DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
11 August 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
We just got off the phone with our spokesman in Dili, East Timor, where there was another militia attack today.
The attack took place against a gathering of students at the offices of the National Timorese Resistance Council (CNRP) in a place called Vikeke. Two students were killed -- one was shot in the head and the other in the chest. Apparently, shots were fired by both the militia and members of the Indonesian armed forces.
So far, we have no other information on dead or wounded. The incident is under investigation. Our staff in Vikeke were never threatened, but as a security measure they have been confined to their compound for the night.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for East Timor, Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, arrived in Jakarta last night. He had scheduled meetings today with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Ali Alatas, as well as the country's Defence and Security Minister, General Wiranto. In addition, he had a planned meeting with Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao. Tomorrow, Ambassador Marker is expected to meet with the Indonesian President Habibe.
There will be a two-day tripartite dialogue in Jakarta starting tomorrow. The main focus of this senior officials' meeting is the post-ballot period, known as phase II.
We have the briefing notes from Dili upstairs.
This morning the members of the Security Council heard a briefing on Ethiopia/Eritrea by Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun, who is the Secretary- General's Special Envoy in Africa. Then, Alvaro de Soto, the Assistant- Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council on the Secretary- General's report on East Timor. Afterwards, the Council is expected to have a formal meeting on the appointment of the new Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed concern about intimidation of the Serb population of Kosovo. The
Serb population of Pristina, they estimate, is down to about 2,000 from a pre- war level of 20,000. In many cases, UNHCR says, Serbs are first sent a warning letter to leave their homes, they are then threatened in person and finally they are assaulted.
KFOR says they are doing all they can to protect the Serbs, but they cannot prevent them from leaving. The KFOR spokesman in Pristina today said that in some cases they even have soldiers posted in Serb homes to try to catch those who are threatening them.
Nadia Younes, the United Nations Spokeswoman in Kosovo, said that the number of United Nations police patrolling in Pristina would probably double today to over 60. And the total number of international police in Kosovo is 662 as of today.
**Geneva Conventions Anniversary
The Secretary-General left this morning for Geneva, where he will participate tomorrow in a solemn ceremony commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. That event is sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
**International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia announced in The Hague today that the Registrar has decided to withdraw the assignment of free lawyers to seven detainees who are presumed to have received financial support from an organization called "Croatian Prisoners in The Hague". According to media reports, this organization has raised over 4 million DM for these detainees' legal defense.
At the time of their surrender to the Tribunal, all of these accused had declared that they did not have sufficient means to pay for legal assistance and they requested the Registrar to assign a Counsel to them, which was done.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Following the Security Council's resolution last week on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Secretary-General has decided to start deploying United Nations personnel to the region. The first group should arrive in the next couple of weeks, starting with Lusaka, Zambia, and Kinshasa in the DRC, and after that they are expected to be deployed to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and other capitals in the region. Of course all of that is dependent on developments on the ground.
In Afghanistan, the United Nations has started providing limited food assistance to civilians displaced by recent fighting around the front lines north of Kabul. So far, agencies are assisting approximately 500 families now taking refuge in an abandoned diplomatic compound. Conditions in the crowded compound are raising concerns about the health of women and children there.
In addition to the families accommodated in the diplomatic compound, a larger number of other recently displaced families in Kabul have found refuge with friends and relatives in the capital. Staff from the United Nations and its partners are in the process of assessing their health and living conditions.
For now, it appears there is sufficient food and medicine for those in need, but we are making contingency arrangements to pre-position humanitarian supplies in case the need increases.
We have a press release in my office with more information.
Today is a big day for the planet -- it's the last total solar eclipse of the millennium. And while we welcome the attention to this celestial phenomenon, the World Health Organization (WHO) is reminding the public that unless precautionary measures are taken, watching the eclipse could lead to retinal injuries and even loss of eyesight.
We have two fact sheets in our office from the World Health Organization on how to enjoy the eclipse safely.
As you know, the best viewing is in Europe and parts of Asia, not here.
**United Nations Peacekeeping Missions
We have in my office a new breakdown of contributions to the various United Nations peacekeeping missions. The latest summary of statistics has a new feature at the back, which is a compilation of total contributions to peacekeeping missions by month since 1993. I think you'll find that of interest, and you can pick it up in my office.
Tomorrow, Ambassador Vladislav Jovanovic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and Ambassador Prvoslav Davinic of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the FRY will present a book entitled "NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia, Documentary Evidence". That is at 11 tomorrow.
And our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. He would like to discuss with you the need for humanitarian assistance to Africa.
That's all I have.
Question: Is there any United Nations reaction or any contact with the countries involved in the alleged missile incident today between India and Pakistan?
Answer: I think that while we are looking at those events closely, that I'd have to stick to the statement that I made yesterday on the Secretary- General's behalf. He continues to look forward to an early resumption of the bilateral dialogue between these two countries, and he certainly hopes that they will exercise restraint and not enter into a "tit-for-tat" situation that could lead to spiralling violence.
Question: Has there been any contact today the Secretary-General and India and Pakistan, any letters, phone calls?
Answer: I understand that both India and Pakistan delivered message to the Secretary-General yesterday.
Thank you very much.
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