29 September 1998


29 September 1998

Press Release


19980929 Notes United States Opposition to Security Council Mission; Malta, Togo, Syria, Azerbaijan, Libya, Fiji, Turkmenistan Also Speak

The bombing of the El-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan by the United States was a "grave act of terrorism", as heinous and cowardly as the bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the Minister for External Relations of the Sudan, Mustafa Osman Ismail, told the General Assembly this morning.

Speaking as the Assembly continued its general debate, Mr. Ismail said the factory had produced essential and life-saving medicines and nothing but medicines. In this instance, the United States had acted as "adversary, jury and judge" and continued to oppose even the dispatch of a fact-finding mission by the Security Council -- called for by the League of Arab States -- which could easily establish the facts about the production and ownership of the factory.

Also addressing the terrorism issue, the representative of Libya, Abuzed Omar Dorda, told the Assembly that, "We cannot condemn terrorism and fight against it when it hits a certain country and then turn a blind eye when it hits other countries or peoples". The occupation of Lebanon, aggression against Libya, the invasion of Grenada and kidnapping a head of State were all acts of terrorism, as well as preventing the Council from reacting to the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum.

In addition, this morning, several speakers addressed the need for improving the international legal framework through various judicial mechanisms. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, Boris Shikhmuradov, said that his country was prepared to sponsor an international convention that would govern the regime of interstate pipelines and guarantee their functioning. The envisioned international legal mechanism would provide security guarantees and unimpeded transit of energy resources along international pipelines and protect the interests of the producers, countries of transit and consumers. It was necessary to preclude the possibility of pipelines being used as a means of political and economic pressure.

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Speaking about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, Guido de Marco, said that a selective approach to the Declaration damaged the wider concepts that it represented. A significant deficit in the Declaration was the lack of judicial mechanisms and sanction. He wondered whether the time had come to learn from the experience of the regional human rights conventions and guarantee a judicial process aimed at ensuring effective enforcement.

Also addressing the General Assembly this morning were the Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji and the Foreign Ministers of Togo, Syria and Azerbaijan.

The Assembly will continue its general debate today at 3 p.m.

Assembly Work Programme

The Assembly met this morning to continue its general debate. Scheduled speakers were: Guido de Marco, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta; Taufa Vakatale, Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji; and Boris Shikhmuradov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. Also, the Foreign Ministers of Togo, Syria, Azerbaijan and Sudan, and the Secretary of the General People's Committee of the People's Bureau for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of Libya were expected to address the Assembly.

The Assembly also had before it the election of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A note by the Secretary-General (A/53/389), proposes to the Assembly that the term of office of Ms. Sadako Ogata as High Commissioner be extended for a period of two years, beginning on 1 January 1999 and ending on 31 December 2000.

GUIDO DE MARCO, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, said that as the President of the Assembly eight years ago, he had mentioned the danger the world faced if a curtain of poverty divided it. The consequences could have the same effect that the iron curtain had on world peace and security. That danger remained and had become more pronounced. Last week, the President of the United States reminded the Assembly that the gulf was widening between the rich and poor. Narrowing that gulf was essential for global security.

Speaking about the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said that it was a comprehensive document and its observance should be equally comprehensive. A selective approach damaged the Declaration and the wider concepts that it represented. A significant deficit of the Declaration was the lack of judicial mechanisms and sanctions. In that connection, he wondered whether the time had come to learn from the experience of the regional human rights conventions, in particular the European Convention, which had instituted the European Court of Human Rights and guaranteed a judicial process aimed at ensuring effective enforcement.

No effort must be spared to ensure universal adherence to and compliance with the relevant treaties covering not only nuclear weapons, but also all weapons of mass destruction, he continued. Malta was proud to have served on the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which established a regime of control and verification that could curb the proliferation of chemical weapons, while allowing the beneficial use of chemicals by a wide range of industries. Malta had also been among the first to sign the Ottawa Convention, which brought closer the prohibition of use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.

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Speaking about the domestic affairs of his country, he said that his Government had been returned to office less than three weeks before. The cornerstone of its agenda was the restoration of confidence, direction and the generation of wealth to the benefit of all its people. The change in administration had also brought about the reactivation of Malta's application for membership in the European Union. The problems of the Mediterranean region -- the area disproportionately burdened with turmoil, tension and conflict -- were of particular concern to his country. The Cyprus question had long had negative repercussions that went beyond the island itself. The fact that the Middle East Process had come to virtual standstill was also of particular concern.

