes military resources pledged by Germany subsequent to the original signing.

**Press Conferences

This afternoon in this room at one o'clock, Ambassador Joun-Yung Sun of the Republic of Korea will talk about the General Assembly resolution on "Peace, Security and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula."

And then at tomorrow's press briefing here we'll have Peter Hansen as our guest. He is the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

And then tomorrow at 12.30 in this room Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, will be joined by Danilo Turk of the Political Affairs Department and Joel Adechi, the Permanent Representative of Benin, to launch the Secretary-General's report on "Support by the United Nations System of the Efforts of Governments to Promote and Consolidate New and Restored Democracies". The report contains recommendations to be considered at the Fourth International Conference on New and Restored Democracies to be held in Cotonou from 4 to 6 December. That's all I have for you.

Question: That hat -- to whom does it belong, to you or your boss?

Spokesman: This is a prop.

Question: Once again on Kosovo, but its Mark's question from the BBC, not mine. Are there going to be more movements towards independence of Kosovo?

Spokesman: No. We are working with the Security Council resolution that calls for substantial autonomy. These elections are moving the Kosovars towards substantial autonomy and the running of their affairs within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Those are our marching orders, as of now, given by the Security Council.

Question: Does the Secretary-General have an opinion regarding the Palestinian request for a protection force in the Mideast?

Spokesman: No. That's a matter that's before the Security Council now, and the Secretary-General has not expressed an opinion.

Question: Has he talked to any of the parties about it?

Spokesman: There is no doubt that there is active discussion going on as a result of this proposal by the Palestinians supported by the Arab Group, but ultimately, it is a decision that the Security Council will have to take and, as I said, he has not expressed his view on the matter.

Question: Do you have the dates of the Secretary-General's trip to Iran , Bahrain, Mideast, the Gulf in November?

Spokesman: We haven't announced that trip yet, but it’s getting very close, so he will leave sometime next week, and we'll give you the specifics in the next day or so.

Question: Regarding the appointment of the military Commander for the Sierra Leone mission, why does the Security Council have to make a decision by 10:30 tomorrow?

Spokesman: That's a routine procedural matter. He sends them a letter saying his intention is to name General Opande. They then normally take 24-48 hours under the no objection procedure and if they don't object, its considered to be approval. Sue.

Briefing of the Spokeswoman for President of General Assembly

Thank you. This morning, the plenary took up the new agenda item of peace, security and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The draft resolution was introduced by the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea. They remarked that the resolution was co-sponsored by more than 150 countries. There were more added as they spoke, so I don't know the final count, but there was a large number.

Also discussed this morning was another new agenda item on global partnership. The item on the follow-up to the Social Summit will follow this morning.

The Plenary will continue this afternoon and tomorrow we expect to have causes of conflict in Africa on the agenda. On Thursday an addition to the schedule will be the discussion on the AIDS special session of the General Assembly, which had been postponed from some time ago, you will recall.

Just to highlight the First Committee. We have available in the Spokesman's Office the programme of the resolutions they have been adopting in the last few days. We expect them to adopt five today and then there should be only nine left for them to adopt tomorrow. So if you're interested in these -- it’s a very long list of resolutions that they have been adopting in the last few days -- we can make that available. Thank you.

Spokesman: Any questions?

Question: Regarding the application for Membership of the United Nations by President Kostunica, how quickly will it be approved by the General Assembly?

Spokeswoman: Well, it will be scheduled immediately after its received from the Security Council and could be as early as tomorrow or the next day. But, I don't have any firm date yet.

Question: Which role would the Credentials Committee play?

Spokeswoman: No role in a new membership of the General Assembly. It's not an issue for the Credentials Committee.

Question: What will happen to the former documents which were admitted as documents for the Security Council and General Assembly for the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia once this new application goes through?

Spokeswoman: Do you mean who will happen to the old Yugoslavia? Do you mean the credentials of the current Ambassador? I don't know, I'm sorry. I'll have to find out for you. They will either become the ambassador of the new country or they will not, and whoever is the ambassador will present their


Question: I'm talking about the documents.

Spokeswoman: I don't know.

Question: What is the significance of the Koreas resolution today?

Spokeswoman: Well, its quite historic. As you know, this is a new agenda item, and there's been reference to the historic nature of this discussion by a number of the speakers. It's really a reaffirmation of the process that's already begun for the peace and reunification of the Peninsula.

Question: Will you wear the hat?

Spokeswoman: I was going to wear my mask, but I'm not an American, so it's not my Halloween

Question: Has the Sanctions Committee given approval to Iraq's request to switch from dollar to euro?

Spokesman: As we told you yesterday, the Sanctions Committee met yesterday afternoon, and they concluded that there was no legal basis for them to object to a switch in currency from the United States dollar to the euro. They did ask for the Secretariat to work with the Iraqi Government on the technical issues involved in the transition, but essentially, they found there was no basis for objections.

Question: Fred, will you wear the hat?

Spokesman: Let's first end the official part of the briefing.

Question: Is there any discussion about these new flights to Iraq?

Spokesman: I think what they are talking about are internal flights -- that Iraq has announced its intention to resume flights within its borders, which would involve these flights going through the no-fly zones, which were declared by the US, French and UK Governments, but never approved formally by the Security Council. So, you would have to ask the Council whether they would have any objections, I haven't heard any expressed. And then you would have to ask the Americans, the French and the Brits. You may have seen press reports of the British reaction, saying that they had no objections to these commercial flights going through the no-fly zones, since they say the no-fly zones applied only to military aircraft. Okay I'll say goodnight, Sylvana, wherever you are. I'll see you at the party this afternoon at 5:30.

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