Print
GA/9452
24 September 1998

NIGERIA TO RETURN TO DEMOCRATIC, CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT BY MAY 1999, HEAD OF STATE OF NIGERIA TELLS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

24 September 1998


Press Release
GA/9452


NIGERIA TO RETURN TO DEMOCRATIC, CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT BY MAY 1999, HEAD OF STATE OF NIGERIA TELLS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

19980924 During Continuing General Debate, Prime Minister of Lebanon Asks UN to Address Israeli Arbitrary Jailing of 'Hundreds of Sons'

"Our goal is to return our country to a democratically elected civilian government on 29 May 1999", Abdulsalam A. Abubakar, the Head of State of Nigeria, told the General Assembly this afternoon.

As the Assembly's general debate continued, Mr. Abubakar stressed that the most important objective of his administration was to implement a transparent, free and all-inclusive programme for transition to civil rule in the shortest period of time.

The "non-African" representation in the permanent membership category of the Security Council had to be corrected as a matter of urgency, he said, since "our continent with its 53 Member States collectively constitutes almost one third of the entire membership of the United Nations". In that context, the decision of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to seek two permanent African seats in a reformed and expanded Council could not be ignored. The demand was legitimate and made with a sense of responsibility and relevance.

Rafic Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon, said "hundreds of our sons have been languishing in Israeli jails and detention camps for years". Their incarceration continued under an arbitrary measure that Israel qualified as administrative detention. His country had been trying to secure the release of all detainees from Israel's jails with the assistance of friends and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). What was needed was for the United Nations to give that matter its utmost attention.

Theodoros Pangalos, Foreign Minister of Greece, said he hoped in vain that Turkey would finally abandon its intransigent policies on Cyprus. The last year had been one of stagnation and frustration in efforts to unite the Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot communities. Turkey's reaction to such efforts had been one of harsh rejection, which was easily explained by the notorious designs of the Turkish Government to effect the partition of Cyprus.

General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

Abdellatif Filali, Foreign Minister of Morocco, said the evolution of the referendum process in Western Sahara was still experiencing difficulties. The identification operation had been stalled due to the other party's refusal to take part in the identification of a large number of candidates. Yet, those candidates had fulfilled the criteria agreed to by both parties. His country was concerned over those developments which would delay the referendum operation, long-awaited by Morocco and the Sahrawi refugee brothers.

Statements were also made this afternoon by the Presidents of El Salvador and the Republic of Moldova. The Crown Prince of Monaco and the Foreign Ministers of Guinea, Slovakia, Netherlands and Cuba also addressed the Assembly.

Statements in exercise of the right of reply were also made by the Permanent Observer for Palestine and the representatives of Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Spain.

The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.

Assembly Work Programme

The Assembly met this afternoon to continue its general debate. It was expected to hear from Armando Calderon Sol, President of El Salvador; Petru Lucinschi, President of the Republic of Moldova; and Abdulsalami Abubakar, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. The Crown Prince of Monaco was also scheduled to speak, as were the Foreign Ministers of Guinea, Lebanon, Slovakia, Netherlands, Greece, Morocco and Cuba.

ARMANDO CALDERON SOL, President of El Salvador, said the establishment of peace and the consolidation of democracy in his nation had strengthened the State, guaranteeing total independence of government organs and respect for human rights. El Salvador had proceeded with a strategy of social and economic development which focused on eradicating the underlying causes of poverty.

El Salvador had an economy that was internationally recognized and accepted, he said. It had eliminated State monopolies by privatizing certain sectors such as energy and telecommunications. His Government had created more jobs and made better use of open markets. It had focused on human development programmes, especially for the most vulnerable sections of society. From a multilateral view, his country supported declarations and plans of action adopted at international conferences. It had committed itself to maintain international standards in the areas of environment, human rights, development of opportunities for women, children's rights, population and combating drug abuse.

To respond properly to the problems of developing countries, as well as other international matters, the United Nations needs restructuring. El Salvador supported the Secretary-General's proposals to complete the process of restructuring. The world needed a Security Council that was more democratic, transparent and representative; one which would be more efficient in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.

