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12 March 1996

Press Briefing



Sylvana Foa, Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, began today's noon briefing by informing correspondents that the Secretary-General was currently in Egypt. He had had a 40-minute meeting on arrival with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They talked about the importance of the Summit of Peacemakers, not only because it would help contain and confront terrorism on the regional and international levels but also because of the support and impetus it would give to the Middle East peace process.

"When he arrived in Cairo, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said that the United Nations is ready to take the required measures to erect a framework to fight against international terrorism. He said that the United Nations is a tool which Member countries should put to work. He referred to General Assembly resolution 50/53 and said the United Nations was ready to do whatever it was asked to do to help with the follow-up of the Summit", Ms. Foa said.

Also, in his discussions with President Mubarak, they talked about the mission to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia by Chinmaya Gharekhan, the Secretary-General's Special Political Adviser, she went on. That mission was undertaken under Security Council resolution 1044 (1996), which was written after the attempted assassination of President Mubarak in Addis Ababa. The Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on that mission was expected tomorrow. Resolution 1044 (1996) asked the Secretary-General to report back to the Security Council within 60 days and asked him to consult the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to seek the cooperation of the Government of Sudan in the implementation of the resolution. The resolution also requested the Secretary-General to solicit the Sudanese Government's cooperation with regards to the following two issues: the extradition of the three individuals suspected of attempting to assassinate President Mubarak; and to desist from supporting terrorism and terrorist activities.

The Secretary-General and President Mubarak also discussed the resumption of the talks being held with Iraq under resolution 986 (1995) and he expressed his hopes for the success of those talks.

On the Iraq talks, Ms. Foa said that the full delegations would resume their talks at 3 p.m.

Taking off the United Nations blue beret she was wearing, Ms. Foa said that Indonesia this morning became the thirty-eighth Member State to pay its 1996 regular budget dues in full. It had sent in a check for $1,502,783. "So I take my hat off to Indonesia", she said.

"Unfortunately, the next little slice of peace-keeping dues are due which means that the outstanding contributions are back up again. Last week they were down to $3.1 billion. Right now they are up to $3.2 billion again because countries owe another peace-keeping instalment", she said. The outstanding contributions included $1.3 billion for the regular budget and $1.9 billion for peace-keeping.

She said that tomorrow, Mr. Gharekhan was expected to brief the Security Council on the situation in Somalia. That was in advance of an open Security Council debate planned for 15 March on the humanitarian situation in Somalia. The Council had requested monthly briefings on Somalia. Mr. Gharekhan would be reporting on the activities of the United Nations Political Office headed by Abdul Hamid Kabia, and on the latest developments.

Ms. Foa said that the Secretary-General's report on Prevlaka was out today. The Security Council had on 15 January authorized United Nations military observers to continue monitoring the demilitarization of the Prevlaka peninsula for three months and said that that could be extended for an additional period of three months if it was necessary. In his report, the Secretary-General said the peninsula remained tense but stable. However, it was an area of potential military confrontation between Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). The negotiating process, he said, had accelerated over the past few months and both sides agreed that the presence of international observers contributed to the decrease of tension and to a more positive atmosphere for negotiations. However, the two sides did not agree on which organization should perform that task of observing and monitoring.

"In the absence of further progress on a negotiated resolution of their differences and in the absence of agreement on an alternative organization to monitor the area, the Secretary-General considers that the continued presence of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP) will contribute to the decrease of tension. In other words, he is recommending an extension of their mandate for another three months", Ms. Foa said.

She reminded correspondents that the United Nations had 28 military observers from 27 countries in the Prevlaka peninsula. That number was 28 instead of 27 because Sweden had two observers instead of one, including the chief military observer.

Still on the former Yugoslavia, Ms. Foa said that field reports said robbery, looting and intimidation of Serb civilians by armed individuals and groups continued in Ilidza and Grbavica. There were several dozen cases of arson reported yesterday. In response, both the International Police Task-Force (IPTF) and the Implementation Force (IFOR) increased patrols before the transfer of authority to Federation police in Ilidza today.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 12 March 1996

She said that before departing, the Serb police in Ilidza attempted several times to set fire to their own police station but both IPTF and IFOR got in the way and prevented that from happening. They had secured the building. One IPTF monitor was hospitalised for smoke inhalation after he entered a burning building to assist people trying to get out.

"We have a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that estimates there are only 2,000 ethnic Serbs left in Ilidza", the Spokesman said. That was out of a pre-turnover population of between 15,000 and 20,000. In Grbavica, which would be the last suburb to be transferred to Federation control on 19 March, there were also only about 2,000 Serbs remaining. "Our best estimates at the moment are that out of the total 70,000 ethnic Serbs in these five suburbs, there are now fewer than 5,000 left."

