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18 March 1996

Press Briefing



Sylvana Foa, Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, began today's noon briefing by saying that the Secretary-General spoke by phone this morning with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. They discussed the status of the talks on Security Council resolution 986 (1995) -- the oil-for-food talks.

She said they noted that negotiations had made progress during the second round, but felt that the discussions should be followed by a third round of talks. The Secretary-General and Mr. Aziz agreed that that third round should begin at Headquarters on 8 April. That date was chosen because the Secretary-General would then be back from his trip to Asia.

"The Secretary-General said that he was very concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi population and he attached great importance to the implementation as soon as possible of resolution 986", Ms. Foa said. The Secretariat still did not know who would be attending the third round of talks or at what level the delegations would be.

Ms. Foa reminded correspondents that this morning's talks were postponed from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. That meant that there would be another session of the second round at that time.

Also this morning, the Secretary-General met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Lasso, the Spokesman said. He then addressed the Commission on Human Rights. It was the first time a Secretary-General had ever addressed that Commission. His speech was available in the Office of the Spokesman.

"Basically, he said that the world's ethnic and civil wars were greater threats to human rights than wars between nations. He also said that the United Nations human rights programmes were being hurt by our budget problems and the fact that some Member countries do not pay their annual dues", she said.

She said that this afternoon the Secretary-General met with the Permanent Representative of France. He then had an appointment with the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) where they discussed the UNCTAD meeting in South Africa which would begin on 27 April.

He also met with the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Yves Berthelot, to discuss the Commission's programme.

Turning to the Secretary-General's trip to Asia, Ms. Foa said the Secretary-General would go to France on Wednesday, and that on Saturday he would leave for China. He would spend several days in China, go on to the Republic of Korea and then to Japan. The Office of the Spokesman would put out a press release today giving as much detail on the trip as possible.

Ms. Foa, who arrived for the noon briefing wearing a United Nations blue beret as she usually does whenever a Member State paid its assessed contribution to the Organization, then asked, "Who could it be"? "I have three to announce today", she went on. "The thirty-ninth, fortieth and forty- first Member States to pay their 1996 regular budget dues are France, $69,694,517; Myanmar, $108,770; and Ethiopia, which, let me tell you, has financial problems of its own, $108,770. So I take my hat off to France, Myanmar and Ethiopia, and thank you very, very much."

"We'll have a new list of all of the honour roll for 1996", she said. She held up the roll and asked, "Could this be true? It must be a typographical error"! That roll showed that France was the only permanent member of the Security Council to have paid its 1996 budget dues in full. She then said that, in terms of what the United Nations owed to countries which had provided it with troops and equipment for peace-keeping operations, France was at the top of the list. "So although France just gave us $69,694,517, we owe it $216 million for peace-keeping. And I want to assure France that the cheque is not in the mail."

A correspondent asked where the French troops provided to the United Nations were located. Ms. Foa responded that France made significant contributions to United Nations peace-keeping efforts all over. The Organization still owed France even from Bosnia. Her Office would put together a list of where French troops were deployed. It was quite a long list.

She said that, although the recent payments were welcome and brought the United Nations' debts down a little bit, the Organization was still owed $3.1 billion by Member States. That amount included $1.2 billion for the regular budget and $1.9 billion for peace-keeping. "Not good. We can take up a collection here before you leave. I see we have some visitors, so this will be a good time."

On Sierra Leone, Ms. Foa said that the Interim National Electoral Commission had announced the results of the second round of presidential elections held on 15 March. (See Press Release SG/SM/5925 issued today.) That election was a follow-up to the elections held on 26 and 27 February. The Secretary-General had noted with satisfaction that the electoral process in Sierra Leone had been completed successfully. He sent his congratulations to President-elect Ahmed Tejan Kabbah on his election. Mr. Tejan Kabbah spent more than 20 years with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); "So he is really one of ours." Mr. Kabbah won nearly 60 per cent of the votes.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 18 March 1996

"The Secretary-General would also like to congratulate the people and the political parties of Sierra Leone for the dignity, maturity and determination with which they exercised their democratic rights in the midst of difficult circumstances. He would like to commend the National Provisional Ruling Council and its Chairman, Brigadier-General Julius Maada Bio, for their commitment to the processes of democratization and peace. The Secretary- General congratulates the staff and Chairman of the Interim National Electoral Commission, James Jonah, for their hard work and perseverance. So a happy ending we hope will be happy for a long time", Ms. Foa said.

