DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
20 October 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Shirley Brownell, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly, and Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
Today, the General Assembly is considering the report of the Security Council (document A/54/2), covering the period from 16 June 1998 to 15 July 1999. With 46 speakers inscribed, the debate is expected to extend over two days. Copies of the list of speakers are available in room 378.
Introducing the report was the Council President for the month of October, Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation. He said that the Council held over 100 official meetings, and adopted 72 resolutions and 37 presidential statements. The issues had covered all the major aspects of the maintenance of international peace and security. Issues related to settling regional conflicts and to assuring stability in Africa had remained high on the agenda. The Council had also paid close attention to preventing and settling conflicts and stabilizing the situation in the Balkans region. In that connection, the adoption of resolution 1244, on Kosovo, had significantly strengthened the central role of the Council in maintaining international peace and security. Other issues which had figured prominently in the Council’s work included the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, East Timor, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Georgia. The Council, he added, had also adopted decisions on post-conflict peace-building, on the protection of humanitarian assistance to refugees and other civilians during conflict and on children in armed conflict.
In case you missed my announcement yesterday, now available on the racks is the revised programme of work for the Assembly plenary for the period from 20 October to 7 December (document A/INF/54/3/Add.2).
In Committee action, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) is concluding, at this morning’s meeting, its general debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items. It is hearing the final 15 speakers, including Mexico on the report of the Disarmament Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Tomorrow through 29 October, the Committee will hold a thematic discussion, which means delegations can speak on any disarmament topic. During this phase, draft resolutions will be introduced and discussed, but voting won’t commence until 1 November. The Committee completes its work on 12 November.
This afternoon, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) will conclude its discussion on sustainable development and international economic cooperation. Documents include reports on implementation of the Declaration on International Economic Cooperation and of the International Development Strategy for the Fourth United Nations Development Decade (document A/54/389); implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) (document A/54/8 and A/54/322); human resources development (document A/54/408); international migration and development (documents A/54/207 and A/C.2/54/2); and renewal of the dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership (documents A/54/94-S/1999/518 and A/54/328). The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning is concluding its general discussion of crime prevention and criminal justice, and international drug control. Before doing so, three draft resolutions on the advancement of women will be introduced. The draft on traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls (document A/C.3/54/L.13), with 80 sponsors, would have the Assembly call on States to adopt and implement national legislation and policies which prohibit such practices and to prosecute the perpetrators, while also calling on them to intensify efforts to raise public awareness and to promote men’s understanding of their roles and responsibilities in promoting the elimination of such harmful practices. The draft on improving the situation of women in rural areas (document A/C.3/54/L.15) would invite States to attach greater importance to doing so in their national and development global strategies. By a third draft (document A/C.3/54/L.17), on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Assembly would urge all States that had not done so to ratify or accede to the Convention, so that universal ratification could be achieved by the year 2000.
When it meets this afternoon, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) will continue its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, now in its third day.
This afternoon, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) will conclude its discussion on three items: the scale of assessment for apportioning the expenses of the United Nations; the pattern of conferences; and the Joint Inspection Unit. It will take action on a 13-part draft resolution on procurement reform (document A/C.5/54/L.8), under which the Assembly would stress the need for the procurement system to be transparent, open, impartial and cost-effective, based on competitive bidding and fully reflecting the international character of the Organization. The Committee will also have before it for action two texts on establishing a Development Account (documents A/C.5/54/L.7 and L.11), one of which will be withdrawn if the other is accepted. This evening, the Committee will hold formal consultations on the item on financing the United Nations Mission in East Timor.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) this morning took up the item on the establishment of an international criminal court. It has before it reports of the proceedings of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court at its first and second sessions in 1999 (documents PCNICC/1999/L.3/Rev.1 and L.4/Rev.1). The Commission was established, at the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (Rome, 15 June to 17 July 1998), to prepare for the establishment and coming into operation of the Court and to finalize several draft texts. At its first two sessions, the Preparatory Commission focused on two instruments necessary for the functioning of the Court, namely, the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and the Elements of Crimes. With regard to the latter, the Preparatory Commission concentrated on the elements of war crimes. It also held informal consultations with respect to the crime of aggression, and agreed to set up a working group on the subject at its next session (29 November to 17 December).
