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25 March 1996

Press Briefing



Ahmad Fawzi, Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali, began today's noon briefing by saying that the Secretary-General had arrived in Beijing yesterday. On his arrival at the airport, the Secretary- General said the purpose of his five-day visit was to strengthen relations between the United Nations and China. He also would be discussing China's role in global affairs and in the United Nations, in particular with President Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng, and Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. He would be seeking China's views on new ways the United Nations could work to reinforce international peace and security, promote development and best solve its severe financial crisis.

Today, the Secretary-General had met with Foreign Minister Qian and conducted an extensive review of global issues ranging from the conflict in Afghanistan to the looming financial crisis which threatened the very existence of the United Nations, Mr. Fawzi said. During the two-hour meeting, they also discussed Taiwan. Mr. Qian said China was committed to the reunification of China through peaceful means and to the "one country, two systems" formula. China's resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao should serve as a model. He also said that rather than opposing the development of democracy in Taiwan, China objected to external interference and to those who advocated independence and separation. For his part, the Secretary-General reiterated that the United Nations position was clearly spelled out in General Assembly resolution 2758 (XXVI).

The Secretary-General briefed the Foreign Minister on the state of United Nations talks with the Iraqi Government on the "oil-for-food" formula outlined by Security Council resolution 986 (1995), the Deputy Spokesman continued. Mr. Qian expressed his support for those negotiations and for the implementation of that resolution so that the suffering of the Iraqi people could be alleviated. He encouraged the Secretary-General to find solutions to any remaining sticking points in the discussions.

Mr. Fawzi said the two men also discussed the status of the comprehensive test ban on nuclear weapons. The Secretary-General said he hoped the treaty could be signed before September 1996. Mr. Qian said China had made a commitment not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. The Secretary-General underlined the need to increase global awareness of the United Nations financial crisis. He said Member States owed the United Nations $3 billion, and the United Nations owed troop-contributing countries just under $1 billion for peace-keeping.

The Secretary-General's meetings with the President and the Prime Minister would take place in the afternoon tomorrow, 26 March, Mr. Fawzi continued. On Wednesday, the Secretary-General would be attending a roundtable organized by the China United Nations Association. He would deliver the keynote speech there: "The United Nations in the Post-Cold-War Era". He would also be meeting with United Nations representatives in China. On Thursday, he would leave for Seoul.

The Deputy Spokesman said his office had released a statement (Press Release SG/SM/5937 issued 22 March) late in the day on Friday, 22 March, regarding the Secretary-General's concern about the Government of Papua New Guinea's decision to lift the cease-fire on Bougainville. The Secretary- General expressed his regret for the loss of life resulting from the escalation of hostilities there. He called on all parties to the conflict to exercise maximum restraint and to return to the negotiating table so as to find a lasting and peaceful settlement. The Secretary-General remained ready to assist in facilitating a resumption of the peace process.

He said that, also on Friday, an important report had been released (S/1996/210). Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1035 (1995) which established the International Police Task Force (IPTF), the Secretary-General was reporting on the United Nations mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and specifically on the IPTF. In the report, the Secretary-General referred to the work of his Special Representative and Coordinator of the United Nations operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Syed Iqbal Riza, and also his cooperation with Peter Fitzgerald as IPTF Commissioner. The Secretary-General noted that only 400 police officers, including officers redeployed from the United Nations Peace Forces in the former Yugoslavia (UNPF), had been deployed during January and February, because only a few countries had been in a position to respond quickly to his request for officers. Only two thirds of the monitors provided were deployed in Sarajevo to supervise the transfer of police authority to the Federation. It was important to recognize that deployment of police officers to United Nations missions depended on how swiftly Member States could release them from duty in their home countries.

Further, the report said, as of 15 March, 67 monitors had been repatriated: 50 for not meeting the language criteria; 17 for not passing the driving tests. As mentioned several weeks ago by the Spokesman's Office, to cope with that problem the Department of Peace-keeping Operations had dispatched a police selection assistance team to a group of countries to conduct in-country tests prior to the departure of the contingents. That, inevitably, had involved additional and avoidable expenditures. The Secretary-General, therefore, appealed to contributing governments to ensure that properly qualified personnel were provided for United Nations operations.

In concluding the report, the Secretary-General stressed that Annex II of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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(negotiated in Dayton, Ohio) had envisaged the IPTF as an unarmed monitoring and advisory force. It was on that basis that the Security Council had authorized its deployment and that contributing governments had provided personnel. It was not feasible, he said, to assign to that unarmed force the task of enforcing law and order in a country awash with weapons, particularly when the force had no legal authority to undertake such enforcement. "We have learned bitter lessons from past experience", Mr. Fawzi said.

Mr. Fawzi added that, as of today, the IPTF had 723 civilian police deployed, 412 of them in the Sarajevo region, 149 in Tuzla, and 162 in Banja Luka. A copy of the figures was available in the Spokesman's Office.