"Not so happy is the situation in the former Yugoslavia of which we have some news from the field", she said. In Grbavica, which would be transferred to Federation control tomorrow, there were at least half a dozen houses burning at the moment. On Saturday, 25 fires were set and three cases of rape were reported. The Federation fire brigade was escorted in by the Implementation Force (IFOR) to extinguish some of the fires. However, after some grenades were thrown in the direction of both the IFOR and the International Police Task Force (IPTF) vehicles, the fire brigade stopped coming.

She said that yesterday, IFOR arrested 12 arsonists and handed them over to the Bosnian Serb police who immediately let them go. Most of the Serb police had already left the area. There were now 91 IPTF police monitors deployed to oversee the 100 Federation police who were supposed to come in tomorrow. The IFOR had a huge presence in the area. There was very little food available. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had begun distributing bread under the protection of IFOR and the IPTF. The UNHCR had also established a safe house to accommodate those who would need a place to stay. A lot of the older people were afraid to stay in their buildings out of fear that somebody would come and set the building on fire while they were asleep. Seventeen people spent the night in the safe house yesterday.

She said that in the other former Serb-controlled suburbs, things seemed to be going back to normal. The market was functioning again in Ilidza, the water supply had been turned back on and, for the first time in a very long time, there was regular bus service between Ilidza and Sarajevo.

Ms. Foa said that the United Nations now had 618 IPTF monitors in Bosnia and Herzegovina out of the mandated 1,721, with 390 of them in the Sarajevo region. This week, new recruits were being expected from Nepal, India and Sweden, while next week, the United Nations hoped to get contingents from Fiji, India, Argentina, Nepal and Turkey.

Turning to the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), Ms. Foa said that deployment in Eastern Slavonia was about the same. There were 2,727 troops deployed out of the authorized strength of 5,000. The Pakistani and Jordanian contingents were on their way, and there were 100 United Nations military observers

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 18 March 1996

already deployed. That was the full strength of the observers, but only 131 out of the mandated 600 IPTF monitors were there. She said that the second round of intra-East Timorese talks would be held in Burg Schlaining, Austria, from tomorrow until 22 March. (See Press Release SG/SM/5926 issued today.) The talks were not political talks, but were people-to-people talks, private groups and parties trying to find a solution to the situation in East Timor. There would be a United Nations observer taking part. "We expect about 30 East Timorese from all political walks of life to be attending and seeing if they can hammer out a solution." Asked if the second round of oil-for-food talks with Iraq would end today, Ms. Foa responded, "As we've said here many times, it is not over till the fat lady sings. But I for one, I am keeping my fingers crossed". The delegates would be meeting at 3 p.m., and there would be some news before everyone went to bed. A correspondent noted that the Spokesman had given correspondents the amount owed to France by the United Nations and asked if the debts to other nations would also be released. Ms. Foa said that the whole list had been given out to the high-level open-ended working group. That list was available. Another correspondent asked if a response had been received from the President of the General Assembly with regards to the Secretary-General's letter on the financing of the United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) and the International Civilian Mission to Haiti (MICIVIH). The Spokesman responded that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) was expected to take up the issue of financing for MINUGUA and MICIVIH on Wednesday. "Again, this is another reason for keeping our fingers crossed." On a question regarding how the French troops were differentiated from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops, Ms. Foa noted that NATO's IFOR had replaced the peace-keeping operation. She said that most of the French troops were no longer based in Europe. At one point, the United Nations had French troops in Bosnia, but now those French troops would be under IFOR, not under a United Nations peace-keeping operation. Asked what time the Secretary-General had talked to Mr. Aziz today, Ms. Foa said that it was early this morning Geneva time. The Secretary-General gets up very early. He had his first meeting pretty early, "So I would say probably at the crack of Geneva dawn". On whether the question of Taiwan, province of China, was among the topics for discussion during the Secretary-General's visit to China, Ms. Foa said that there were many issues to be discussed. "But I think the first stop everywhere he is going is going to be the financial crisis we are facing in the United Nations."

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For information media. Not an official record.