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
Thank you, Shirley. The guest at today’s noon briefing will be Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, who will be discussing prospects for peace in that country. He briefed the Security Council yesterday.
**UNESCO Board Nominates New Candidate for Director-General
The Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today nominated Koichiro Matsuura of Japan as its candidate for the post of Director-General, to replace Federico Mayor when his term expires next month.
Mr. Matsuura's candidacy will be submitted for approval by UNESCO's General Conference, which will meet on 12 November.
We have a press release upstairs with more information, including biographical details on the Board's candidate.
**Secretary-General Welcomes Vote of Indonesian Assembly on East Timor
The Secretary General welcomed the result of the vote in the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly declaring void the 1978 decree which integrated East Timor into Indonesia.
We made available the text of the statement yesterday evening.
**UNAMET Now Present in Eight Districts, Special Representative Tells Reporters
Ian Martin, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, told reporters in Dili today that we now have 194 international personnel back in East Timor. Two hundred and eighty local staff are currently employed by the Mission. The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) is now present in eight of East Timor’s 13 districts: Dili, Baucau, Liquica, Los Palos, Viqueque, Manatuto, Maliana and Suai. The Mission expects to be back in Ermera very soon.
Martin also said that he has asked the head of the Indonesian Post- Consultation Task Force, Ambassador Taufik Soedarbo, for lists of public servants, lists of public buildings and any other information that could be helpful in the hand over of responsibility for East Timor. You will recall that I told you on Monday, this new task force had arrived in Dili over the weekend to hold a number of meetings to discuss transition questions.
For more details you should see the transcript of Ian Martin's press conference which is available in my office.
**Repatriation Airlifts Continue in East Timor; Some Still Return on Foot
Meanwhile today there were five flights to Dili with 475 East Timorese returning from Kupang. This brings the total so far of returnees coming back in organized flights to 4,446.
UNHCR said the movement of people walking back from West to East Timor continues -- though in smaller numbers today with 750 more people crossing the border. Thirty-one other people -- all male -- crossed at another point.
So far by air, as we’ve said, nearly 4,500 people have been repatriated.
**Special Representative Signs New Regulations in Kosovo
In Kosovo today, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner, signed three new regulations: one on the provision of postal and telecommunications services; a second on payments; and a third repealing discriminatory legislation affecting housing and property rights.
On postal services, the regulation spells out the functions of the Post and Telecommunications Enterprise of Kosovo (PTK) and stipulates that the service will apply non-discriminatory personnel policies to ensure that the composition of its employees reflects the multi-ethnic character of the province.
The regulation on payments gives the United Nations Mission the authority to collect and disburse public funds through the Public Payment Service. The staff of that service will also reflect Kosovo's multi-ethnic character.
Under the third regulation, two laws were repealed which United Nations experts found to be contrary to international human rights standards. One of those governed limits on real estate transactions and the other granted farmland to citizens who wished to work and live in Kosovo.
You can get press releases in my office on these regulations and we also have the texts of the regulations themselves.
**Special Representative Visits Torture Rehab Center, Commends Doctors
Meanwhile, Mr. Kouchner today also visited Kosovo's newly reopened Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims. He commended the doctors there for helping Kosovars overcome the psychological trauma of war.
**Kouchner Appoints Temporary Media Coordinator for Kosovo
Kouchner also appointed Douglas Davidson as Temporary Media Coordinator for Kosovo. Mr. Davidson, who was working as the Director of Media Affairs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), will be in charge of formulating a plan for licensing Kosovo's media.
**UNHCR Initiates Bus Service; Helps Ensure Freedom of Movement in Pristina
A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Pristina that the agency has just started a bus service to ensure that non-Albanians in the Gnjilane area of south-eastern Kosovo can leave their communities and meet with friends, family members and medical practitioners.
Their freedom of movement had been severely restricted since June due to ethnic tensions in the area. For most passengers using the bus service, it was the first time they had left their villages in more than four months.
You can read more in the briefing notes in my office.
**Secretary-General to Brief Security Council
There are no Security Council consultations scheduled for today. And I think, as we mentioned to you yesterday -- or if we didn’t here it is -- we expect the Secretary-General to brief the Council tomorrow on his visits to Bosnia and Kosovo.