El Salvador was concerned about the persistence of conflicts, deadlocks in peace processes, acts of terrorism, and a general lack of trust between States, he said. Recent nuclear tests ran contrary to the efforts under way to establish a nuclear-free world. Terrorism was criminal and there was no political, ideological, philosophical, ethnic or religious justifications. El Salvador condemned recent terrorist attacks in Kenya, Tanzania and Ireland, which had led to the loss of life and destruction of material goods. El Salvador supported the restoration of rights of the people of the Republic of China on Taiwan. It was a matter of justice to respect the aspirations of Taiwan's population.

Changes in the international arena had not narrowed the gap between the developed and developing countries, he said. In fact, the gap was even wider

General Assembly Plenary - 3 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

now. Globalization, liberalization and interdependence -- all characteristics of the new international order -- posed challenges and opportunities that some countries could not make use of due to lack of resources. That could only be addressed with the participation of developed countries. The level of official development assistance (ODA) had dropped consistently over the past decade. He urged industrialized countries to increase aid to those countries that needed it.

PETRU LUCINSCHI, President of the Republic of Moldova, said that strengthening and improvement of the United Nations was necessary to respond to increased demands arising from international cooperation. More than a year after the launching of reform initiatives, he considered that the majority of measures taken by the Organization would contribute to the reform process.

In order to assure better representation of the Organization's Members, it was necessary to enlarge the Security Council, he stated. He believed it was the crux of United Nations reform. New permanent seats should be given to Germany and Japan, and eventually to developing countries as well. Addressing the number of non-permanent seats, his Government favoured a reasonable increase conforming to the principle of equitable geographical representation. That would enable regional interests to be better reflected. Any enlargement of the Council should also take into account the interests of Central and Eastern Europe and an additional non-permanent seat should be accorded to those regions as the number of States there had doubled over the past years.

The major problem of economies in transition, including the Republic of Moldova, was the decline in production, he said. He said that the Organization's involvement was imperative as recent financial crises had not only affected the economies of several countries, but had jeopardized their political and economic reforms. His Government, on the path to democracy, was committed to creating fundamental State institutions and adopting necessary legislation conducive to the growth of economies in transition. Within the framework of economic cooperation, regional cooperation was also crucially important to diversify economic relations among countries.

Like other economies in transition, the Republic of Moldova had participated in, and benefited from, United Nations projects in the economic and social spheres. The management of globalization was of particular importance for those economies. The United Nations could serve as a coordinating centre in creating an international financial structure. Seeking solutions that took into account the complex features of individual States would be needed to redress economies in transition. He hoped that the United Nations would increase its presence in economies in transition through regional economic commissions, specialized funds and the specialized agencies. It was also necessary to examine the integration of economies in transition into the world economy.

General Assembly Plenary - 4 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

The conflict in the eastern part of the Republic of Moldova, in the summer of 1992, had been caused by the disintegration of the USSR and forces that wanted to keep the old political system, he said. It had not yet been settled and constituted an obstacle to political and economic reform. Human rights violations continued in the eastern part of the country. The readiness of his country to resolve the conflict, including granting the region a special status, was well known. He said that the negotiation process was still coming up against difficulties and called for a renewal of negotiations. The situation had been aggravated by enormous quantities of weapons and troops. The agreement between the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation, concerning the withdrawal of troops and arms signed 21 October 1994, had not yet been ratified by the Russian party. The immediate withdrawal of those weapons and troops would facilitate the peace process. He hoped that the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova would be respected.

ABDULSALAMI A. ABUBAKAR, Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, said substantive progress in the area of United Nations reform had been very slow due to the narrow positions of some delegations and regional groupings. Also disheartening was the lack of tangible progress on the issue of Security Council reform five years since the creation of the General Assembly working group on that subject. Mistrust and suspicion among States had thwarted any visible movement towards a successful outcome. The Council needed to be restructured, its membership expanded in both permanent and non-permanent categories, and its working methods and decision-making process improved.

Regarding the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly, he said, the Charter had assigned the Council primary, but not exclusive, responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Therefore, there was also a role in that process for the Assembly. Unfortunately, the voice of that body -- the most democratic organ of the Organization -- was often drowned out by that of the Council on issues of global peace and security.

