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

26 February 1999

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

Good afternoon.

** Guest at briefing

The guest at today's briefing, who should be here shortly, is Philip Kirsch, who is the Chairman of the Preparatory Commission of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

** Libya:

On Libya, the Secretary-General yesterday delivered a letter addressed to Omar Muntasser of Libya providing further clarifications in response to the Minister's letter to him of last weekend.

The Secretary-General will be joined shortly by his Legal Counsel to brief the Security Council on ongoing efforts to bring to closure the issue of the transfer to a court in the Netherlands of the two Lockerbie suspects.

** Angola:

Today, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1229, which takes note that the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Angola expires today. At the same time, the Council endorsed the Secretary-General's recommendation for the liquidation of MONUA and decided that MONUA's human rights activities should continue through the liquidation period. We expect to have a statement by the Secretary-General reacting to the termination of this mission in the course of the afternoon; perhaps in the next hour.

Also in a report to the Security Council on MONUA, which is on the racks today, the Secretary-General says that he intends to continue consultations with the Angolan Government concerning the future presence of the United Nations in that country.

** Iraq:

On Iraq, Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil, who is Chairman of the three panels on Iraq, updated the Security Council on his work this morning. The Panel on Disarmament and Current and Future Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Issues -- that's a long title for Panel One -- began its session last Tuesday. It took up monitoring and verification, export-import mechanisms, the missile, nuclear, chemical and biological files, and today is beginning an exchange of views on oil issues.

Ambassador Amorim also noted that the Government of Iraq had submitted documents on the disarmament question, which were distributed to Panel members yesterday afternoon. The Panel will conclude its current session tomorrow.

As for the other two panels, on Humanitarian Issues, and on Prisoners of War and Kuwaiti Property, Ambassador Amorim indicated that the panels would meet next week, and that a number of United Nations agencies and other organizations, as well as experts, had been invited to appear before the panels. We have no details yet as to who those invitees are, and you should stay in touch with Ambassador Amorim.

** Central African Republic:

The Security Council also adopted a resolution this morning on the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic, extending the mandate until 15 November, and expressing the intention to commence the reduction of MINURCA personnel 15 days after the conclusion of the presidential elections.


On the Secretary-General's appointments for today, you will see that at four this afternoon he is meeting with the Ambassadors of Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and the United States. The purpose of that meeting is for Peru and Ecuador to give the Secretary-General the document which put an end to their border dispute. That was signed 26 October last year, in Brazilia, Brazil. The other four Ambassadors are present because their countries are the guarantors of the agreement.

** Human Rights and China:

This morning in Geneva, the Human Rights Spokesman announced that, as a follow up to Mary Robinson's visit to China last September, she is sending a needs assessment mission to that country from 8 to 22 March. The four-member team will travel to Beijing, Shanghai and Xinjiang. They will review China's needs, in terms of technical assistance, to strengthen national capacities in promoting and protecting human rights, in connection with the ratification of international human rights instruments. As you know, China has signed the two international covenants -- one on civil and political rights and the other on economic, social and cultural rights -- but has not yet ratified them.

The mission will look into the human rights education system, including prospects for the training of military and police personnel. For more details, see the press release in my office.

** Human Rights Commission Session:

We also have available in my office a printout of the reports submitted today to the upcoming session of the Human Rights Commission, scheduled to take place in Geneva from 22 March to 30 April. The list is constantly updated on the Web. Corespondents who are interested in obtaining those reports should regularly check the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

** WHO in Afghanistan:

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that two of their epidemiologists arrived Thursday afternoon in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and this morning travelled by helicopter to Faizabad, Afghanistan. They then proceeded to one of the villages where an unidentified disease has been reported. They intend to stay in the field until Sunday.

Initial reports indicate that the cases are respiratory. Clinically, the symptoms are those of influenza. The team suspects the deaths may have been caused by secondary infections. There is no evidence of plague, malaria, cholera or typhus at this point.

** WHO -- Meningitis in Sudan:

WHO also said it was preoccupied by a growing meningitis outbreak in the Sudan. More than half of all meningitis cases so far reported to WHO out of the African continent are from Sudan. 1,154 cases have been reported with 175 deaths. The situation merits particular vigilance because the great majority of cases are occurring along the main cross-country transit route, and the outbreak is nearing Khartoum.

