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26 March 1996

Press Briefing



Ahmad Fawzi, Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali, began today's noon briefing by asking if the correspondents had noticed all the United Nations staff members who were giving blood in the first floor corridor on the way to the cafeteria. "Isn't that a wonderful sight", he said. "It's a very good example to those sceptics out there. It shows once again that the United Nations is useful to the city of New York in a very big way. We international civil servants are donating our blood to the city's hospitals."

On the third day of his five-day mission to China, the Secretary-General held meetings with President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng, Mr. Fawzi said. The discussions had covered a wide range of topics, from the bane of land- mines to the heavy debt burden carried by Africa. They also touched on Taiwan and the status of talks on East Timor. The Secretary-General and President Jiang exchanged ideas on themes proposed for a conference commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). They also discussed the gravity of the United Nations financial crisis. (Details of the Secretary-General's mission in China are available in Press Release SG/T/2037 issued today.)

"If Sylvana were here she would have taken her hat off", Mr. Fawzi 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. Greece had fulfilled its treaty obligations, paying its 1996 regular budget assessment of $4,133,268. It was the forty-third Member State to pay in full. A new, revised edition of the Honour Roll of those countries who had paid was available in the Spokesman's Office.

On the question of money, he said the Secretary-General was still receiving checks from United States citizens wishing to pay their share (calculated at $4.40 per person) of their country's debt to the United Nations. He wanted to share one, "short and sweet" letter with the correspondents. "All it says is, 'One person, three dogs, $17.60, U.N. dues. Thanks.'"

The folder containing such letters was getting thicker and thicker, Mr. Fawzi said. The Spokesman's Office was putting together some statistics on them, which it would release by tomorrow. For example, in September the Secretary-General had received two such letters; in October, 3; in November, 5; in December, 55; in January, 93; in February, 203; and in March, as of the 22nd, the Secretary-General had received 281 letters. "It's snowballing, and we hope it doesn't stop. To date we've received 642 letters, representing 1,363 individuals. They haven't told me how many dogs are also represented,

but I'm sure there are quite a few per family." He said the Spokesman's Office was also trying to break the letters down by state of origin, to get an idea of which of the United States were most excited by and supportive of the United Nations.

Regarding the Security Council, Mr. Fawzi said there had been no Council meeting of the whole yesterday. There had been a closed meeting of the "sanctions committee" established by resolution 724 (1991) concerning Yugoslavia. There would be another such meeting today at 3 p.m. to review border operations. Although the sanctions had been suspended by the General Framework Agreement for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina negotiated in Dayton, Ohio, they had not been lifted. A skeleton sanctions presence remained on the border between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and Bosnia and Herzegovina and two gentlemen from the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) would be briefing the Council on that operation.

At 3:30 p.m., he said, the Council as a whole would be meeting to continue its discussions of the import-export mechanism for Iraq and Kuwait. It would also be discussing the International Police Task Force (IPTF) and the general situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in light of the Secretary- General's report (document S/1996/210), which was issued yesterday.

Today's Journal of the United Nations also announced the meeting of the Preparatory Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, the Deputy Spokesman noted. That Committee began its three-week session yesterday, 25 March. There was a press release (L/2761, issued 25 March, reviewing the work programme of the Committee, which was charged with preparing a widely acceptable, consolidated text of a convention establishing an international criminal court. Several steps would have to be taken before such a tribunal could be established. For example, its formation would have to be considered by a conference of plenipotentiaries. The good news was that the work was being undertaken and that such a court was being seriously discussed.

