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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

14 January 1999

Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, began today's noon briefing by highlighting the role played by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo. He had been at the heart of negotiations between the parties to bring an end to the fighting there, and hoped that the reported ceasefire would pave the way for the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in their homes in Freetown. The Special Representative also hoped to facilitate further dialogue among the parties in order to negotiate a more stable and lasting peace.

Mr. Eckhard drew attention to a statement issued today by the Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which was headed by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The statement expressed concern about the reported withdrawal from Freetown of delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) following a request to do so by a member of the Sierra Leonean Government. The OCHA shared the ICRC's regret over that development, given the protective role the ICRC was playing for civilians in its compound.

The statement by OCHA went on to note the importance for all parties involved in the conflict to recognize the neutrality and impartiality of international humanitarian organizations and agencies, and the critical relief and protective services those provided, Mr. Eckhard said. "The civilians in Freetown continue to bear the brunt of the violence, making humanitarian assistance rendered by organizations like the ICRC all the more vital", it stated.

The Security Council was having consultations today on the humanitarian programme in Iraq, the Spokesman said. It would hear a briefing by the United Nations Security Coordinator and Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan. Council members were also expected to continue discussions initiated yesterday on the so-called "French proposal" on the Iraqi issue. Consultations on the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP) would also continue today. There was a technical draft resolution on the table that would extend the Mission's mandate, which was due to expire tomorrow.

Contrary to initial predictions, the report of the Secretary-General on Angola was likely to be submitted to the Council late tomorrow afternoon, the Spokesman said. The report had been requested for that day, but it was thought that it might have appeared sooner. Mr. Eckhard said he would be unable to provide a preview of recommendations regarding future United Nations involvement in Angola; correspondents would have to wait for the report.

As for the two United Nations planes downed in Angola, the United Nations was soliciting assistance from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency based in Montreal, Canada, Mr. Eckhard said. In addition to the United Nations own internal investigation of the two crashes, the Angolan Government -- as the "country of occurrence", as well as the "country of registration" of one of the aircraft -- had also begun an investigation. The United Nations, as well as a representative of the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, which was the country of operator and registration for the second aircraft, were participating in the Angolan investigation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Eckhard reported, the United Nations search team, containing an engineering component, remained on standby, awaiting clearance from the Angolan Government to revisit the first crash site. He still had no further information on the exact location of the second United Nations aircraft. Also on Angola, the World Food Programme (WFP) had resumed air flights to some provincial cities yesterday. A press release by the WFP on that item was available in his Office.

The Spokesman said that the Special Representative of the Secretary- General for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, was in New York to attend a so- called "6 + 2" Ambassadorial-level meeting, which had been scheduled for 3 p.m. today.

The Secretary-General was presently signing the Anne Frank Declaration, which had been scheduled for noon, the Spokesman said. The Declaration committed its signatories to furthering mutual understanding and respect, towards a world free of bigotry. In his remarks, the Secretary-General said "if Anne Frank, in her living hell, could summon the power to imagine a better, peaceful world, a future free of suffering and persecution, then surely we can summon the will to make that day come to pass". A full text of his remarks was available in the Spokesman's Office.

As announced yesterday, a press conference would follow the signing of the Anne Frank Declaration, at 12:25 p.m. in room-226, Mr. Eckhard said. Speakers included the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Majorie Mowlam, and the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

The Spokesman noted the return of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Catherine Bertini, from a week-long tour of Nicaragua and Honduras to assess the needs of the victims of Hurricane Mitch. Ms. Bertini had held a press conference in Washington, D.C. this morning. A press release detailing the WFP's latest initiatives to assist the Central American countries affected by the hurricane was available in the Spokeman's Office.

Mr. Eckhard said that United Nations Development Programme Administrator James Gustav Speth would announce the appointment today of basketball star Dikembe Mutombo as the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) first Youth Emissary. The Atlanta Hawks center would help enlist the participation of young people in poverty alleviation programmes in their communities.

In further announcements, Mr. Eckhard said that Singapore had become the twenty-sixth country to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Also today, two more payments to the United Nations regular budget for 1999 had been received by Liechtenstein and Malta, with cheques for $62,000 and $145,000, respectively.

Also available in the Spokesman's Office, he said, was the latest update on the situation in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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