The "non-African" representation in the permanent membership category of the Security Council must be corrected as a matter of urgency since, he said, "our continent with its 53 Member States collectively constitutes almost one-third of the entire membership of the United Nations". In that context, the decision of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to seek two permanent seats for Africa as part of a reformed and expanded Council, could not be ignored. The demand was legitimate, credible and fully made with a sense of responsibility.

Nigeria had joined hands with like-minded States to restore law and order to Liberia and most recently to Sierra Leone, he said. The restoration of the democratically elected President of Sierra Leone represented a first in

General Assembly Plenary - 5 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

the recent history of Africa. A democratically elected regime, overthrown by a military coup, had been restored as a result of collective action in a subregion. Nonetheless, the scars from the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia remained. The international community must take an active interest in rehabilitation efforts in the two countries.

While a continent-wide mechanism for conflict-prevention, management and resolution had been established within the OAU, it had been unable to fulfil its lofty mandate due to inadequate resources in terms of military hardware and funding, he said. The international community, as well as other interested bodies, were invited to support the cause of peace and security in Africa through the OAU regional and subregional instruments for conflict prevention, management and resolution.

The most important objective of his administration was to design and implement a transparent, free and all-inclusive programme for transition to civil rule in Nigeria, in the shortest period of time. "Our goal is to return our country to a democratically elected civilian Government on 29 May 1999", he said. To that end, a national electoral commission had been inaugurated in August. The commission had full power to organize and manage the various stages of the electoral process without pressures or interference from any external authority. There were no restrictions on the formation of political parties and several such entities were already seeking registration. The draft constitution, presented by the national constitutional conference in 1995 had now been published and would be ready for circulation in due course. All comments and views from the public would be presented for consideration prior to promulgation.

Nigeria had recently received international attention on the question of human rights observance, he said. It was the objective of his administration, with the support and understanding of the international community, to move his country in the direction of full respect for fundamental human rights, good governance, accountability and rule. That commitment to human rights had been amply demonstrated by the release of political detainees, granting of pardons to some convicted persons and the withdrawal of charges against others. The general level of individual freedom, and freedom of expression and association had greatly improved. "We wish to reiterate our call on those Nigerians who are currently in self-exile to return and participate in the political and economic development of our country", he said.

CROWN PRINCE ALBERT of Monaco said geography often foretold the destiny of a nation. In that context, Monaco had always attached importance to issues related to the marine environment. This year -- the International Year of the Ocean -- also marked the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Prince Albert I of Monaco, one of the founders of oceanography. Today, chemical and synthetic products posed a new threat to the marine environment. Those substances gravely affected the cerebral development of a number of

General Assembly Plenary - 6 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

marine species. That problem threatened marine biodiversity and the health of the human race.

The commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was an opportunity for collective soul searching, he said. Human rights were to be enjoyed by all persons and achieved by all nations. The world community was aware that concrete steps must be encouraged at the highest level to obtain such goals. The task of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, was great; the resources meagre.

The Royal Family of Monaco had special interest in respect for, and implementation of the Geneva Conventions, he said. Monaco was also prepared to give active support to the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu. The creation of the International Criminal Court had given rise to the hope of a change in the international order. The Court's establishment opened the way for the prosecution of crimes of war and crimes against humanity, many of which affected women, children and the elderly.

Recent reports of the Secretary-General showed progress regarding restructuring and better management of the Organization, he said. The Secretary-General's diplomatic initiatives had often been crowned with success, despite the obstacles encountered.

LAMINE KAMARA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea said the collective conscience of the members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had contributed to creating a subregional peace zone. Restoring peace to Liberia and democratic leadership to Sierra Leone were the results of the African peoples' desire to manage their own affairs and attested to the viability of subregional organizations. Greater cooperation and promotion of subregional peace initiatives must be encouraged. The international community should help young people to find work in Liberia so, they would not take up arms again.

After conflict had broken out in June in Guinea-Bissau, he said, his Government had sent a military contingent into the country as a result of a mutual defence assistance accord which had been signed between the two countries in 1980, he said. Guinea remained faithful to its commitment to preserve the constitution of Guinea-Bissau. His country had looked to ECOWAS to help find a durable and just solution. He said that cooperation between ECOWAS and other international parties would make it possible to restore peace in Guinea-Bissau. The international community must preserve Africa's democratic gains through the adoption of new norms prohibiting the use of force at the international, regional and subregional levels.

