DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
13 January 1999
Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, opened today's noon briefing by informing correspondents that the Secretary-General had presided over his first cabinet -- officially called the Senior Management Group -- meeting of the year in the morning, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The Secretary- General had led the discussion, which had been a look forward at problems the United Nations would face in 1999. Afterwards, the Secretary-General had had an introductory meeting with members of the Executive Committee of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA). That meeting had just ended.
The Security Council was holding consultations today on the Secretary- General's report on the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP), southern Croatia, as well as on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA), Mr. Eckhard said. In addition, Council members were to be briefed on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast. Under "Other Matters", the Council would discuss Iraq.
Mr. Eckhard said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, had met yesterday with the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, Fonday Sankoh, who had been taken to Conakry, Guinea, by the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG). Also present had been the Foreign Ministers of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Togo. At that meeting, Mr. Sankoh had said he was willing to order a one-month ceasefire as soon as he was released. He had added, however, that he could not support a ceasefire call until then. Mr. Okelo was expected to fly back to Sierra Leone today to discuss the rebel proposal with Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. It was not immediately known where that meeting would take place, Mr. Eckhard said.
Representatives of the World Food Programme (WFP) and other agencies had also met with Mr. Okelo yesterday and had asked him to intercede with all parties to the conflict to ensure delivery of urgently needed assistance, the Spokesman continued. The top priority was Freetown where hundreds of thousands of people had been trapped in their homes for a week during the fighting. Preparations were under way to try to resume emergency aid delivery as soon as possible, the Spokesman said.
Mr. Eckhard then said that Benon Sevan, the Secretary-General's Special Emissary to Angola and United Nations Security Coordinator, had gotten in touch with an official of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the Angolan rebel movement, in Paris yesterday on his way back to New York from Angola. The UNITA official had told Mr. Sevan that UNITA had located the site of the second United Nations plane crash and that it would take a United Nations team there. However, he had not given Mr. Sevan the exact location of the site. Mr. Sevan was expected back in New York this afternoon.
Following recent developments in Angola and the deterioration of the humanitarian situation there, Martin Griffiths, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, would depart tonight on a mission to Luanda, Mr. Eckhard said. Mr. Griffiths would review the humanitarian conditions on the ground and discuss the future of humanitarian operations in Angola. Some 1 million people were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, Mr. Eckhard noted, adding that Mr. Griffiths would proceed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a week.
The main purpose of his mission was to discuss a plan of action for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and other humanitarian issues with government representatives in Kinshasa and authorities in areas not under government control, the Spokesman continued. Mr. Griffiths would also visit Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo, to review the humanitarian situation there and the possibility of emergency intervention to assist 250,000 people who had been displaced in Brazzaville following the outbreak of fighting there last month.
In Geneva, on Monday, the Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations had handed over to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, a report on respect of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Hong Kong, Mr. Eckhard went on to say. It was the first report presented by China on the human rights situation in Hong Kong since the territory had been handed back by the United Kingdom.
Mr. Eckhard said that at 12 noon tomorrow, 14 January, the Secretary- General would sign the Anne Frank Declaration. A delegation of more than 20 people, invited by the Anne Frank Educational Trust and led by Marjorie "Mo" Mowland, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and including a member of the Anne Frank family, would be present at the ceremony. There would also be a press conference afterwards at 12:45 p.m. in room S-226 hosted by the United Kingdom Mission. The Anne Frank Declaration committed the signatories to furthering mutual understanding and respect. The signatories pledged to "support the Anne Frank Declaration as an inspiration to work together towards a better world, free of bigotry in the new millenium".
Mr. Eckhard announced that four more countries had joined the honour roll today -- the full payment of regular budget dues. They were Estonia, $155,863; Ireland, $2,327,563; Norway, $6,338,452; and Slovakia, $405,245. Available in the Spokesman's Office was the status of contributions to the regular budget, international tribunals and peacekeeping operations as of the end of last year.
As the briefing began, Burundi was scheduled to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, bringing the number of signatories to 73, Mr. Eckhard said. He also informed correspondents that the Department of Public Information (DPI) had just published its round-up press release covering the Security Council's work during 1998. In 34 pages, the release provided detailed information on the Council's activities broken down by country or region, as well as statistical data and an overall historical context. He commended it to correspondents as a useful reference. Copies were available on the racks.
Asked for a progress report on the talks on Burundi currently taking place at Headquarters, Mr. Eckhard said a background briefing had been provided as they opened. The Secretary-General had had a meeting with former United Republic of Tanzania President Julius Nyerere who was involved in the talks. "I think what every one is hoping for is that the sanctions imposed by Burundi's neighbours can be suspended in recognition of the progress that Burundi is making to settle its internal differences and get back on a stable road to development." The meeting here anticipated another that would take place later this month at which it was hoped that the sanctions issue would be addressed, he stated.
Questioned about the Secretary-General's reaction to a French proposal on the Iraq "oil-for-food" programme, Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General had been briefed on its essence. He added: "He feels that it is important that the Council comes to grips with these 'morning-after questions' as he has been proposing for some time -- how to get on with the disarmament of Iraq after the bombing. And so he welcomes the French proposal. This is the first concrete step in that direction, and he will be watching the Council's deliberations closely. He does not see himself as a player at this time."
Mr. Eckhard said his Office had a one-page handout on the oil-for-food programme which he thought might be of use following the article in The New York Times on the subject today.
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