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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
UN HEADQUARTERS
NEW YORK

Thursday, September 16, 1999


(Press "Ctrl + R" or click on "reload" to ensure you have the latest summary)

TOP UN OFFICIAL IN EAST TIMOR ASSESSES CONDITIONS IN BAUCAU

  • The Acting Head of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), Brigadier-General Rezaqul Haider (Bangladesh), visited the town of Baucau, about 100 kilometers east of Dili on the north coast, where he saw roughly every other house looted and burned. The houses where UN staff had stayed were the primary targets, he said, followed by the homes of known supporters of independence. Fifty-three UN vehicles were trashed and unusable.
  • Much of the central market was burned out, although about a dozen vendors were selling items on the street. Major-General Kiki Syahnakri, the chief Indonesian military commander in East Timor, who escorted Rezaqul, purchased some vegetables from one of these venders, as there is nothing available in Dili.
  • The UN General was able to speak to some local people, who were smiling, he said, but who had the fear of the unknown in their eyes. One woman told him she was from Dili, and that militia from Baucau had rounded up her family in Dili and forced them to Baucau. The male family members had escaped into the hills, she said.
  • International staff in Baucau witnessed a farewell ceremony at the airport for the local militia, who then marched in smart military formation onto an Indonesian C-130 aircraft and flew off. The Baucau militia appeared to be in the process of liquidation, according to Rezaqul.
  • The militia were still very much in evidence on the streets of Dili, however, where 15 fires were counted today. Looting was continuing, and long convoys of trucks could be seen carrying the loot in the direction of West Timor.


PREPARATIONS FOR MULTINATIONAL FORCE UNDERWAY

  • Meanwhile, in Darwin Australia, a major military operation in underway as the newly-authorized multinational force prepares to go into East Timor sometime in the next few days.
  • The newly-relocated displaced persons from Dili are settling in and Pedro UNAMET Rodriges, born in the UN compound in Dili just before the evacuation, is safely among them. According to UNAMET Spokesman David Wimhurst, Pedro has become something of a media star.
  • Meanwhile, in New York, meetings between the Indonesian and Australian military continued this morning. They are being conducted in a cordial and businesslike manner. They are progressing well towards the understanding of the relationship on the ground between the multinational force and the Indonesian Army.
  • A correspondent asked if the Secretary-General had any reaction to reports that the Indonesian military would pull out when the multinational force went in. "It is not our impression that the Indonesian military are pulling out of East Timor," he replied. The UN had reported the liquidation of the militia in Baucau, "which may be part of a general pattern throughout East Timor -- we can't say yet."
  • Asked for read-out of the Australian-Indonesian meeting, the spokesman noted that although the UN Secretariat had participated in some of the discussions among the principles, they would have to speak for themselves on what understandings had been reached.
  • "We're in a similar position on composition" of the force, the spokesman said in reply to another question. He said he understood that Australia had indicated Wednesday that it would not announce the composition of the force, it would let the individual troop contributors do so.
  • To another question, the spokesman noted that "certainly, it would be helpful to the multinational force if these militias, who committed all these atrocities, would disappear from the scene." He added that it would be necessary to see how events played out. "We don't know whether what we saw in Baucau, which was a single incident, is representative of what is happening throughout East Timor." The militia, he noted, was very much in evidence around Dili today.


UN HUMANITARIAN AGENCIES PREPARE TO DEPLOY TO EAST TIMOR

  • Ross Mountain, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the East Timor crisis, has arrived in Darwin where agencies currently in Darwin, Australia, are finalizing preparations to deploy to Dili over the weekend.
  • Mountain has reached arrangements with UN agencies on the division of labor as part of a 30-day humanitarian action plan being formulated. For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) is charged with logistics and food, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will be responsible for non-food items and protection of displaced persons and refugees and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) with health and water.
  • Self-contained logistics kits and vehicles are being sent to Darwin, the logistics hub of humanitarian operations, for swift deployment to enable aid workers to hit the ground running.
  • WFP reported today that the Government of Indonesia has given clearance for the humanitarian "snow-drops" of food assistance. The first delivery of much needed aid could take place in the next 24 hours.
  • A joint Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)/International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mission is scheduled to travel to from Dili to Dare during the next two days to deliver relief supplies to displaced persons concentrated at a camp there.