General Assembly Plenary - 7 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

Guinea was surrounded by three countries in civil war, he said. His country was hosting some 700,000 refugees, equal to one tenth of its population. The crisis in the Great Lakes region, specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo, further threatened refugee movement. The absorption of those peoples had created serious social and environmental problems for his country. He called on the international community to help care for those refugees.

Disarmament was also a concern for his Government, he stated. Recent developments in the international arena required the international community to take more into account the underlying causes of the arms race, he said. As long as economic and social imbalances continued, the spectre of nuclear-weapons proliferation would remain. In West Africa, trade in small arms had destabilized the economy. He invited others to work to eliminate illicit small arms trade.

RAFIC HARIRI, President of the Council of Minsters of Lebanon, said that over the past few years, his country had embarked on an ambitious plan to rebuild the structures that were destroyed in a protracted, devastating war. Throughout that period of reconstruction, it faced circumstances caused first and foremost by the continued Israeli occupation of parts of its territory, and devastating attacks against Lebanese villages and defenceless citizens. Those attacks had claimed the lives of many innocent women, children and elderly men, and wounded many more. He was confident that the international community still remembered the Qana massacre perpetrated by Israel in 1996.

Lebanon had faced a critical stage of its history throughout the past few years while implementing the reconstruction plans, and had succeeded in regaining the world's confidence. As an indication of that, the world financial markets traded in treasury bonds that were issued by the Lebanese Government and other institutions of the private sector. That was made possible by the cooperation between Lebanese financial institutions and their international counterparts.

He said he had listened to the Israeli Premier this morning, stating that Israel wished to withdraw from Lebanon and that his Lebanon had not responded to the proposal. That statement was totally unfounded. The current Israeli Government was working to abort the peace process. Israel acted as if Security Council resolution 425 (1978), which called for its full and unconditional withdrawal from the Lebanese territories, gave it rights over his country. The resolution gave Lebanon rights that Israel had to abide by. Israel had occupied his country since 1978 -- Lebanon wanted Israeli withdrawal from its territory and full implementation of resolution 425 (1978).

He invited the international community to play a more effective role to secure compliance with the resolutions of international legitimacy. They must

General Assembly Plenary - 8 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

bring the necessary pressure to bear on the aggressor to end the causes of conflict and lay down the foundations for a just and comprehensive peace. The negotiations on the Lebanese and Syrian tracks had come to a complete standstill, as a result of the intransigent position of the Israeli Government, while the negotiations on the Palestinian track remained in a vicious circle. The repercussions of such intransigence could very well shatter "our hopes for peace".

He stressed his country's rejection of any settlement of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. His country also called on the international community to increase its voluntary contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), pending the implementation of international resolutions relative to refugees, particularly General Assembly Resolution 194 (III). Lebanon was ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel within three months, on the condition that it withdraw from the South, the West Beqaa and the Syrian Golan to the line of June 4, 1967. Peace negotiations aimed at a just and comprehensive peace could only be achieved in accordance with the principle of "land for peace".

He said "hundreds of our sons have been languishing in Israeli jails and detention camps for years. Some had already served the prison sentences handed down by Israeli courts, yet were still in custody for reasons unknown to anyone". Others had been in custody for years but their cases had not been submitted for trial. Their incarceration continued under an arbitrary measure that Israel qualified as administrative detention. His country had been trying to secure the release of all detainees from Israel's jails with the assistance of "our brothers and friends" and the active involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Continuing, he appealed to the United Nations to give that matter the utmost attention. Lebanon found itself twice victimized. On the one hand, it had to endure continued devastating attacks by Israel; attacks that could be justified under one rubric -- Israel's stubborn insistence on continuing its occupation under the flimsy pretext of security. On the other hand, his country watched agonizingly as the international community stood unable to do what was needed to secure compliance with just resolutions.

ZDENKA KRAMPLOVA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, said her country supports the ongoing reform process of the Organization, particularly regarding the Security Council, where proposed reforms would enhance the Council's representative character, improve its working methods and the transparency of its work as well as preserve it's capability to act promptly. Council reform should result in adequate representation of regional groups and accommodate the legitimate claim of the Eastern European Regional Group to a new non-permanent seat on the Security Council. Slovakia also supported reform efforts in the area of financing, favouring the principle of capacity to pay.

