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

14 April 1999

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

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure for me to introduce to you someone that you already know very well: Agwu Okali, who is the Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and with him, his spokesman, to my left, Kingsley Moghalu. We'll get to the Tribunal after I give you a few other items.


On Kosovo, still the lead, Brussels was the centre of a flurry of diplomatic activity today. The Secretary-General met with his North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counterpart, Javier Solana, on arrival at the airport in Brussels, before participating in the European Union Council Summit on Kosovo. Prior to the Summit, the Secretary-General also met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In a press encounter following his talks with Mr. Blair, the Secretary- General talked about the need to intensify the search for a political solution. He said "It is not going to be easy. We have to be careful. It is very delicate diplomacy to try to get the objectives achieved and also to stop what is going on."

We have the transcript of his remarks as well as those of the British Prime Minister.

The Secretary-General is also scheduled to meet with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, who is in Brussels to discuss with Mr. Solana today coordination of the massive relief effort under way.

He is expected to appear at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Germany is in the seat as President of this Council. That will happen roughly 12:45 New York time. We have arranged to have it piped in live. On the six-point system, you can find it on position 6. If you have the old MX system, dial 08, and the IBX telephone system, dial 058, or pick up the audio only on in-house television channel 3. We understand that CNN International may be carrying it live.

Louise Arbour, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is also in Brussels, where she is meeting with the NATO Secretary-General. The question of cooperation with the Tribunal and provision of information from Kosovo by Member States to the Tribunal will probably be discussed.

Here at United Nations Headquarters, the Security Council was scheduled to be briefed on the humanitarian situation in Montenegro and in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia by the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths. On the ground, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported Kosovars continued to arrive on foot in Montenegro and some 2,000 people arrived in Blace on the border today. Most came on train; others in three buses. As usual, the trains and buses stayed on the Kosovo side and the people crossed on foot. There were also three private cars from Pristina and three from Prizren.

The UNHCR staff in Albania reported a new influx beginning at 3 p.m. today. In the first hour, more than 1,000 refugees crossed. The new arrivals are coming from Prizren municipality, arriving in their tractors. The weather has been awful. It is cold and rainy, which makes reception and transfer of new arrivals more difficult. From Montenegro, the new arrivals are reported in worse condition than previous groups. After walking a long distance, they were exhausted, cold and wet, and many lack warm clothing or supplies.

Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, was in Geneva to address the Commission on Human Rights upon his return from a four-day mission to the Kosovo region. We have a press release on his findings available in my office.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a special alert released today, warned that apart from the direct human consequences, the Kosovo crisis has devastated the agricultural and food processing industries, resulting in a severe reduction in food output, supplies and food availability.

**Security Council

The first item on the Security Council agenda today is a briefing on Angola by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi. The briefing is expected to focus on the overall situation in that country and efforts to reach the crash sites of two United Nations planes in Angola earlier this year and late last year, as well as an update on the status on the investigation into last year's plane crash involving the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Alioune Blondin Beye and colleagues. On the humanitarian side, the briefing flagged the deteriorating conditions in a country that has produced more than 1.6 million displaced persons.

The so-called "space" for humanitarian operations in Angola has reduced significantly since the Secretary-General's last report to the Security Council of 24 February. Full access by relief workers is now limited to four out of Angola's 18 provinces. Most of the country has been cut off from assistance, either by landmines or by fighting.

The recent polio outbreak in the Angolan capital is just a reminder of the threat that communicable diseases and epidemics represent, as humanitarian organizations continue to lack access in order to respond to the basic needs of the people.

**East Timor

I have a rather full statement here on the subject of East Timor.

"The Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, welcomes the call made by Xanana Guzmao, the President of the National Council of East Timorese Resistance for peace, dialogue and reconciliation. He fully supports the view that the starting point for reconciliation and peace in East Timor should be a commitment by all to end the escalating violence and tension.

"He calls on all East Timorese leaders and organizations to renounce the use of violence as a means of resolving political differences, and commit themselves to a future political environment that will ensure accommodation of all political tendencies, no matter the shape of the final status of East Timor. He calls on Mr. Guzmao and all other leaders to convey the message of non-violence and mutual respect to their followers and the people of East Timor at large.

"The Personal Representative also reiterates his call on the Indonesian Government to take effective steps to end the spate of violence in East Timor and to allow an independent investigation into the recent killings of civilians and to bring those responsible to justice without delay. He would also like to urge that humanitarian agencies be given full access to the victims of these incidents to enable them to provide medical and other forms of assistance to those who need it."


