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7 March 2001

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

07/03/2001
Press Briefing


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


**Security Council


Earlier this morning, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1344 (2001), by which it called for Liberia to cease support immediately for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone and other armed groups in the region, by such steps as the expulsion of RUF members from Liberia and the cessation of financial and military support for the RUF.  The Council replaced the previous arms embargo against Liberia with a new one prohibiting the sale or supply to Liberia of arms and related materiel of all types, as well as of any military training or technical assistance.


The resolution also stated that, unless Liberia has complied with the Security Council's demands within two months of the adoption of the resolution, additional sanctions measures would go into effect at one minute after midnight Eastern Daylight Time two months from today.  Those measures would include a ban on the direct or indirect import of all rough diamonds from Liberia, and measures to prevent travel by senior members of the Government of Liberia or their spouses.


Following the Liberia meeting, the Council went into a formal meeting to debate the follow-up to last September's Security Council Summit on an effective role for the Security Council in maintaining peace and security, particularly in Africa.  The Secretary-General opened that debate by noting, "The resolutions of this Council are not self-implementing.  In themselves”, he said, “they hardly do more than express a wish or an aspiration".  As such, he added, delegates at Council meetings must maintain a constant dialogue with their capitals on how to implement resolutions.


He added that in recent months, the Council has undertaken important new commitments.  He added, “I hope the next six months will be marked by equally vigorous action to put those commitments into effect".


The debate is continuing now, and is expected to go on into the afternoon. Once it concludes, the Council has scheduled a formal meeting to hear from the Foreign Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Srdjan Kerim, who will also meet the Secretary-General at 5 p.m. today.


**Kosovo


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pristina reported 250 new arrivals into Kosovo from the mountain village of Malina Mala in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Arriving refugees reported heavy shooting and said they had to leave on foot or on horseback through the mountains.  The total number of arrivals stands at more than

800.  The first movement took place between 16 and 18 February.  The second and previous movement was between 22 and 26 February.


The UNHCR has undertaken joint monitoring of the border area with the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) since last Thursday.


You can see a note from them for more details.


**China


The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) issued a press release, available in my office, expressing regret and outrage at the school explosion in China.


It says, or I’ll summarize it, UNICEF expressed deep regret and outrage over the deaths of at least 37 children, who were killed by a massive explosion while allegedly assembling fireworks at their primary school in China’s Jiangxi province.


Exploitative child labour of any form is morally unacceptable, UNICEF says, and a violation of children’s rights and of international law.  What is even more appalling is that the children killed in the village of Fang Lin were engaged in particularly hazardous work at a place that should have been a safe haven:  their school.


**Ethiopia/Eritrea


The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) has now verified that the Ethiopian Government has completed the redeployment of its armed forces to the southern boundary of the future Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).


Meanwhile, the Eritrean Government has rearranged substantial numbers of its forces to the northern boundary of the prospective Zone.  However, despite agreement on the deadline of 3 March for completing this rearrangement, the United Nations mission finds that a significant concentration of Eritrean troops remains in all three sectors of the future Zone.


The Eritrean authorities have informed the United Nations mission that the decision to halt rearranging their forces is based on their strong objections to adjustments made to the original map of the future Zone as agreed to at the third meeting of the Military Coordination Commission.  As a result, UNMEE -– the United Nations mission -- is not yet able to declare that the Zone has been formally established.


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General there, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, is expected to be here next week for Security Council discussions on Ethiopia and Eritrea and we have asked him to come here to speak with you.  The Secretary-General’s report on this mission is expected out next week.


**East Timor


United Nations Civilian Police in East Timor arrested three individuals today for disturbing a gathering at Dili Gymnasium, where Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao addressed a crowd of hundreds of students.  The Civilian Police of the United Nations, led by the Police Commissioner himself, were present at the Gymnnasium, after having received information earlier indicating that during today’s meeting there would be disturbances which could be a threat to Gusmao.


The three individuals were arrested by the police after verbal abuse and throwing chairs.  Two of them had outstanding arrest warrants following the burning of United Nations vehicles in February this year.  All three are now in police custody and are being questioned.


Jean Cady, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, said that “in preventing an aggression against Xanana Gusmao, CivPol has done its duty.  The political process in which we are now engaged can only succeed in an atmosphere in which dialogue and tolerance win out over violence.”


**Democratic Republic of the Congo


More than 1,500 troops from Uruguay, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia will begin to be deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before the end of the month.  The Uruguyan soldiers will be based in Kalemie, the Senegalese in Kananga as well as in Mbandaka, the Moroccans are going to Kisangani and Goma, and the Tunisians will be in Kinshasa.  Further deployments can be expected in due course.


**Iraq:  Oil-for-Food Programme


From the Iraq Programme, their weekly update reports that a new sector -- namely housing -- has been added for "fast track" approval procedures.  A list of 26 items for the sector was approved last week by the Security Council's  Sanctions Committee for Iraq out of the 53 proposed by the Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP).  Contracts for this "pre-approved" list of supplies will now be processed by the Iraq office, without reverting to the Committee.


During the week of 24 February - 2 March, Iraq exported 12.3 million barrels of oil through eight loadings, earning an estimated €252 million (euros) in revenue at current prices.


Iraqi oil exports in phase IX, so far, have totaled 90.6 million barrels for an estimated revenue of over €1.95 billion (euros).   