General Assembly Plenary - 9 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

Slovakia had placed great emphasis on the issue of arms control and disarmament in the framework of international peace and security issues, she said. It supported the idea of the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy and advocated preparation of a multilateral treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices. Discussing the issue of landmines, she said "we believe that the opening of negotiations of a landmines ban at the Conference on Disarmament could be a very important step towards full elimination of this kind of weapon". In the area of chemical and biological weapons, Slovakia supported the improvement of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) verification system and, equally, the elimination of the illegal transfer of those weapons.

She said Slovakia supported the efforts of the United Nations aimed at conflict resolution through the strengthening of the Organization's capacities in the field of preventive diplomacy, early warning systems, and effective use of United Nations peacekeeping operations. Slovakia also supported efforts to strengthen the capacity for rapid deployment of peacekeeping forces, especially in further development of the concept of the United Nations standby arrangements and the idea of rapidly deployable mission headquarters. However, she said it was of the utmost importance that a multi-functional approach in close coordination with regional institutions and non-governmental and humanitarian organizations was strictly observed.

Continuing, she said great importance was attached to international economic cooperation and the United Nation's role in this process. Particular attention needed to be paid to least developed countries, and Slovakia was interested in a more intensive participation in the development programmes of the United Nations agencies.

JOZIAS VAN AARTSEN, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, informed the Assembly that his country had put itself forward for election to the Security Council. The Netherlands had a strong commitment to multilateralism, for reasons of principle and for reasons of necessity. The Dutch commitment to United Nations peacekeeping was borne out by the fact that it had taken part in 20 peacekeeping operations. Another pillar of Dutch foreign policy was its strong desire to ban weapons of mass destruction. He also expressed concern over the transfer of small arms and landmines.

Over time, he said, the Netherlands had built up strong relations with countries of all regions. Rightfully, Africa was high on the Netherlands' political and development agendas. Relations between the Netherlands and a large number of Asian countries went back as far as the sixteenth century. The Netherlands was also heavily engaged in assisting the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in their transition to market economies and democracy. Moreover, there were long-standing economic and cultural ties with the Arab world.

General Assembly Plenary - 10 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

Poverty eradication was a primary focus of Dutch development aid, he said. For years, his country had been more than faithful to the international target of 0.7 per cent of GNP. The Netherlands, which had last year undertaken assistance programmes of close to $3 billion, had struck a balance between the economy, the environment and the people. Development which was sustainable addressed basic human needs, respected human rights, built up human capacities and did not mortgage the quality of life of future generations.

THEODOROS PANGALOS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, said the hope he had expressed in the General Assembly a year ago, that Turkey would finally abandon its intransigent policies on Cyprus, had been in vain. It had been a year of stagnation and frustration. Several envoys, including members of the Security Council, had returned, frustrated, from missions to Ankara and the occupied part of Cyprus to try to unblock the situation. The European Union (EU) had been frustrated in its efforts to unite the Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot communities within the European family.

The reaction from Ankara, obediently echoed by the Turkish-Cypriot leadership, had been one of harsh rejection, he said. There had either been flat negations, or the imposition of conditions that effectively cancelled what was prescribed by United Nations resolutions -- even those that had been accepted by the Turkish-Cypriot leadership. Such rejections were easily explained by the notorious designs of the Turkish Government to effect the partition of Cyprus.

Twenty-four years after the Turkish invasion, Cyprus remained divided, and while Turkish forces increased their presence, they denied their victims the right to defend themselves, he said. The two sides should be brought to the negotiating table to begin a dialogue on gradual disarmament towards the complete demilitarization of the island. Greece wished to establish good neighbourly relations with Turkey, based on the principles of international law. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was the appropriate legal forum, and a positive response from Turkey to that effect would constitute a step towards the beginning of a new period of mutual understanding.