The Secretary-General's report on Afghanistan to the General Assembly and the Security Council is out on the racks today. In it, he highlights the continued danger of the further regionalization of the Afghan civil war.

He also says that the decision for a phased and limited return of international United Nations personnel to Afghanistan will be closely monitored. He emphasized that the Taliban must fulfil the commitments they have made concerning the security of United Nations staff.

"Unless there is clear evidence that all the commitments made by the Taliban regarding security have been carried out, I shall be compelled to review my decision about the return of international staff to Afghanistan", he warned.


The progress report of the Secretary-General on the Mission of Observers in Prevlaka is out on the racks today. In it, the Secretary-General reports on the progress of bilateral negotiations between the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to resolve the disputed issue of this peninsula in southern Croatia.

The Secretary-General says that he is encouraged that bilateral discussions between the two are continuing. However, he says it is extremely disappointing that substantial progress has not been made, even though more than six months have passed since the initiation of negotiations on the issue and four rounds of talks have taken place. He urges the parties to negotiate constructively towards the peaceful resolution of their dispute.


The United Nations independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Mona Rishmawi, expressed deep concern today at the recent upsurge in violence in Mogadishu. At least 100 people have been reported killed and more than 150 wounded in clashes which occurred in March and April of this year. During the heavy fighting, which saw the extensive use of heavy mortars, anti-aircraft artillery and anti-armour weapons, dozens of civilians were trapped in Karan market and thousands of families fled their home in the Karan district, as homes and property were looted and burned. The complete text of the statement is available in my office.

The flow of refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo into the United Republic of Tanzania shows no sign of slowing. Congolese refugees are also still arriving in northern Zambia at a rate of 200 a day. More details on this continued exodus, as well as an update on the plight of Sierra Leonian refugees, are contained in a UNHCR update on the Great Lakes and West Africa. Pick it up in my office.


In a recent television broadcast by the BBC of a programme entitled "Panorama", certain allegations were made with regard to the UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) field office in Bahrain. The Secretary-General wishes to clarify that these allegations are rejected by UNSCOM and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), both of which have assured him that UNSCOM field office facilities in Bahrain have been used for no other purpose than to promote the logistic and administrative support to operations undertaken by them in accordance with their respective mandates. The Secretary-General wishes to record once more his sincere thanks and appreciation for the invaluable support of the Government of Bahrain for both UNSCOM and the IAEA.

**International Forum on Tobacco Control

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an immediate alert for an international conference addressing tobacco industry marketing tactics and their implications. The forum is next Tuesday, 20 April, here at United Nations Headquarters and please see the Media Alert for details.

**Press Conference: Ambassador Sacirbey and Bianca Jagger

Finally, there will be a press conference tomorrow, at 2:45 p.m. Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey will brief on the humanitarian situation in south- eastern Europe. Bianca Jagger will also join the press conference as a special guest of Ambassador Sacirbey.

**Question-and-Answer Session

Question: I understand there is a German plan to end the war. Is the Secretary-General endorsing the plan?

Spokesman: I have to assume, but I can not say for sure because it was a closed meeting that the Secretary-General attended this afternoon, that the German plan which was widely reported by the media this morning was discussed by the European Heads of State. I think you will get a better idea of what was discussed and what the outcome was when Chancellor Schroder speaks to the press in about a half hour. I don't think any reaction by the Secretary- General will be available before that same press conference.

Question: Has there been any response to the Secretary-General's letter to President Milosevic?

Spokesman: No word as of about 11 a.m. today.

Question: About the Bahrain issue: Bahrain put out a statement saying the Secretary-General wrote to the Government, himself rejecting the allegations, whereas, the statement put out yesterday seems to distance him from the matter, letting only UNSCOM and IAEA reject it.

Spokesman: I don't know about a letter but I think the statement speaks for itself. The personnel in Bahrain have been contributed by governments working for IAEA and UNSCOM and those two agencies have assured the Secretary- General of their confidence in their integrity and the Secretary-General is conveying that to the Government of Bahrain.

Question: Could you kindly find out if there is a letter?

Spokesman: Okay.

Question: Any discussion or contingency discussions on the idea of an international force that the United Nations might be involved in any sort of peace plan?

Spokesman: I see the same press reports that you do. Let's see if that subject is touched upon at the press conference in Brussels. I have nothing to say as far as United Nations planning goes.

Question: Is the Secretary-General still planning to come back tomorrow?

Spokesman: Yes, he will come in on a morning flight. I'm not saying he will come to the office. I don't know what his programme for tomorrow is yet.

Ok. Mr. Okali, welcome to the briefing.

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