UN COUNCIL DISCUSSES PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT

  • The Security Council this morning met on the protection of children in armed conflict.
  • In an opening address, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations must respond by more than meetings, speeches and reports to ensure that crises around the globe are brought to an end. He called for action in the name of the principles of the Charter and the values of humanity. "The essence of the United Nations work is to establish human security where it is no longer present, where it is under threat, or where it never existed. This is our humanitarian imperative."
  • The Secretary-General issued a report on the issue which contains 40 concrete recommendations to improve the security of civilians in armed conflict. These recommendations provide the Council with tools and strategies, which it can use to respond to particular situations, he said.
  • Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was then invited by the Secretary-General to take the floor. This marked the first time a High Commissioner for Human Rights addresses the Security Council.


UNICEF DOCTOR KILLED IN AMBUSH IN SOMALIA

  • The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, in a statement issued today, expressed deep regret and dismay on learning of the death of Dr. Ayoub Sheikh Yerow, Senior Project Officer with UNICEF in Baidoa, Somalia.
  • Yerow, a Somali national with a long history of experience in the country, was fatally wounded Wednesday in an ambush on the road from Jowhar to Afgoi while on a humanitarian mission. Five other officials travelling with him also suffered wounds.
  • De Mello noted that the "unacceptable act of violence" had taken place on the eve of the Security Council's meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. He said it served as a "grim reminder of the impunity with which lives are taken in conflict areas around the world."
  • De Mello said he trusted that local authorities would take immediate measures to apprehend those responsible and ensure that the safety of humanitarian workers would be guaranteed.


ANNAN'S KOSOVO ENVOY MEETS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

  • The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, was in Moscow Wednesday, where he met for two-and-a-half hours with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. They discussed a broad range of issues, including the protection of Kosovo's ethnic groups, particularly Serbs, and the need to speed up the reconciliation process. The Russian Foreign Minister reiterated his country's support for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
  • At a press conference following their meeting, Kouchner was asked about the transformation of the KLA. He replied that demilitarization of the KLA was the responsibility of KFOR, not UNMIK. "On 19 September," he said, "I hope that in Kosovo no one will be wearing uniforms or bearing arms other than KFOR and the UN International Police." He said that in the coming months, UNMIK would be making proposals for transforming the KLA into a purely Civilian Defense Corps.
  • Today, Kouchner addressed a KFOR Leader's Training Conference near Frankfurt, Germany on the UN Mission in Kosovo. The Conference is being held to orient the new team replacing Gen. Michael Jackson's staff in Pristina. The new team will be under the command of Gen. Klaus Reinhardt of Germany.


OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Non-essential staff at United Nations Headquarters in New York left early today because of severe weather conditions.
  • A UN technical mission has left for the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan to assess the humanitarian needs there. The mission will be led by a senior WFP official, and will include experts from various UN bodies and NGOs. The assessment will identify specific needs in the areas of agriculture and food security, health and nutrition, water, sanitation and basic education. The team will also bring along a limited amount of medical supplies.
  • The International Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property wrapped up in Geneva today. Organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Conference focused on cutting edge issues surrounding the multi-billion dollar electronic commerce industry. At the close of the meeting, WIPO Director General Kamil Idris presented the forum with a nine-point "digital agenda" outlining the agency's work in the area of e-commerce.
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) today fixed deadlines for the parties to file documents in the case brought by Croatia against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia charging Belgrade with violations of the Convention against Genocide. It also set deadlines for filing documents in a case brought jointly by Indonesia and Malaysia to the Court regarding sovereignty over two islands in the Celebes Sea: Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan.
  • Wednesday, Argentina ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, bringing the number of parties to that treaty to 85.
  • Lesotho ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has 152 signatories and 45 parties.


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