He said the situation in his country's neighbour, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- particularly in Kosovo -- had reached a critical point. The vicious circle of the use of force must be halted, and the refugees and displaced persons must be allowed to return to their homes safely. Greece had sent humanitarian assistance to alleviate the plight of the refugees in northern Albania, and welcomed the setting up of the Albanian negotiating group. He hoped that a peaceful and negotiated solution could quickly be concluded on the future autonomous status of Kosovo within the internationally recognized borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

General Assembly Plenary - 11 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

ABDELLATIF FILALI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said that since its independence, Morocco had based its economic policy on the principle of free enterprise and on opening the country to achieve economic progress and social development, he continued. Its membership in the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was a free and final strategic choice dictated by its historical and cultural roots, as well as its current and future interests. Morocco believed that the problem of the Middle East could be solved only through respect for the letter and spirit of the signed agreements and through the implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. In that way, the Palestinian people could exercise their right to self-determination and establish their own independent State. Also, the occupied Arab territories would be returned to their legitimate owners.

He expressed concern about the deterioration of the economic situation in Africa; and the resurgence of political confusion and military confrontations in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and Western Africa. He commended the efforts of the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) to find a solution to the crises in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

On Iraq, he said he hoped that the agreement between the Iraqi Government and the Secretary-General would contribute to the resumption of cooperation between that country and the United Nations. He also hoped cooperation would lead to the lifting of the Security Council embargo on Iraq and put an end to the sufferings of the Iraqi people.

Morocco had worked to find a solution to the continuing occupation by Spain of the Moroccan cities of Sebta and Mellilia and the neighbouring islands, he said. However, Spanish authorities had not yet reacted to Morocco's proposals, which would guarantee Morocco's sovereignty over its territory while taking into account the economic interests of Spain. Still, Morocco remained convinced that its historical and economic ties with Spain and the will of the two peoples to achieve further rapprochement, cooperation and partnership would allow the two countries to find a final solution to the problem.

Regarding Western Sahara, he said the evolution of the referendum process was still experiencing difficulties. Since it began, the identification operation had been stalled due to the other party's refusal to take part in the identification of a large number of candidates, although it had no right to do so. Those candidates had fulfilled the criteria agreed to by both parties. Morocco was deeply concerned over those developments which would delay the referendum operation, which had been long-awaited by Morocco and the Sahrawi refugee brothers. Those refugees had been waiting 20 years to return to their homeland, Morocco, and to participate in the region's development. The relentless determination to exclude a considerable number of Sahrawis from participation in the referendum cast still more doubt on the

General Assembly Plenary - 12 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

will of the other party to bring about the necessary conditions for the organization of a fair and equitable referendum.

ROBERTO ROBAINA GONZALEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said the whole burden of the global financial crisis had fallen mercilessly on Cuba. No one was safe. Globalization and liberalization of the world economy had multiplied the advantages for the developed countries to the detriment of the increasingly underdeveloped ones. Inequitable trade between the rich and the poor was more theft and aberrant swindle than trade.

Addressing United Nations reform, he said there could be no talk of a Security Council providing legitimacy, as long as its membership continued to be inequitable. He also called for an end to United Nations peacekeeping operations and to the arms market they generated. Instead, the international community should reinforce the actions of the Organization's development agencies.

He appealed to the international community to prevent terrorism. Those who believed they had the prerogative to unilaterally impose their laws must be apprehended and punished. His Government supported the drafting and implementation of international treaties to fight terrorism. If the international community was truly committed to achieving that goal, investigation, prevention and punishment of those acts must be seriously undertaken.

International human rights agreements had established the right of people to living standards adequate for health and well-being, he said. In a blatant challenge to those human rights standards and principles, outlined in the Charter, those who advocated open markets and the end of ideologies had taken additional and extraterritorial actions aimed at reinforcing their blockade. "I mean blockade and not embargo", he said. It was an economic, trade and financial blockade against Cuba that ignores six consecutive calls by the Assembly to put an end to what had been fairly regarded as the most serious and systematic violation of the human rights of a whole people. The failed attempts made last July during a meeting of the Economic and Social Council to draft a "joint statement" on the presumed situation of human rights in Cuba had foretold of new and unwarranted conflicts which could divert the Organization from its main concerns.

That had been among the latest attempts to slander Cuba in a discriminatory, unwarranted way, he said. Cuba was among the few members of the Organization that had always submitted its systematic reports to the treaty bodies to which it adhered. He asserted that reconsidering that issue would only mean opening another even more unacceptable chapter in the political manipulation of human rights mechanisms. Everything his Government had done in Cuba was done for the sake of the human being. His Government had not used agreements or disagreements to humiliate or condemn anybody. What

General Assembly Plenary - 13 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

really mattered was a civilized dialogue and cooperation. Cuba was confident that dialogue would prevail over confrontation.

