2 April 1998


2 April 1998

Press Briefing



Juan Carlos Brandt, Senior Associate Spokesman for the Secretary- General, began today's noon briefing by announcing that the Security Council was meeting in closed consultations this morning to discuss the programme of work for the month of April. It agreed to schedule a formal meeting on 17 April to hear the Secretary-General introduce his report on Africa and to have an open debate on the report on 24 April. The Council was then briefed by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, on the Secretary-General's trip to the Middle East.

"We have sad news from Guatemala", he said. One of the survivors of the 17 March helicopter crash passed away at 4 p.m. on 1 April at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Pedro Ruz, a national of Chile, was the Chief Communications Officer for the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), a position he held for one-and-a-half years. He suffered very serious injuries and burns during the crash and he passed away as a result of those injuries. "We extend our deep condolences to his family", Mr. Brandt added. Mr. Ruz was survived by three children. Funeral services were scheduled for Sunday, 5 April, in Orlando, Florida. A MINUGUA delegation, headed by Chief of Mission Jean Arnault, planned to attend. With Mr Ruz' death the number of casualties from the crash rose to six. Other crash victims were from Australia, Bolivia, Spain, Uruguay and Guatemala. There were three survivors, one of whom was in very serious condition and was being treated in the same Galveston hospital.

The Senor Associate Spokesman said a senior delegation of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) leadership arrived in Luanda at about 8 p.m. local time on 1 April. Antonio Dembo, UNITA Vice- President, was accompanied by Alcides Sakala, UNITA Secretary for Foreign Affairs; Artur Vinama, a recently demobilized UNITA General; and Franco Marcolino, another senior member of the UNITA leadership. Also encouraging for all those engaged in the peace process was the news that Radio Vorgan finally ceased broadcasting this morning. That had been confirmed by the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) radio monitoring service. The Secretary-General's next report on Angola to the Security Council was due on 17 April.

Mr. Brandt then read a statement issued today in Beijing by Fred Eckhard, the Chief Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

"The Secretary-General and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke on the telephone last night after the formal decision by the Government of Israel to pull its forces out of southern Lebanon. The Secretary-General had raised the issue of Israel's compliance with Security Council resolution

425 (1978) in his meetings with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, Yitzhak Mordechai, as well as other concerned parties, during his recent visit to the region.

"The Secretary-General is encouraged that a decision has finally been taken by the Government of Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. The implementation of this withdrawal will require discussions with all concerned in order to be fully effective. The Secretary-General urges all parties to cooperate in this process.

"The Secretary-General expresses his satisfaction that a Security Council resolution adopted more than 20 years ago is at last on the verge of implementation."

Copies of that statement had been available in the Spokesman's Office since 10:30 a.m. today. (See Press Release SG/SM/6513.)

The Secretary-General concluded his visit to Beijing today by meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Mr. Brandt said. The Secretary-General thanked the President for China's support in finding a diplomatic solution to the latest crisis in Iraq. President Zemin emphasized the importance of unity among the five permanent members of the Security Council. Their discussion also touched on the Asian financial crisis and the Secretary-General said that China's policies were contributing to economic stability of the region. That view was shared by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Other topics discussed were Taiwan province of China, Macau and China's relations with the United Nations, Mr. Brand added. Following the meeting, the two men went into the President's garden to view two magnolia trees in full bloom. The Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard, said the two leaders enjoyed the fine Spring weather. That had been the fourth meeting in 15 months between the Secretary-General and President Zemin, and it was a very relaxed, warm and friendly meeting. The Secretary-General then took a 10-hour flight to London for the final leg of his current trip. He was scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, late this afternoon. The Spokesman's Office would provide further information on the visit, as it arrived.

Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, was leaving on 3 April for an official visit to Tehran, Mr. Brandt announced. On Saturday, 4 April, Mr. Arlacchi planned to meet with the President of Iran, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami. He was subsequently scheduled to meet with the country's Foreign Minister and its Deputy Minister of the Interior. On Sunday, 5 April, Mr. Arlacchi would travel with Iranian officials on a flight to the Iran-Pakistan border for a first-hand look at new structures built by the Iranians to stop drug trafficking from neighbouring countries. He was also scheduled to visit Iran's border with Afghanistan.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 2 April 1998

During his trip, Mr. Arlacchi would be received by the Governors of Baluchistan and Khorassan provinces. More information would be provided as the trip progressed.

On the Brazil fires, Mr. Brandt said the five members of the United Nations disaster assessment and coordination team arrived on 31 March in Boa Vista in northern Brazil to start the evaluation of the fire situation in the state of Roraima. On 1 April, the team went on its first reconnaissance flights to evaluate the extent of the damage over the most affected areas as well as the actual status of the fires after heavy rains. In the coming days, the team would have meetings with Brazilian authorities to assess the most urgent relief needs of people in the affected areas. A press release from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Brazil was available, in Spanish only, in room S-378. Also attached was the list of the members of the team and some background information.

There would be a briefing this afternoon on "Governance of the international financial institutions: Some Latin American perspectives" by Manuela Tortora-Rangel, the Director for Macroeconomic Issues and External Affairs of the Latin American Economic System (SELA), Mr. Brandt said. That would be at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 5.

In an announcement from the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), Mr. Brandt said Rosemary Nelson, featured this week in a United Nations Human Rights report on Northern Ireland, would speak at the UNCA Club at 1:30 p.m. Friday, 3 April. She would discuss her treatment while in detention in Northern Ireland.

Regarding the repairs of the escalator between the second and third floors of the Secretariat Building at Headquarters, a correspondent said the situation had been a great inconvenience and she asked if there could be an elevator dedicated for travelling between the second and third floors, at least while the Security Council was meeting. She added that it should not take so long to finish the maintenance on the escalator and some people were physically unable to use stairs. Another correspondent said there had been no such problem with the escalators going to the General Assembly Hall.

In response, Mr. Brandt said he would convey those concerns to Building Management; he also refereed correspondents to a circular on the topic (ST/IC/1998/27) dated 24 March. Elevators and stairs were available between the second and third floors. However, escalators should be repaired as soon as possible. He reminded correspondents that due to the current financial crisis, there was limited funding for repairs at the Headquarters building and Building Maintenance was doing everything possible to make sure everything ran smoothly.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 2 April 1998

United States President William Clinton was launching his own initiative in Africa, a correspondent said. Would the Secretary-General coordinate his initiative with President Clinton? Mr. Brandt said the Secretary-General would be presenting a report on Africa to the Security Council in response to the request during its ministerial meeting in September 1997.

What was the status of the investigation into the accident in Guatemala? Mr. Brandt was asked. He said a board of inquiry had been set up and had started working, which was the standard procedure in such cases. The board was working very closely with the Government of Guatemala, with the manufacturers of the helicopter and with accident specialists to find the cause of the tragic accident.

A correspondent asked if there was a reason why the Secretary-General's report on Africa was delayed until April 17. The Senior Associate Spokesman said that one reason for the delay were the weeks of work by the Secretary- General on the unexpected crisis in Iraq. It was not unusual, when important issues arose, that the Secretary-General would request permission from the Security Council to delay the presentation of a report. The Council was consulted and agreed to the current date for the presentation.

Was it true that the Secretary-General had ordered re-writes of the report? a correspondent asked. Mr. Brandt said the Secretary-General was working on that document very closely and in such cases it was not uncommon that there would be many drafts of a single report. That happened with every document and every report.

A correspondent asked if the presence of Antonio Dembo in Luanda today was a substitute for a meeting between UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi and Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Mr. Brandt said that the latest developments in the peace process were encouraging, especially the stopping of Radio Vorgan transmissions. But nothing would be a substitute for a meeting between the two leaders, and every effort was being made to bring the two together. A planned telephone conversation did not take place, which was disappointing, but work continued. "That's what diplomacy was all about", he added.

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For information media. Not an official record.