Turning to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Fawzi said that following the Contact Group meeting in Moscow on Saturday, 23 March, in which elections and the release of all prisoners were the topics, 109 out of 129 Bosnian Serb prisoners were released from the Tuzla prison Saturday night. The Bosnian Croat authorities in Mostar had released 10 Bosnian Serb prisoners. Yesterday, the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, had released a statement from him saying that partial, conditional compliance with the Peace Agreement was insufficient. At present, the Bosnian Serbs were still holding 28 prisoners; the Bosnian Government was holding 28 prisoners; and the Bosnian Croats were holding 40 prisoners.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 26 March 1996

Mr. Fawzi said the situation remained tense in the Sarajevo suburb of Dobrinja, where the Inter-Entity Boundary Line cuts through apartment buildings housing Serbs, Muslims and Croats. A car had been blown up, hand grenades had been thrown into the Federation side of the zone of separation, and there had been several shouting matches among residents. At its meeting last week, the Inter-Entity Boundary Line Commission had failed to resolve the matter. It would meet again on 30 March. There was also tension in the five villages in the Sapna area which have been transferred to the Bosnian Serb side. The local Bosniac residents were threatening to take action against Bosnian Serb policemen if they entered the area to take control.

As of today, he said, the IPTF had 767 civilian police from 26 countries deployed, 411 of them in the Sarajevo region, 181 around Tuzla and 175 around Banja Luka. An additional 251 were undergoing training in Zagreb. By the end of the week, the IPTF was expected to have deployed just a little more than 50 per cent of its authorized strength of 1,721 officers. If countries provided fully qualified officers, it was expected that full deployment would be achieved by the second half of April.

Mr. Fawzi said that tomorrow the fact-finding mission would depart for Nigeria to review the trial and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight co- defendants and to address the plans of the Government of Nigeria to implement its declared commitment to restore the country to democratic rule. The mission members were being briefed at the Secretariat yesterday and today and would arrive in Lagos on Thursday, 28 March.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights was holding a special meeting in Geneva to examine in depth the human rights situation in Burundi and take immediate action. A note to correspondents (Note 96/18) about that meeting was available in the Spokesman's Office. The meeting was scheduled to last from 5 to 10 p.m. Geneva time. It was expected to adopt a draft resolution, which had been submitted by the representative of Gabon. Among other things, the draft resolution, which would be the first adopted by the Commission at its current session, would ask for the strengthening of the United Nations human rights activities in Burundi.

The report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Tajikistan (document S/1996/212) was now available, the Deputy Spokesman said. When the Secretary-General was in Geneva he had been briefed by his Special Adviser, Ismat Kittani, who had recently returned from visiting Tajikistan, as well as Georgia and Iran. In the report, the Secretary-General observes that very little progress had been achieved since the beginning of the continuous inter- Tajik negotiations taking place in Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan, under United Nations auspices, since 30 November 1995. Those talks had raised hopes for substantive progress, but the Secretary-General remained deeply concerned about the continued serious violation of the cease-fire by both sides in the talks, and by the grave difficulties that the United Nations had encountered recently regarding the extension of the Agreement on a Temporary Cease-fire,

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 26 March 1996

signed at Teheran on 17 September 1994. He appeals to the Tajik parties to comply strictly with the obligations assumed under the cease-fire agreement.

At the conclusion of the report, the Secretary-General also informs the Security Council that his Special Envoy to Tajikistan, Ramiro Piriz-Ballon, has assumed an important post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay and therefore can not continue to perform the functions of Special Envoy. The Secretary-General expresses his deep appreciation to Mr. Piriz-Ballon for his work, and he says he will shortly inform the Council of the arrangements to replace Mr. Piriz-Ballon.

World Chronicle Television today would feature Denis J. Halliday, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources, Mr. Fawzi said. The programme was being shown on in-house channels 6, 23 or 38 at 2:30 p.m.

During the course of the briefing, several photographers had been taking the Deputy Spokesman's picture, and a correspondent asked why. "That's a good question. Why don't you ask the photographers?" Mr. Fawzi said. (The photographers were taking pictures as part of an exam.)

Asked why the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was meeting today regarding the International Civilian Mission to Haiti (MICIVIH), the Deputy Spokesman said it was to discuss sources and resources for the financing of the Mission. In Port-au-Prince yesterday, the spokesman for the Mission had said that the Mission remained important for the people of Haiti, and it was hoped that through its discussions the Fifth Committee would come up with ways to continue to finance the operation.