Cuba denounced new attempts and forewarned the Assembly against unwarranted exercises, he said. He called for the international community to join together in respect for the human condition. Efforts were needed to save the planet from ecological catastrophe, from neo-liberalism.

Rights of Reply

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, spoke in reply to the statement made this morning by the Prime Minister of Israel. He said the Prime Minister had begun by talking about the role of the League of Nations and the United Nations in the establishment of the State of Israel, but that he had never referred to the will of those Organizations regarding the equal status of Arab States. Nor had the Prime Minister referred to Israel's rejection of United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. The Israeli Prime Minister had said that peace depended on security and reciprocity, but Israel used the concept of security as an excuse to maintain the occupied territories. It also used security concerns as a means to ignore Security Council resolutions, principles of justice and the right of peoples to self-determination.

The Prime Minister of Israel had spoken about the role of the Palestinian media, without looking at what was said by the Israeli media, he said. The Prime Minister had spoken of Israel transferring money to the Palestinians, while ignoring the fact that it was already Palestinian money. Israel had ignored agreements on the construction of the airport and the seaport, and agreements reached regarding the Palestinian economy. What the Prime Minister was really saying was that he sought to have the Palestinians continue to live within isolated areas under Israeli rule, under a system of apartheid. Everything he had said was based on an understanding that the land belonged to Israel. The land belonged to the Palestinians, but they had accepted the sovereignty of Israel.

KHALED AL-HITTI (Iraq), speaking in response to the statement by the Prime Minister of Israel, said he had listened to a series of lies. He had also listened to a man who despised all international considerations and who presided over a government that did the same. The international community was aware of the fact that he had been educated by major terrorist gangs. The Israeli Prime Minister had accused Iraq of having ceased to cooperate with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), but he should be the last one to speak about the implementation of Security Council resolutions. Israel had shown frivolity in regard to Security Council resolutions. It had ignored resolutions on weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The world knew that Israel had many nuclear weapons, but it had refused to join the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regime or to sign the Treaty on

General Assembly Plenary - 14 - Press Release GA/9452 14th Meeting (PM) 24 September 1998

the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Israel had been the first to use prohibited weapons during its repeated acts of aggression against neighbouring countries.

VOLKAN VURAL (Turkey), speaking in exercise of the right of reply to a statement made by the Foreign Minister of Greece this afternoon, said the record must be set straight so that the distortion could not be allowed to circulate freely. It was evident that with regard to the relationship between Turkey and Greece, the Greek Foreign Minister had a selective memory. That seemed especially true when the fact that Greece wanted to turn the Aegean Sea into a Greek lake was not mentioned. Only a few hours ago, the Turkish Prime Minister had called for a dialogue between the two countries to resolve outstanding problems. "Amnesia might be a Greek word, but it was not a licence for serious omissions", he added. Referring to the tragic events of the 1960s, he said the Turkish people remembered the loss of their constitutional rights and ethnic cleansing by Greek Cypriots. The Greek mentality was the main obstacle to achieving a reunification of the two peoples of the island of Cyprus. To validate the exercise of its rights as a guarantor Power, Turkey would return to 1974 and it would protect its people from another Power that practised ethnic and religious hatred.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran), speaking in exercise of the right of reply to a statement made this morning about his country's military capability, said he wished to reiterate the common position of Middle Eastern States: the sole threat to peace in the region was Israeli access to weapons of mass destruction and advanced missile technology. That was the cause of serious concern.

Israel's attempt to level allegations against others was a futile act to cover the danger it posed to the entire region, he said. Iran was a principal proponent of establishing the Middle East as a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Iran was a victim of those weapons and was aware of their impact. Iran could not be expected to remain idle to Israeli threats to the region and was prepared to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity against external threats.

INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain) said that references made to Spanish cities and other parts of Spanish territory in the statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Morocco had not been in keeping with reality. They were an integral part of Spain and their representatives sat in the Spanish Parliament, with the same rights and privileges as other citizens of Spain.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.