Security in the Mediterranean must rest on multiple initiatives nurturing cooperation through confidence and security-building measures, he said. That was the crux of Malta's insistence on the need to establish a stability pact for the region. Such initiatives as adding a parliamentary dimension to the process of dialogue promoted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the setting up of a council or forum of Mediterranean States, and eventual creation of a conference on security and cooperation in the Mediterranean deserved serious consideration. Malta had also contributed to the evolution of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) process, promoting its Mediterranean dimension.

Turning to the reform of the Organization, he stressed the need to revitalize the General Assembly, which had not fully realized its potential. As the international consensus-building forum, its authority could be further strengthened. As the decisions of the Security Council were legally binding for all Member States, the procedures enhancing consultations between the Council and members were of immense value. When considering expansion of the Security Council, agreement on that sensitive issue must be comprehensive to stand the test of time. Lack of consensus on expanding the permanent member category should not impede further progress. He supported the proposal to limit enlargement to the non-permanent category for the time being.

JOSEPH KOKOU KOFFIGOH, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said that conflicts and scourges in Africa had masked its successes. For example, economic development in certain African States had grown due to a policy of good governance. In addition, a vast continental movement towards democratization included the adoption of new constitutions that had allowed for periodic elections, the seating of parliaments and national assemblies, the creation of independent juridical institutions and a free press and trade unions. The respect and support of the international community for those institutions had been a factor contributing to internal peace.

Internal conflicts, as experience had shown, often created the exodus of populations towards their neighbours and led to regional conflicts, he said. The situation in the Great Lakes was a case in point. While the international

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community could rejoice over the end of conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, it needed to be concerned over crises in the Great Lakes Region, Angola, Somalia and Ethiopia/Eritrea. He underlined the importance of settling differences through dialogue and negotiation, based on respect for territorial integrity.

The preoccupation of the hour was not restricted to globalization, he continued. He urged strengthened cooperation between the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations to develop concrete mechanisms for ensuring peace and security. Within the framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Togo was also working to put in place an appropriate, permanent regional mechanism for the prevention, management and settlement of conflicts and the maintenance of peace. It was in that spirit, through the fourth extraordinary session of the conference of heads of States and governments of ECOWAS, held in Lomé in December 1997, that joint military manoeuvres were organized in April 1998 between the armed forces of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Togo.

Peace without justice was impossible, he continued. Thus, he heralded the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It was a step forward in helping States prepare for tomorrow. In addition, he supported the Organization's reforms, which called for more effectiveness. The democracy that the international community sought globally must be reflected in the Organization's Security Council as well. In agreeing with Organization of African Unity (OAU) resolutions, he said that Africa should be seated permanently at the Council.

Turning to economic cooperation, he said certain African economies had performed remarkably well over the last three years. Yet, despite the efforts, unemployment continued and standard of living increases remained unfulfilled. Consolidation of the gains would depend on the international economic climate. The major obstacles to the economic development of African countries were: global economic structural constraints; the debt burden; the decline in official development assistance (ODA); monetary fluctuations; inequality of investment flows; weakened commodity prices; and protection of markets in developed countries. He remained convinced of the need for an international conference on Africa's external debt.

In sum, his Government believed that no country, no matter how powerful, could alone ensure economic growth or compete in an increasingly rude international environment. Further, his Government was firmly committed to a policy of economic integration in Africa and called on the international community to support the African Economic Community's efforts towards sustainable development. He welcomed the Tokyo Conference on African Development for its efforts at finding solutions to the continent's problems.

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FAROUK AL-SHARA', Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, said that with the end of cold war many people believed the world would be a more stable and secure place. Yet, nuclear weapons, unparalleled in their destructive capability, had proliferated and now extended to India and Pakistan. That proliferation had gained "a kind of legitimate pretext" with the silence about Israel's possession of nuclear weapons during the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

His country, among many others, had urged the five nuclear powers to ensure that every country joined the NPT so that the world would be spared a new nuclear armaments race, he said. Unfortunately, that urgent call had fallen on deaf ears. Syria -- and all Arab countries -- wanted the Middle East to be an area free of nuclear armaments. Regional conflicts had also multiplied in the post-cold-war era and it had been frustrating that there was no light at the end of the tunnel for the many complicated crises.

He said the recent economic and financial crises in the world, particularly as they affected South-East Asia, had proved that globalization was a double-edged sword, with advantages and disadvantages. Globalization gave priority to profit over other development factors and developing countries continued to be marginalized. There was no alternative to serious dialogue among developed countries, developing countries and international monetary institutions, in the framework of the United Nations.