Why had Haitian President Rene Garcia Preval visited Washington, Ottawa and Montreal and skipped the United Nations? a correspondent asked. "Why don't you ask President Preval?" Mr. Fawzi said. "He's welcome at the United Nations at any time, I assure you. But it probably just wasn't on his agenda for this trip."

What was going to happen to Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti? a correspondent asked. "Mr. Brahimi is just taking a well-deserved holiday", the Deputy Spokesman said. "He just wanted to get some rest after a very long mission and after a series of complicated missions which he performed with remarkable success." (The new Special Representative of Haiti is Enrique ter Horst, who was formerly the Special Representative for El Salvador. United Nations operations in El Salvador are now being led by Ricardo Vigil, Director of the Mission of the United Nations in El Salvador (MINUSAL)).

Asked if there were an update on the food situation in either Liberia or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mr. Fawzi said no. A question had been asked last week as to where the World Food Programme (WFP)'s third rice

Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 26 March 1996

ship for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea would be coming from. The answer was Bangkok, he said.

The parties to the General Framework Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina had agreed to release all prisoners by 19 January, but they had yet to fully do so, a correspondent noted. What leverage did the international community and the Security Council have to enforce that commitment? he asked. The Deputy Spokesman said that, as Mr. Bildt had announced yesterday, it was up to the parties to comply with the Agreement, and he did not feel that the situation yet allowed him to call for the Donors Conference scheduled for 12 to 13 April until all sides complied with the terms of the Dayton Agreement in full and unconditionally. As for the international community's leverage, Mr. Fawzi said he thought that Mr. Bildt's announcement was one form of leverage, "though it's a shame that to secure the implementation of an agreement that was for the benefit of the people of the region we might have to postpone a donors' meeting, which would bring those people much needed resources to reconstruct their damaged infrastructure".

A correspondent asked for how long the Donors Conference would be postponed? "It hasn't been postponed officially yet", the Deputy Spokesman said. "What Mr. Bildt is saying is that he cannot officially announce that the meeting is confirmed for 12 April until there is compliance by all sides."

Asked when Mr. Bildt might be coming to the Secretariat in New York, the Deputy Spokesman said he had no date for any such visit, "but he's welcome at any time." [It was subsequently learned that Mr. Bildt would be at United Nations Headquarters on 3 April.]

A correspondent asked for the key points of the report on Tajikistan. Mr. Fawzi reiterated that they included the Secretary-General's concern about the lack of progress achieved since the beginning of the continuous inter- Tajik negotiations, the continued serious violation of the cease-fire by both sides in the talks and the grave difficulties that the United Nations has encountered regarding the extension of the Agreement on a Temporary Cease- fire. The report also mentions recent statements of President Emomali Rakhmonov and Abdullo Nuri, leader of the United Tajik Opposition, on their readiness to continue their direct dialogue and to resume the inter-Tajik negotiations in the near future. The Secretary-General says he welcomes those intentions and hopes that contacts between the two parties at the highest level will give the necessary impetus to the negotiating process. He expects the Government to investigate fully the abduction of Zafar Rakhmonov and to provide all the security guarantees necessary for the safe and effective functioning of the Joint Commission.

Asked to elaborate on what the Secretary-General and Chinese leaders said about Taiwan, the Deputy Spokesman said he could not, because he did not have the details. He was sure the two sides had reiterated their positions.

Daily Press Briefing - 6 - 26 March 1996

Referring to the Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, a correspondent asked if such a court had ever been established outside the sponsorship of an individual government able to raise taxes and make, judge and enforce law? Mr. Fawzi said that question would require some research. The court under discussion would be set up by the 185 Member States of the United Nations.

Asked the Secretary-General's views on the death penalty, the Deputy Spokesman said he did not know what they were, but he would ask.

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For information media. Not an official record.