DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
16 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. Amid a resumption of the systematic expulsion of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population, following a brief lull, the Secretary-General has scheduled meetings throughout the day to discuss efforts to bring an end to the crisis with members of the Security Council here at Headquarters. As you recall, Council members yesterday endorsed the Secretary-General's statement on the need to intensify efforts to find a political solution.
**United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, reported earlier today in Geneva that detailed accounts of serious human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by Serbian police and paramilitary forces continue to be received and collected by her staff in the field.
In a report to the Commission on Human Rights, Mary Robinson said that in the last few days there had been alarming reports of large-scale summary executions of ethnic Albanians in four identified locations. Mrs. Robinson appealed to all responsible Yugoslav authorities, as well as the international community, to take all necessary measures to put an end to violations of fundamental human rights of the people of Kosovo, and to protect the lives and security of all civilians and non-combatants in the area.
We have the full text of her remarks in my Office.
**More Refugees Cross into Albania
As we speak, a new wave of refugees is crossing into Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Montenegro is seeing the biggest influx from Kosovo in weeks. By mid-afternoon today, more than 3,500 refugees had arrived in Kukes, northern Albania. Aid officials of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate that by midnight the figure could be up to 10,000. The morning arrivals were from Mitrovica. Arrivals this afternoon are from Prizren.
The UNHCR says that security in northern Albania's Kukes area is a big worry since, virtually every day, villages in the border area are shelled by Yugoslav forces. The UNHCR insists on moving refugees out of the area as quickly as possible. By early afternoon today, in Blace, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, another 3,000 Kosovars had arrived, mostly by train.
The UNHCR warns that the capacity at Brazda campsite is already exceeded. It says unless former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia authorities give the UNHCR the green light for expansion of the site, the situation will be critical.
**World Food Programme Assistance
The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that its airlift is in full swing with six to eight helicopters flying food everyday from Tirana to Kukes. Each helicopter is carrying two tons of food. In addition to the airlift, every day four to five trucks are on the road carrying 12 tons each. The airlift and truck deliveries combined are delivering 76 tons of food to approximately 50,000 refugees daily in Kukes.
**World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO), in a news release issued today, said there has so far been no evidence of infectious disease outbreaks associated with the massive movement of refugees in recent weeks in Kosovo and neighbouring countries. While there is little information available on the health status of people still in Kosovo, the WHO warned that it is likely that the refugees now coming out are in worse condition than those who fled earlier, and may require increased attention and care.
The WHO also said that there has been one confirmed case and other possible cases of measles. The WHO, in conjunction with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and all health-implementing partners, is, therefore, giving top priority to immunizing all children under five in the refugee population.
**Security Council Consultations
The Security Council is holding consultations today on the reports of the three panels on Iraq. Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil, who chaired the three panels, spoke about the difficult, but not impossible, task of reinstalling an effective disarmament regime and, at the same time, alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people, without losing sight of the objectives of Security Council resolutions.
The Ambassadors of the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation introduced two separate draft resolutions which follow up on the reports of the panels. These drafts, one prepared by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the other by the Russian Federation, were circulated yesterday evening to Council members.
**Consultations on UNDP Administrator Appointment
The Secretary-General is holding final consultations on the selection of a new Administrator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). That explains his appointments today with the Ambassador of Thailand, who is the President of UNDP's Executive Board; the Ambassador of Guyana, who is the chair of the "Group of 77" developing countries; and the Ambassador of Germany, who is the current President of the European Union. An announcement is expected next week.
**Pino Arlacchi on Asian Trip
The Executive Director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Pino Arlacchi, today begins the second leg of his Asian trip as he travels from Pakistan to Tajikistan. In Dushanbe, where he will arrive today, he will meet with President Rakhmonov to discuss cooperation in the field of drug control and crime prevention. President Rakhmonov and Mr. Arlacchi will sign the project document for United Nations assistance to the country to strengthen its border controls and improve detection capability of the Tajik law enforcement bodies, including the setting up of a dog training centre.
During his stay, Mr. Arlacchi is also expected to visit the Afghan border.
**Secretary-General Report on Central African Republic Mission
The report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) is out on the racks. In it, he notes that the Government of the Central African Republic continues to make some progress in carrying out the reforms it has pledged to make. Among others, the Secretary-General cites the progress made with respect to the forthcoming presidential elections scheduled to take place next summer. He also says that the imminent adoption of the laws on the restructuring of the armed forces is a major step in the right direction. But, he says, progress has been slow and further action is urgently required for the Government to fully demonstrate adherence to the commitments made to the Secretary-General by President Patassé.
**UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Report on Colombia
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson introduced her report on human rights in Colombia to the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva this morning. The text of her presentation is available in my Office.
Also in Geneva, the United States tabled a draft resolution on Human Rights in China. Although we do not generally redistribute those draft resolutions here in New York, because of the considerable press interest in this issue here we have the text of the draft resolution in room S-378.