Since it began, the Arab-Israeli conflict had been given a high priority on the agenda of the international community, he continued. Unfortunately, the Madrid peace process had not worked, because Israel's Prime Minister was intent on "following a policy hostile to peace". That constituted a challenge to the Arabs and the international community as a whole. The peace process faced a real crisis. It had been in a stalemate on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks for more than two years, due to Israeli intransigence. His Government, however, was still committed to peace and negotiations until a "just and comprehensive peace" was established in the region, which included full withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967.

He was concerned about the "unity and territorial integrity" of Iraq and would like to see the sanctions against Iraq lifted, he said. Iraq, however, should ensure that it implemented the remaining Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to Kuwaiti prisoners of war. His Government also wanted to see an end to the sanctions against Libya and Cuba, while urging the rule of law, negotiations and dialogue for the resolution of the crises affecting both countries. On other issues, he said Syria was against terrorism in all its forms and the killing of innocent civilians. He also supported the reform of the Security Council and the expansion of its membership.

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TOFIK ZULFUGAROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said despite the many obstacles, his young country had undertaken radical reform to create a democratic, secular society governed by the rule of law and based on a market economy. However, armed aggression by neighbouring Armenia had resulted in the occupation of one-fifth of its territory, the emergence of about 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as a ten-year-old blockade of the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan by Armenia.

Describing Azerbaijan's geographic location as the junction of the Eastern and Western civilizations and the centuries-old link between Europe and Asia, he said his country considered the development of the "Europe-the Caucasus-Asia" transportation corridor to be of strategic importance to the economic progress of all the participating States in the region. During the past five years, close interaction between States overseeing development of such a transportation corridor, as well as active support by the Commission of the European Union, had contributed to substantial progress in modernization and construction of communications, development of relevant laws and codes, and to improvement of the custom and tariff policies of the participating States.

A key foreign policy issue for Azerbaijan was the settlement of the ten-year-old conflict with Armenia, he said. Relevant Security Council resolutions and decisions of the OSCE had established a normative legal basis for a settlement. Recently, progress had been made through the establishment mediation mechanism composed of the Minsk Group and its co-Chairmen, and through a definition of the parameters of the settlement process. A real chance for progress had been emerging, but recent internal political events in Armenia and the subsequent drastic revision of its approach to the issue had interfered with that progress.

He said a just and lasting settlement could not be achieved through Armenia's military pressure on Azerbaijan, nor by insistence on preconditions to a resumption of negotiations on the basis of the results of Armenia's aggression. Illegal transfers of arms from Russia to Armenia worth about $1 billion and regular joint military exercises of those countries not only prevented the facilitation of the settlement, but also had a direct destabilizing impact on the situation. The international community and its international organizations should more actively utilize their potential to promote peaceful negotiations.

Concerning United Nations reform, he said that in light of the fact that the number of countries in the Eastern European group of States had doubled, it should be allocated an additional non-permanent seat in the Security Council. He further expressed concern that Azerbaijan was still not represented in the United Nations Secretariat. After describing how helpful the support and assistance given by the United Nations and its agencies had been in addressing Azerbaijan's refugee and reconstruction problems, he called

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on the agencies and donor countries not to decrease the volume of that humanitarian aid.

ABUZED OMAR DORDA (Libya), said conflicts were spreading and economic conditions were deteriorating in Africa. Any increase in income in African countries went to service debts. According to the report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict in Africa, the problems there -- including political instability and economic underdevelopment -- were caused by those who had drawn the political borders of that continent. Therefore, it was time for the colonizers who exploited Africa to apologize to the continent and pay full compensation for all the losses suffered through colonialism.

He said collective action was required against the imposition of restrictions on international trade and the legislation of extra-territorial laws. Member States were called upon to support and vote for the draft resolution on the issue being submitted to the Assembly at the current session and to not recognize unilateral laws that undermined the principles of the United Nations Charter. Such laws constituted a violation of the rules of international law, encroached on the sovereignty of Member States, while interfering in internal affairs.

He said the "self-styled" fighters against terrorism were the first to perpetuate it and they were trying to cover up the terrorist crimes they had committed. They had attempted to brand as "terrorist" movements for liberation and the struggle against occupation. They had failed and most of the fighters for freedom and independence triumphed in their struggles. The Assembly embraced a number of such leaders every year, including Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa.