The Secretary-General had received a letter from the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Javier Solana, dated Friday, 22 March. It informed the Secretary-General that on day D+90 -- which was on Tuesday, 19 March, 90 days after the General Framework Agreement went into effect -- another deadline in the implementation of Annex IA of the peace agreement had been passed. In general, Mr. Solana said, he was satisfied with the cooperation and compliance of the parties in implementing the agreement's military aspects.

There were, however, some serious concerns, such as the continued presence of foreign forces and the continued detention of prisoners of war, in violation of the agreement, the letter continued. No doubt there would be further challenges to meet as the next major deadline, D+120, approached. The main requirement for D+120 was to withdraw all heavy weapons and forces to designated areas and to demobilize those weapons and forces that could not be accommodated in those areas. The Secretary-General had transmitted the letter to the Security Council.

Regarding the Security Council, Mr. Fawzi said there were no consultations scheduled for today, but that the Council's "sanctions committee" established by resolution 724 (1991) concerning Yugoslavia would meet in closed session at 4 p.m.

Mr. Fawzi said another Member State had met its treaty obligations in full, bringing the total number of such Member States to 42. Morocco had paid to the regular budget its full payment for the current year: $319,678. An updated list of the countries that had paid their entire assessments was available in the Spokesman's Office. "If Sylvana were here, she would be taking her hat off", he said, referring to Spokesman for the Secretary-General Sylvana Foa and her noon-briefing tradition of tipping a blue beret to Member States when they paid their full assessments. "I'm sure that I speak on her behalf, too, when I say that we're all very pleased."

As a result of a few recent, partial payments to the peace-keeping budget, the United Nations' total outstanding debt had been reduced to

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$3 billion -- $1.2 billion for the regular budget and $1.8 billion for peace- keeping. Among the larger partial payments -- Japan had paid $21,159,101, and the United States $29,250,000.

Three statements had been made available this morning in the Spokesman's Office, he said. The Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, released a statement from him saying that the Office could not yet give the go-ahead for the Donors Conference scheduled for 12 to 13 April. The statement said, in part, "What is required is not partial and conditional compliance with the Peace Agreement, but total and unconditional compliance ... Eager as we are to fund reintegration and reconciliation, we are unwilling to fund reluctance or refusal to implement the Peace Agreement". The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had announced that on Friday, 29 March, it would be considering an application on behalf of Colonel Aleska Krsmanovic requesting a clarification of the Colonel's status before the Tribunal.

In addition, Mr. Fawzi said, a World Food Programme (WFP) release stated that today it had begun airlifting emergency food to 22,000 desperate women, children and old people trapped by fighting in camps in western Liberia. Almost 100,000 refugees and displaced people had been trapped without food in Cape Mount County, on Liberia's border with Sierra Leone, since fierce fighting closed the highway to the area in mid-December 1995. WFP officials in Monrovia said they were getting reports that five people a day were dying of malnutrition in the County. The WFP had provided food aid to about 1.5 million people in Liberia since civil war broke out there in 1990.

Regarding a question on Chernobyl asked last week by a correspondent, the Deputy Spokesman said he could confirm that a letter had been sent to the Secretary-General by the Permanent Representatives of Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine in connection with the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. That anniversary would be 26 April. A special commemorative programme was being planned to be held at Headquarters on that day. The Department of Humanitarian Affairs was the lead department. Other agencies involved included the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Mr. Fawzi said the letter invited the Secretary-General to use the commemorative programme to appeal to Member States and other parties concerned to provide support to the ongoing efforts being made by Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine to cope with the consequences of Chernobyl, and to continue to intensify that assistance. In the view of those three countries, the international community's serious attention should be drawn to the matter, and more energetic measures should be taken to rally international opinion around efforts to minimize the effects of the disaster and to extend assistance to the most affected countries. Upon request, the Spokesman's Office would provide a summary of the letter.

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The Deputy Spokesman clarified a statement he made last week in response to a question about the appearance of Rolf Ekeus, Executive Chairman of the Special Commission to investigate Iraq's biological, chemical and missile capabilities, as a guest of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. Mr. Fawzi said he had been informed that there was a standing ruling by the Legal Department that United Nations staff members could not testify to any Member State's legislature. However, the Secretary-General sometimes allowed United Nations officials, such as Mr. Ekeus or Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management Joseph Connor, to provide information to Congress on an informal basis.

A correspondent asked if any new checks had come in from United States citizens wishing to pay their share of the United States debt to the United Nations. "Yes", Mr. Fawzi said, "the checks ain't stopping, they're flowing in. And we're very pleased with the momentum with which they've been flowing in." Over $6,000 had been received from United States citizens to date.

Asked if there were an update on who would be representing Iraq at the next round of talks on the "oil-for-food formula", he said there was no news. It was expected that the talks would resume on 8 April, either at the political or the technical level. The Secretary-General believed that great progress had been achieved during the previous two rounds of talks, and he looked forward to the upcoming talks and to concluding an agreement on the implementation of Security Council resolution 986 (1995), which would help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.

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For information media. Not an official record.