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

5 February 1999

Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, began today's noon briefing by stating that the Secretary-General had been anxiously following the news of King Hussein of Jordan's grave illness. His thoughts and prayers were with His Majesty and family and, indeed, with all the people of Jordan at this difficult moment in their history.

With the talks on Kosovo starting this weekend in Rambouillet, France, the Spokesman said the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, had met today in Geneva with members of the Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia (Britain, France, Germany, Russian Federation, Italy and the United States) to brief them on the work of her Office in Kosovo. She impressed upon them her belief that human rights should be an important part of those negotiations, since their violations had triggered the conflict.

Also on Kosovo, there were reports from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva that the High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, was watching developments on the diplomatic front with great interest and hoped that the talks would lead to a political agreement. The fate of all the people UNHCR was helping in Kosovo, as well as those who had fled the region, hinged very much on the outcome of those talks.

The senior officials tripartite talks on East Timor autonomy, which started last Thursday, 28 January, were expected to conclude today, the Spokesman said. The Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, started this morning's meeting with the Indonesian and Portuguese delegations at 10:30. A bit earlier, he had met with Constacio Pinto, representative in New York of the CNRT, the National Council of Timorese Resistance, the resistance movement's umbrella organization. The Spokesman said Ambassador Marker would brief correspondents today at 1 p.m. in room 226.

There would be no Security Council meeting today, said the Spokesman. The General Assembly was meeting in resumed special session, and the Spokesman for the Assembly President would brief later on it.

For the record, the Spokesman informed correspondents that, pursuant to the interim accord of 13 September 1995, representatives of Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia held two meetings on 26 January and 3 February under the auspices of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Cyrus Vance. The Greek side was represented by the Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations, Christos Zacharakis, and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, by Ivan Tosevski. The parties continued to exchange views in the context of article 5 of the interim accord, and they decided to meet again on a date to be agreed.

The Spokesman said the latest information from Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, was that the ceasefire was holding, even though last night heavy gunfire was heard. The staff of the UNHCR had reported in the morning that the situation in Bissau was relatively calm after the arrival of additional West African peacekeeping troops in the city last night. So far, UNHCR staff had been unable to estimate the number of displaced people, most of whom were located in three towns. The UNHCR had reported that its staff in Bafata, Guinea-Bissau, had been delivering drinking water to people who had fled renewed fighting in the capital over the last week. Tomorrow, they planned to carry out distribution of food and soap with other United Nations humanitarian agencies.

The UNHCR offices in Senegal said this morning that a first group of between 50 to 150 refugees from the capital had arrived in the southern Casamance region. They were the first refugees to have fled the recent round of fighting. A total of 7,000 fled during 1998 to Senegal, Guinea (Conakry) and Cape Verde.

The World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Friday that an emergency operation to feed 5.8 million victims of the worst floods in China in more than 40 years needed urgent international support, because contributions had fallen short by more than 50 per cent of its total requirements. A press release with further information was available in the Spokesman's Office for interested correspondents.

Among the Secretary-General's appointments today -- which correspondents might have seen -- was a meeting he would have in the afternoon with the Board of Directors of the World Bank, along with the Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette. The Bank Directors were at Headquarters for their second informal meeting with the Economic and Social Council, but this was the first time that they were in New York. Last year, a number of Economic and Social Council members went to Washington, D.C. The Spokesman said the meetings were all part of the Secretary-General's efforts to improve collaboration between the United Nations and the World Bank. The discussions were expected to focus on financing for development and poverty eradication efforts. Although the meetings were closed, a background note was available in the Spokesman's Office for interested journalists.

The Spokesman announced that 100 European Union electoral monitors recruited by the United Nations Volunteers were headed for Nigeria to support the country's upcoming elections, to be held on 20 and 27 February. A press release with more details was available in the Spokesman's Office.

This morning, in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentenced Omar Serushago to 15 years in prison. Mr. Serushago had been the first leader of the Interahamwe militia to plead guilty before the Tribunal for genocide and crimes against humanity. A press release was available in room 378.

It was announced in Geneva this morning that the visit to the Sudan of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in that country, Leonardo Franco, had not started as scheduled on 2 February, because of administrative problems, the Spokesman said. Mr. Franco was now scheduled to leave on 13 February for 12 days. During his trip he would be looking into reports of slave trading, as well as at the situation of human rights in the country in general.

The Spokesman said the Secretary-General had welcomed the ratification by Senegal on 1 February of the Statute to establish an International Criminal Court, which was adopted at the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the court in Rome on 17 July 1998. Senegal had, therefore, become the first State to ratify that important instrument. The Secretary-General hoped that Senegal's action would serve to encourage other States to expedite the process of ratification. The Statute would enter into force when 60 States ratified it, the Spokesman said.

Available in the Spokesman's Office was an address by Martin Griffiths, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, to the Women's International Forum on "Global Cooperation in the New Millennium: Humanitarian Challenges".

The weekly "Week Ahead" feature was available in the Spokesman's Office, and it would also be on the Internet later. The Spokesman said there would be two days of talks on East Timor on Sunday and Monday at United Nations Headquarters. The Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal had scheduled meetings with the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, Mr. Marker. There would be no briefing for the press by Ambassador Marker on Sunday. Journalists should organize any interviews with the ministers through their respective missions.

On Monday, the Secretary-General was scheduled to see the Indonesian Foreign Minister at 11 a.m. and the Portuguese Foreign Minister at 11:30 a.m. Those two bilateral meetings would be followed by trilateral meetings. There would be a photo opportunity and briefing to journalists at the conclusion of the meetings.

On Tuesday, the Secretary-General was scheduled to brief the Security Council, and the topics would be primarily African trouble spots, as well as Kosovo. On Tuesday afternoon, the Secretary-General would address a special event being organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the transfer of science and technology to Africa.

On Wednesday, Security Council consultations were scheduled on Angola. On the same day, a formal meeting was expected to be held on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), whose mandate would expire the following day. On Thursday, the Security Council was scheduled to hear a briefing by the Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Africa, Mohamed Sahnoun, on his just completed mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Jadranka Mihalic, spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, said the Assembly had this morning resumed its tenth emergency special session on "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory". The session was reconvened following a request contained in a letter by the Permanent Representative of Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group. The request was supported by a letter from the Permanent Representative of South Africa, in his capacity as Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Countries.

Before resuming the emergency special session, the President, Didier Opertti (Uruguay), expressed the deepest sympathy of members of the Assembly to the Government and people of Colombia for the tragic loss of life and extensive material damage resulting from the recent earthquake. He expressed the hope that the international community would show its solidarity and generously provide assistance to Colombia.

He also informed the Assembly that 42 Member States were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations under the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.

The spokesman said there were 25 speakers inscribed so far to address the Assembly under the item and that a draft resolution before the Assembly was contained in document A/ES-10/L.5. The draft was introduced by the representative of the United Arab Emirates on behalf of 20 sponsors.

The Assembly would not meet this afternoon, but would resume debate on the item at 3:30 p.m. Monday, 8 February, the spokesman said.

Also on Monday, the open-ended working group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Security Council would begin meeting under the chairmanship of the President of the General Assembly.

Also, the ad hoc open-ended working group on financing for development, established under the terms of resolution 52/179 of 18 December 1997, would begin its second meeting, which would continue until Wednesday under the chairmanship of the Permanent Representatives of Austria and India to the United Nations, she said.

Also, the Contributions Committee would hold a special session from 8 to 12 February under the terms of resolution 53/56 A (scale of assessments for the apportionment of expenses of the United Nations) to consider representations from Member States regarding the application of Article 19 of the Charter, she said. Its meetings would be closed.

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