He said any talk of terrorism needed an agreed definition. "We cannot condemn terrorism and fight against it when it hits a certain country and then turn a blind eye when it hits other countries or peoples", he added. The occupation of Lebanon, aggression against Libya in 1986, the invasion of Grenada, kidnapping a head of State and keeping military bases on other peoples's territory -- all were acts of terrorism. Preventing the Security Council from reacting to missiles that were intentionally launched against a pharmaceutical plant in a peaceful city like Khartoum, while preventing that body from sending a fact-finding mission, was also terrorism. Libya had been one of the first countries to call on the Organization to convene a special session of the Assembly on terrorism.

Addressing the Lockerbie incident, he said that on 24 August the United States and the United Kingdom addressed a joint letter to the Secretary-General. They attached the text of a draft agreement between the Government of the Netherlands and the Government of the United Kingdom, together with the text of a bill. The United Kingdom intended to enact that

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bill as a law, which would enable the Scottish Court to conduct the trial of the suspects in the Lockerbie incident in the Netherlands. On 25 August, the United States and the United Kingdom submitted a draft to the Security Council. On 27 August, it was approved without "pausing to discover the poison that was slipped surreptitiously into the honey".

He said the letter to the Secretary-General, together with its detailed and complicated legal attachments, were approved without members of the Council having had a chance to study them. His Government had requested that the Council postpone acting on the draft, because its attachments required consideration by competent Libyan judicial authorities. Those who styled themselves as the opponent and the arbitrator prevented the Council from responding to that request. However, they had previously prevented the Council, during the review session last March, from studying the judgements of the International Court of Justice, under the pretext that those judgements needed to be studied by legal experts in their two countries. Such a stark contradiction in positions would have to be addressed to the Assembly.

He described in detail some of the difficulties his Government had with both the letter of the United States and the United Kingdom and the Security Council resolution. He said that a prompt solution lay in conducting negotiations among all parties. Should direct negotiations prove impossible, due to the opposition of the United States and the United Kingdom, the negotiations could be conducted through the Secretary-General. The proposed agreement should accurately state what all parties are required to do, so that the trial of the two suspects would be the final phase of implementing Security Council resolutions, not the first one.

TAUFA VAKATALE, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Technology of Fiji, urged India and Pakistan to become parties to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), adding that Fiji had been the first to ratify the Treaty after it was adopted.

Small island States had special needs and they should be specifically identified as a separate group of disadvantaged States, he said. The hurricane that recently struck a number of Islands in the Caribbean, the devastating tidal wave in northern Papua New Guinea and the severe drought affecting others, including Fiji, demonstrated the vulnerability of small island States to natural disasters. Due to the drought in Fiji, more than a quarter of the total population was receiving special food and water relief from the Government. For the same reason, a 50 per cent reduction in Fiji's sugar production was expected.

Developing countries were still being paid paltry prices for their primary products, and they continued to be denied access to markets of developed countries, he said. International trading systems should be adjusted to increase foreign investment and the transfer of appropriate

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technology to assist developing countries towards sustainable development. The current set of regional groups should be increased numerically and reconfigured. The rotation system of regional groups in terms of participation in United Nations organs and organizations, should be modified. Fiji also called for an increase in both the permanent and non-permanent membership of the Security Council, based on equitable geographic representation.

A tension-free Asian Pacific region was vital for the well-being of Fiji and other small island countries in the area, he said. Any tension in the region had a direct bearing on the economic future of Fiji, he said.

BORIS SHIKHMURADOV, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, said that his country had expanded the scope of its responsibilities before the world community by signing the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and providing the Secretary-General with the instrument of accession to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

His Government was gravely concerned about the continuing armed conflict in Afghanistan, because Turkmenistan's border with that country stretched for nearly 1,000 kilometres, he said. There was no alternative to a peaceful, negotiated settlement in that country. He fully supported the efforts of the United Nations, the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, as well as the joint steps undertaken within the framework of the "six plus two" mechanism. His country would continue to closely cooperate with the United Nations, the neighbouring countries, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and all the parties concerned in that regard.

Central Asia had huge geopolitical and economic potential, he continued. His country was vigorously seeking alternate routes for delivery of its energy resources to international markets, at the same time promoting security guarantees and unimpeded transit of energy resources along international pipelines. It also advocated establishment of an international legal mechanism to protect the interests of the producers, countries of transit and consumers. The possibility of pipelines being used as a means of political and economic pressure must be completely precluded. Also, an international convention must be elaborated that would govern the regime of interstate pipelines and guarantee their functioning. The matter was one of the most important challenges of the coming century and his Government was prepared to sponsor such a document at the United Nations.