She said that in Hadzici, Vogosca and Novi Grad, a number of Serbs still remained. Crime, however, was slowly decreasing but disputes over property rights were getting more and more frequent. "We now have 565 civilian police monitors deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 360 of them in the Sarajevo area." Another 181 were going through indoctrination in Zagreb.

Turning to announcements, she said that on Thursday, 14 March, at 11 a.m., there would be a press briefing on the United Nations Sytemwide Special Initiative on Africa. The Initiative would be formally launched by the President of the World Bank and heads of other United Nations agencies on Friday, 15 March, in the Economic and Social Council Chamber. The Initiative was probably the most significant mobilization of support ever for the development of a continent's people and was going to cost up to $25 billion which would come from the re- allocation of existing resources both at the national and international level. The World Bank was going to lead in the mobilization of that funding. The Initiative was aimed at improving basic education and health in Africa as well as at peace-building, good governance and water and food security. "It is a really big project that is about to get launched."

Correspondents were also invited to three panel discussions being organized by the Committee on the Status of Women as part of its follow-up on implementing the strategic objectives of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, she went on. There would be three expert panels on poverty; women and the media; and child and dependent care.

The panel discussion on poverty would be at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 March, in Conference room 1, while the one on women and the media would be on Thursday at 3 p.m., also in Conference Room 1. The third, on child care and dependent care, would be on Friday at 3 p.m., also in Conference Room 1. She said that copies of the schedule would be available in the Spokesman's Office.

Ms. Foa said that the Security Council was meeting on Angola. They were particularly talking about the slow pace of quartering.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 12 March 1996

A correspondent said he learnt that every month, the United Nations organized a seminar at the Harrison Convention Center in Long Island where 25 high officials went to improve their skills. He learnt that one such seminar would start tomorrow. During the seminars, he went on, the participants were divided into groups and their first task was to prepare paper planes to improve their working together. He asked for more information on those seminars and said that it was a little expensive to bring people from places like Latin America to come and throw paper planes in Long Island.

Ms. Foa said that most of the training that went on in the United Nations came from extra-budgetary funds. For instance, a government might feel that there needed to be sensitization in the United Nations on a particular issue and, therefore, would fund that particular training. "In fact, just about every training course I have ever heard about has been funded by one government or another which is particularly interested in that subject."

She, however, said that she would check on the seminar in Harrison, Long Island, to find out who was funding it, where the United Nations was getting that money from, and whether or not they were really making paper planes.

A correspondent asked when a consolidated report on what was happening in the suburbs of Sarajevo was expected. Ms. Foa said that she had not seen anything scheduled for a specific report on that topic but "we should have something fairly shortly from the force commander". She would let the correspondent know as soon as that came out.

A correspondent said that the Spokesman's earlier statement that 2,000 ethnic Serbs remained in Ilidza sounded improbable to those who knew the ethnic composition there because those who lived there were mainly Muslims and Hungarians. Those were probably the people that were staying, she said, and asked whether the Spokesman could verify the situation with the UNHCR. Ms. Foa responded that the UNHCR was quite specific because they were doing their best to register people so that they knew who was there and could keep an eye on them. They were quite specific as to the ethnic Serbs, but, "I will ask again".

Referring to a press conference held earlier in the day on Rwanda, a correspondent said that the speakers said that when they approached the United Nations for information while preparing the report, they were not given any information.

Ms. Foa responded, "I know exactly what happened. When we received the first draft of the report, we replied saying, `this is inaccurate, this is inaccurate, this is actually what happened'".

She said that on the question of the 11 January cables from and to the force commander, Major-General Romeo Dallaire, which was the main point of disagreement, the United Nations told them exactly what had been done; that four

Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 12 March 1996

communications had gone to the field that day; that Major-General Dallaire and the Special Representative had been given very specific instructions of what to do.

She said the authors of the report came back, rather rudely, and said, "Prove it." They wanted copies of those cables. For various reasons, it was impossible for the United Nations to give them the cables and that was explained to them. The United Nations gave them the cables almost word for word.

Ms. Foa explained that the problem with giving them the cables, which were called coded cables or classified cables, was that people were named in them, in particular people who had given the United Nations information and who might be in danger. Also, different governments were named. The United Nations did not feel that it was appropriate to hand out those cables. The authors did not seem to take that very well, but did revise parts of their report. One of the things they had said in the initial draft was that Major General Dallaire's cable had been put in a black file and hidden away because it was such a bombshell that the United Nations did not want anybody to know. "They understood when they saw what had been done that this was not the case."

Asked how she would characterize the report in the light of her statement that the authors were rude in not accepting the United Nations good faith offer of information, Ms. Foa referred to the concept of innocence until proven guilty, but noted that "the basic gist of what they were saying to us is `we think that you didn't do a very good job and you have to prove that you did do a good job'".

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Note:The "United Nations Operation in Rwanda (UNOR)" referred to in the fifth paragraph of page 2 of yesterday's briefing notes should read "United Nations Office in Rwanda (UNOR)".

For information media. Not an official record.