The full text of the report is available upstairs.


**Mozambique


Ross Mountain, the Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator for the United Nations, today concluded his visit to Mozambique, where he had been assessing the contingency plan to evacuate people who are in danger from rising water levels.  At a press conference in Maputo today, Mountain said the United Nations was appealing for some $10.7 million, about a third of the Mozambican Government's total $30 million request for assistance in dealing with the recent floods.


Some 50,000 Mozambicans are still at risk from rising water levels, and have been urged by the Government to move to safer areas.  Food stocks have been pre-positioned in strategic locations for distribution, but additional boats for distribution operations are urgently needed.


**International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia


This morning in The Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia received notices that the three Bosnian Serbs convicted of crimes against humanity -- including rape and enslavement -- in Foca, would appeal their convictions.


The three defendants cited errors of law and of fact in their convictions, which were handed down on 22 February.  There are some further details in today's weekly press briefing transcript from the Tribunal, available in my office.


**Internal Displacement


Just to give you a heads-up:  the Special Coordinator on Internal Displacement, Dennis McNamara, is here in New York this week.  Any of you who might be interested in talking to him about the plight of displaced persons anywhere in the world, please let us know and we’ll arrange it.


**Balkans


Available on the racks today is an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council, which takes note of the extension of Carl Bildt and Eduard Kukan as the Secretary-General's Special Envoys for the Balkans until mid-year, and beyond if required.


The Secretary-General, in his letter, said that "at this delicate juncture, it would seem especially useful for my Special Envoys for the Balkans to pursue their contacts with Governments and other actors who may be in a position to help calm an atmosphere, which, if further aggravated, could have serious repercussions for the region."


**Membership Dues


Budget news:  Tuvalu became the 58th Member State to pay its regular-budget dues in full for this year, and that is with payment of just over $10,000.


**Women’s Day


Heads-up for tomorrow:  it is International Women’s Day and I want to bring to your attention a couple of events that will be taking place here at Headquarters.


There will be a symposium in the morning, tomorrow, in Conference Room

3 entitled “Women & Peace:  Women Managing Conflict”.  Speakers will include, among others, Louise Frechette, the Deputy Secretary-General, Angela King, the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues, and Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani Human Rights activist and Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.


The guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), who will talk about UNIFEM’s first Millennium Peace Prize for Women, which will be launched tomorrow evening.  For more information on those and other events you can pick up a number of press releases in my office.


On a related subject, earlier today the Vice Prime Minister of Croatia, Ms. Zelka Atunovic, deposited her country’s Instruments of Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.


**Upcoming Events


Tonight at 6 p.m. in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, there will be a screening of the movie "Thirteen Days", about the Cuban missile crisis, followed by a discussion with Theodore Sorensen, who served as Special Adviser to United States President John F. Kennedy during that crisis.  The screening and discussion are hosted by the Department for Disarmament Affairs, the Lawyers Alliance for World Security and the Global Security Institute.  You are all invited.


The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) has informed me of two events in the coming days.  First, at the UNCA Club, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the traditional "Cutting of the Pie" sponsored by the Greek Mission and Hellenic Kyklos will be held.


On Friday, at 3:30 p.m., the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known to you, I think, as UNESCO, is hosting a briefing at the UNCA Club on the upcoming International Conference on Biodiversity and Society, which will be held from 22 to 25 May at Columbia University.


Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Do you have any comments on criticism of the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on Bernard Kouchner’s work in Kosovo?

Spokesman:  No, I think the Secretary-General was very pleased with Bernard Kouchner’s performance.  He did not have an easy job.  It is understandable why there might have been any number of critics, but I think we feel, and the Secretary-General feels, he was balanced, energetic and imaginative in the way he carried out the mandate.  And I think he left Kosovo in much better shape than he found it.


Question:  Could you explain the United Nations complaints in the Iraq Oil-for-Food update regarding kickbacks?


Spokesman:  I didn’t address that issue, and the “kick-back” issue –- if you are referring to today’s article in the “New York Times” -- was not addressed in the Secretary-General’s report.  He did address the “surcharge” that the Iraqi’s are said to be collecting, and he called that to the attention of governments.  But he has no capacity, really, to investigate these things, or to look into the additional element that was raised in today’s article and some other press reports about kickbacks to individuals in the Iraqi Government.


Question:  Why can’t the Secretary-General look into that?


Spokesman:  He doesn’t have the mandate, he doesn’t have the investigators, he doesn’t have the resources.  This is a matter that Member States would have to address.


Question:  Was the Secretary-General surprised by the allegations?


Spokesman:  We have seen reports, and they have been primarily press reports, that this kind of thing might be going on.  We had not seen enough substantive basis for the reports to include it in the Secretary-General’s latest report.


Question:  What are the basic allegations in the report?


Spokesman:  They are not allegations.  The Secretary-General merely reminded Member States in his latest report that the United Nations, and specifically the Sanctions Committee, had not approved any Iraqi surcharge on the sale of oil as Iraq had requested.  He therefore said that payments of such surcharges could not be made and that all payments need to be made into the United Nations account.  That was just reminding Member States of the basic ground-rules of the sanctions regime and the Oil-for-Food Programme.


Thanks very much.


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For information media. Not an official record.