Turning to the question of the status of the Caspian Sea, he said that the majority of the Caspian Sea States favoured the option of dividing the Caspian Sea into different sectors. The other approach considered was that of a condominium. Under either approach, the interests of all littoral States should be fully considered and cooperation in the region should be built on

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the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. Today, the process of establishing the status of the Caspian Sea was confronting a number of difficulties, which had negative consequences for regional stability. Under such conditions, United Nations involvement would be highly appropriate.

In conclusion, he expressed interest in the idea of proclaiming the year 2001 as the "year of dialogue between civilizations", and in the proposal that the General Assembly session in the year 2000 meet in the form of the Millennium Assembly. MUSTAFA OSMAN ISMAIL, Minister for External Relations of Sudan, said it was his intention to discuss a number of issues of concern to Sudan and the region, including the recent constitutional and political developments in Sudan, the considerable improvements in its economic and humanitarian situations, and peace efforts in southern Sudan. However, despite the importance of those issues, he intended to focus on the American aggression against Sudan, on 20 August. If that American act was not properly addressed, it would undermine the achievements the Sudanese people had realized through years of struggle and suffering.

In the wake of the explosions in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, his Government had welcomed contacts between Sudanese and American security authorities and assured them of their full cooperation, he said. Then, on the evening of 20 August, the Sudanese people were shocked by a grave act of terrorism, as heinous and cowardly as those in Kenya and Tanzania. The "El-Shifa" pharmaceutical plant, which produced essential and life-saving medicines for children, women and the elderly in Sudan, and a model of Sudan's economic development, was completely destroyed. A few minutes later, Sudan watched the President of the United States on television stating that American armed forces had launched air strikes against the Sudan and Afghanistan, destroying in the Sudan, a chemical weapons plant linked to Osama bin Laden.

That was the American version, he said. What was Sudan's explanation? He wanted to clearly state that the factory produced medicines and nothing but medicines and it belonged to the private sector. It was owned by a Sudanese businessman and had no link whatsoever with Osama bin Laden.

The principal rule of law stipulated that the accused was innocent until proven guilty, he said. However, in the present situation, the Sudan was accused, condemned and punished by the United States. Thus, the United States had acted as the adversary, jury and judge. Some of those who supported the demand for a fact-finding mission included the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Group of 77 developing countries and China. Nevertheless, the United States continued to oppose the dispatch of a fact-finding mission by the Security Council.

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The soil was there, the remnants and the rubble of the factory were there, he continued. The fact-finding mission could easily collect samples from the soil, examine the machines, look into documents, and establish the facts about the production and ownership of the factory. That was the sole demand of the Sudan. Last week, the Group of Arab States presented a draft resolution to the Security Council, not seeking to condemn the United States for its violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a Member State, but requesting the dispatch of a fact-finding mission to verify the American allegations.

The Sudan had been perplexed by the provocative statement made recently by the spokesman of the United States Government announcing the donation of $25,000 to the victims of floods in the Sudan, he said. The statement claimed that, despite its differences with the Sudanese Government, the United States Government was concerned about the welfare of the Sudanese people. The United States had launched 17 cruise missiles to destroy the factory, each of which cost $1 million -- a total of $17 million to destroy the factory. Then, the United States contributed $25,000 to the flood victims, while the damage caused by the floods was estimated to exceed $40 million. Had the Administration of the United States been genuinely concerned with the welfare and well-being of the Sudanese people, it would not have attacked and destroyed one of their main economic entities, which produced over 50 per cent of Sudan's requirements for essential and life-saving medicines.

He briefly reflected on some of the conflicts taking place in his region, which had a direct impact on peace and security. The Sudan, which hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ethiopia and Eritrea, was the most affected by that conflict. He urged those countries to exercise self-restraint and settle their differences peacefully. He was also following with great concern the developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was suffering from external interventions in its internal affairs. Regarding the embargo imposed on Libya, its economic consequences transcended Libya to the neighbouring countries, including the Sudan, which had hundreds of thousands of its citizens living in Libya. Many of them had lost their lives while trying to cross the vast desert between the two countries, as a result of that blockade.

In conclusion, the conflicts in Africa caused numerous difficulties, including the problems of refugees and displaced persons, he said. As a result, Africa hosted the largest number of refugees in the world, estimated at more than eight million refugees living in the harshest conditions. In its efforts to put an end to the suffering of refugees and find durable solutions for the problem, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) decided to convene the first ministerial meeting on refugees and displaced persons in Khartoum in December.

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For information media. Not an official record.