**Commission on Sustainable Development to Meet Next Week
Next week, the Commission on Sustainable Development starts its two-week annual session here at Headquarters. The top agenda items this year are oceans and overfishing, and tourism. From Monday to Wednesday, a large delegation from the tourism industry will take part in a dialogue with mayors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and trade unions on ways to lessen the negative environmental and social impacts of tourism.
There will then be two press conferences on the outcome of those discussions here on Wednesday, one at 2 p.m. on the tourism industry and local government officials, and the second on NGOs and trade union leaders. Then, from Wednesday afternoon through Friday, the high-level segment will be held with some 50 ministers for environment, ocean affairs, development and tourism.
The Commission will also be reviewing the programme of action for small island States in preparation for the General Assembly special session on small islands to be held from 27 to 28 September.
Background press releases, a media advisory and a schedule of events are available on the racks.
**Address by UNICEF Executive Director
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has asked us to call to your attention the fact that a keynote address, to be delivered by their Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, this afternoon to the Harvard International Development Conference is available on the racks. The subject of this address is "Sharing Responsibilities: Public, Private and Civil Society".
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also gave us a press release for your attention on the subject of UNDP-supported conferences to promote private sector development in Africa.
The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) has a briefing on tourism and travel by the World Travel and Tourism Council today at 1:30 p.m. in the UNCA Club.
**The Week Ahead
The Week Ahead for next week is available to you. Let me highlight a few things from the text:
Security Council consultations on Afghanistan, featuring Secretary- General's Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, will take place on Monday.
The International Contact Group on Sierra Leone will also meet on Monday at Headquarters. That meeting will be chaired by the United Kingdom Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tony Lloyd, and it will discuss the peace process.
Also on Monday, at 11:15 a.m., Stephen Lewis of UNICEF, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch will hold a briefing at United Nations Headquarters on a new report on child soldiers in Africa.
On Tuesday, the Security Council will hold consultations on the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP) and the mission in Bosnia- Herzegovina.
Elizabeth Rehn, the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, will be the guest at the noon briefing that day.
On Wednesday, the Security Council takes up the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA), and here in the afternoon, senior officials are scheduled to meet again to discuss the East Timor issue and following that, on Thursday and Friday morning, the Secretary-General will meet with the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal on that subject.
On Thursday, Security Council consultations on Sierra Leone are scheduled. The Secretary-General will make a statement at the East-West Institute dinner honouring Helmut Kohl. The Deputy Secretary-General will address the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Earth Day event and that day, here at Headquarters, will be "Take your Daughter to Work Day" for girls nine to fifteen years.
Finally, on Friday, the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is due.
Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), will be at the noon briefing to discuss Kosovo.
Question: Has the Secretary-General been consulted on the proposal for holding an emergency special session of the General Assembly on Kosovo? Does he have an opinion? What is the procedure for setting an agenda?
Spokesman: The Charter will permit the General Assembly to discuss, but not make recommendations on, an international security issue that the Security Council is seized of. There has been an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General's Office and the President's Office on the subject of Kosovo. I don't know that there was a particular consultation on this plan to call a special session, and I have nothing further to say on how the agenda is fixed and so on. I suggest you put those questions to Jadranka Mihalic, the General Assembly President spokesman.
Question: Could you give more details on the Secretary-General's meetings with various ambassadors on Kosovo?
Spokesman: The meetings haven't taken place as yet, so I can't tell you what has been said. The first is at 12:30 p.m. with Ambassador Lavrov of the Russian Federation. The Secretary-General's primary concern is that the efforts to find a political solution be intensified. There is just too much suffering. It's piling up every day, and the reason for his involvement, starting a week ago with the appeal that he made to the Yugoslav Government, was to accelerate the process. He has been in Europe for a week, and I think he would probably welcome their views to get a sense of what the thinking in New York is and then to discuss next steps.
Question: Has he made any attempts, in recent hours, to contact the authorities in Belgrade?
Spokesman: Not that I'm aware. And as of this morning, we still have no response from the Yugoslav Government to his appeal that he sent to them in writing last weekend.
Question: Is it foreseeable that an official endorsement of the Secretary-General's initiative could come out of these consultations?
Spokesman: No, I think that this is really just his getting back in touch with the Council members starting with these consultations today. One of the things he'll be discussing with the Council President is whether and when to brief the Council as a whole on his European visit and his efforts on Kosovo. So, I think it's really a continuation of the process. I don't anticipate at this time that something specific as you mentioned will come out of it.
Question: Has there been any call for the Secretary-General to meet with the Yugoslav Ambassador?
Spokesman: Not that I'm aware.
Question: Contrary to rumours, there's no yellow fever?
Spokesman: There's no mention of yellow fever in this morning's report and that's based on our contacts with the WHO as of this morning. We will double-check with the WHO after the briefing.
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