** UNHCR Update:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in its briefing in Geneva today, reported on the High Commissioner's visit to Freetown, Sierra Leone, as part of her mission to West Africa, as well as on the tense situation in Kosovo. Please see her note for further details.

** UNICEF hails Guatemala report:

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today hailed the release of the Guatemala Truth Commission report, detailing horrific human rights violations during the protracted armed conflict in Guatemala. Carol Bellamy pledged UNICEF's support for continued work of the Commission to protect child rights and aid national reconciliation. A full copy of the UNICEF press release is available from my office.

** Treaties:

It may please my guest today to hear that Haiti has just signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, bringing the total number of signatories to 76.

Also, the Slovak Republic has become the 76th country to sign the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I hope those two numbers are right.

** Payments:

China paid in full today -- $10 million plus. That means 49 States have paid in full [for he 1999 regular budget dues] compared with 38 on this date last year.

** International Women's Day

The Group of Equal Rights for Women in the UN is organizing a panel discussion on "Equality for Women". That will be next Thursday from 10 to 12 in the morning in the Trusteeship Chamber. The Secretary-General, as well as the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton, will address the gathering. There will also be a luncheon sponsored by the Group on Equal Rights for Women on Monday 8 March from 1 to 3 p.m. in the West Terrace. The President of the Group, Agnes Marcaillou, is sitting in the last row there, and she'll be available to answer questions after the briefing. There's a handout with all the details of who will participate on the table in the corner.

** UNCA announcements:

I have two announcements from the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), and then we will quickly do the week ahead.

From 1 to 2 p.m. today, the correspondents will discuss this very same subject... the Preparatory Commission on the International Criminal Court, and it will feature an international panel of experts. The specific topic will be "Concerns of the Women's Caucus on the rules of procedure and evidence and elements of crime."

Then on Monday, in the morning at 11:15 -- both these events are in the UNCA Club -- UNCA has invited Ambassador Robert Fowler, the outgoing President of the Security Council for the month of February, for a general briefing.

** The Week Ahead:

Let me give you elements of The Week Ahead. You can get the full text in my office.

The Commission on the Status of Women begins a two-week session at Headquarters on Monday. They are expected to focus on health and institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women.

China assumes the Presidency of the Security Council on Monday. You'll see that Ambassador Qin is meeting with the Secretary-General today. No Security Council consultations are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. They will be discussing their programme of work.

The Panel on Humanitarian Issues concerning Iraq is scheduled to meet on Monday and Tuesday.

Also on Monday, we have two press conferences. At 11 a.m., James Michel, the Chairman of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, who will brief on the Committee's 1998 report on development cooperation. And at 1:00 p.m., three Commissioners of the Guatemala Historical Clarification Commission, which issued its report yesterday, will be here to brief you.

On Wednesday, the Council is scheduled to hold consultations and agree on the programme of work for the month of March.

Wednesday and Thursday, the Panel on Iraq concerning Prisoners of War and Kuwaiti Property is scheduled to meet.

The Secretary-General's report to the Council on Sierra Leone is due on Friday. The mandate of the United Nations mission in that country expires on the 13th.

**Question-and-Answer session:

Question: Is it fair to say that Sunday 28 February is the last day of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP)?

Spokesman: The mandate expires on Sunday. But Angola expires today -- that's the confusion. UNPREDEP in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia expires on Sunday.

Question: What's going to happen now?

Spokesman: We will have to see. That's really not for the Secretariat to decide.

Question: The preparation for the withdrawal?

Spokesman: As far as we are concerned, the mission has been terminated. We will begin a draw down of the force.

Question: How long will the WHO team stay in Faizabad and other areas?

Spokesman: I think I said they will be in the area through Sunday. I don't know specifically. It just says in the field. So you will have to check with them.

Question: Can we have an update on Mr. Brahimi -- where he is and what kind of things are going on?

Spokesman: He'll be travelling to Kabul on Sunday, where he is expected to meet with senior Taliban officials.

Question: Is he going to Iran?

Spokesman: I don't have that information. We will find out for you after the briefing.

Question: The Iraq Panel, you said, finishes this session tomorrow?

Spokesman: I said whatever I said. Tomorrow, yes.

Question: What kind of meeting do they have scheduled tomorrow? Will it be a long meeting... all day... morning... afternoon?

Spokesman: Please ask Hiro after the briefing. He'll give you the details. [He later announced the meeting would last all day.]

Question: Are you expecting a statement or anything?

Spokesman: Hiro says no.

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