**WFP Condemns Continued Violence against Aid Workers in Somalia
The World Food Program (WFP) today condemned the continued violence against aid workers in Somalia. The condemnation comes a day after learning that two of its staff members were shot at —- not shot -- on Tuesday.
No one was hurt in the incident in which two WFP food aid monitors came under fire by unknown gunmen as they were overseeing the distribution of WFP food to Somalis in a place called El Buur.
The latest incident in Somalia comes just four days after a convoy carrying WFP food came under attack by gunmen about 70 miles north of Mogadishu. No WFP staff members were involved in the incident but 10 people were killed and reportedly a dozen wounded in the ensuing battle.
WFP said Somalia is just one of the many high-risk places in which the majority of WFP’s more than 5,000 staff members must work. WFP reports that it has lost more employees than any other United Nations agency -- 51 since 1988 -- in murders or work-related accidents or illness.
**Sierra Leone Begins Symbolic Demobilization
At a ceremony in Sierra Leone, which is scheduled to start just about now -- which is 4 p.m. local time -- the country will symbolically begin its disarmament and demobilization process.
The ceremony will take place at the Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown, with the participation of the former rebels. The Chief Military Officer of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), Brigadier-General Subash Joshi, will be on hand to observe the event.
**ICTY Prosecutor to Visit Balkans
The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, will visit the region next week, her spokesman announced today at The Hague.
Madame Del Ponte will head to Skopje and Pristina early next week. The following week she will travel to Sarajevo and Zagreb.
In Kosovo, she will meet with the Commander of KFOR, General Reinhart, to discuss the continuing close cooperation between KFOR and the Tribunal. She will also meet with the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner, to discuss how the Tribunal can help the United Nations Mission in establishing a local criminal justice system and assisting in the local prosecution of war crimes suspects.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prosecutor will meet with senior government officials and the new Commander of SFOR, General Adams. She will also meet with senior Croatian officials in Zagreb.
You can get more in the briefing notes.
Tajikistan yesterday acceded to the Ottawa landmine ban, which now has 88 parties and 133 signatories.
**International Peace Academy Press Conference
Two press conferences, one this afternoon, the International Peace Academy (IPA), at 3 p.m., will hold a press conference on the subject “Political Gridlock in Haiti: A Track II Experiment”. The Canadian Mission sponsors it. The speakers will be David Malone, the President of IPA, and others.
**Role of Women in Development Focus of Press Conference Tomorrow
And the second press conference is tomorrow. The 1999 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development: Globalization, Gender and Work, that’s the title. Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, along with Angela King, the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, will launch it at 11:30 a.m., in this room. Also participating will be Yakin Ertuk, Director of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women.
We have a media advisory in my office on this Survey.
Any questions before we go to Mr. Brahimi?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Ambassador Lavrov is supposed to be meeting with the Secretary- General at 4:30. Can you tell us who requested the meeting and if Chechnya is going to be discussed?
Answer: I’ll have to look into who asked for that meeting and if it was the Secretary-General, I can tell you more about it; if not, you’ll have to ask Ambassador Lavrov.
Question: I understand that the President of Russia sent a letter to President Clinton in reference to that matter. Is the Secretary-General informed of that?
Answer: Not to my knowledge. I did not hear it come up in any of his meetings in Washington in the last two days, but I will have to check with his office to see if any word of that may have come in by some other channel.
Question: I don’t know if you covered this on Libya -- three lawmakers in Washington insisting that Secretary Albright produce the letter that Secretary-General Annan wrote to Libya offering assurances regarding the rights of the suspects in the trial. What is the status of the letter? Will it be handed over to Washington?
Answer: I don’t know what the status of that letter is. Let me just say, though, that the letter has an annex which summarizes agreements reached with the Libyan Government clarifying certain aspects of the details of the handover that were negotiated by the South African and the Saudi envoys. So there was a need to put on paper precisely what was agreed, and that was primarily for the Americans and the British -— who were shown that letter, and in fact there were consultations with both those Governments -- as far as what was acceptable to them. So the letter was a codification of what everyone agreed; the Libyans, the Americans and the British, which was then sent off as an annex to this letter. So there’s nothing mysterious about it, there’s nothing secret about it, as far as I know, but there is a matter of the confidentiality of our correspondence, and I’ll have to check on the exact status of the letter.
OK. Thank you.
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