28 March 1996

Press Briefing



Ahmad Fawzi, Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, told correspondents at today's noon briefing that the Secretary-General had arrived today in Seoul. Earlier, he was seen off from Beijing's Capital airport by Vice-Foreign Minister Li Zhao-Xing after a five-day visit to China during which he conferred with President Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng and Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. The Secretary-General was greeted in Seoul by Acting Foreign Minister Lee Ki Choo; the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, Park Soo Gil; and the Director-General of the United Nations Systems Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lee Yang.

Shortly after his arrival, the Secretary-General addressed some 200 United Nations-watchers at a dinner hosted by the President of the United Nations Association of the Republic of Korea in association with the Federation of Korean Industries, Mr. Fawzi said. Citing the Republic of Korea as a success story and a "summa cum laude graduate of the school of development", the Secretary-General said the country had ceased to be a recipient of donor assistance and was now a donor itself. "In the course of four decades, the Republic of Korea has moved from the devastation of war to the prosperity of a thriving economy, within a democratic framework of government", the Secretary-General added. Copies of the speech were available in the Spokesman's office Mr. Fawzi said. (See Press Release SG/SM/5939 issued today.)

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General would meet with President Kim Young Sam followed by lunch and later in the day, he would meet and dine with the Foreign Minister, Mr. Fawzi continued. During his visit, the Secretary-General would receive an honoury doctorate degree from Korea University.

The Security Council had consultations this morning on Tajikistan. It was also considering and might adopt a presidential statement on its relationship with troop contributors, Mr. Fawzi said. The Secretary-General's Special Political Adviser, Under-Secretary-General Chinmaya Gharekhan, was expected to brief the Council on Burundi.

Turning to other matters, Mr. Fawzi said the fact-finding mission on Nigeria was expected to arrive in that country today. A new round of talks between the Guatemalan Government and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) under the auspices of the United Nations began in Mexico City yesterday. The United Nations moderator, Jean Arnault, was participating in the talks which would focus on socio-economic issues. Both parties had said recently they hoped to sign a peace accord very soon. The talks followed the much- welcomed declaration last week of an open-ended cease-fire by the URNG, which was immediately matched by the Government's announcement that it was ending counter- insurgency operations.

Mr. Fawzi then referred to a question asked at yesterday's briefing regarding a Fifth Committee decision on Tuesday on the financing of the United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) and International Civilian Mission to Haiti (MICIVIH). Contrary to the correspondent's statement that no decision had been reached, the Committee had in fact asked the Secretary-General to continue financing both Missions from the regular budget and then to report back at the end of May, Mr. Fawzi said.

The Secretary-General had sent a letter to the President of the General Assembly (document A/50/891) taking note of its decision asking him to try and find alternative sources of funding for a number of missions, Mr. Fawzi continued. In his letter, the Secretary-General said that he had made clear in his reports to the Assembly recommending the extension of the mandates of a number of missions, that the Assembly's decision to reduce the level of the programme budget by $104 million made it impossible for him to absorb additional expenditures without affecting existing programmes and activities. Mr. Fawzi said that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had asked the Secretary-General to continue to consider ways of absorbing the Missions' costs into existing sources of funding. In the meantime, it had authorized him to extend the mandates by two months.

The United Nations was still confronted by the problem of existing resources that "do not exist" Mr. Fawzi said. It was being asked to draw upon them to fund not only MICIVIH and MINUGUA, but other politically orientated operations such the ones in Rwanda and Afghanistan and others listed in the Secretary-General's letter. A correspondent asked if the Fifth Committee had actually approved a resolution authorizing the financing of MICIVIH and MINUGUA and Mr. Fawzi replied he would check on the type of action taken.

Mr. Fawzi then put on a United Nations blue beret to announce the forty- fourth country to make a payment to the United Nations regular budget. He said he wanted to pay tribute to the Russian Federation, which today paid in full its assessment of $46,142,747. It was the second permanent Member of the Security Council after France to meet its treaty obligations, Mr. Fawzi said, despite the enormous economic problems the country faced. An updated honour role of countries which had paid their contributions was available in the Spokesman's office, he added.

He then turned to the subject of land-mines and referred to an Op-Ed article in today's New York Times by Bernard Trainor titled: "Land Mines Saved My Life", which encapsulated the paradox of the land-mine clearing problem, he said. The fact was that land-mines killed thousands of people every year in countries where there was no longer any conflict, he continued. In Afghanistan recently, a land-mine had killed one person and injured 25 others working with a United Nations-funded demining programme. The programmes, which were created by the United Nations, were now largely self-operating, he added.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 28 March 1996

The Secretary-General had taken the lead in urging the international community to abolish the manufacturing of mines, Mr. Fawzi said. Yesterday, in his speech in Beijing, he referred to the problem of "micro-disarmament" and noted that United Nations staff members were increasingly involved in demining programmes throughout the world. According to a Department of Humanitarian Affairs data base on land-mines, the top 10 countries affected by land mines were Egypt, Iran, Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Iraq, Viet Nam, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. For example, there were 3,500,000 mines in Viet Nam, 10 million in China and 9,900 in Denmark. That Department's charts and maps, detailing the number of mines in each country, were available in the Spokesman's office.

Mr. Fawzi said that Secretary-General had called attention to the "global land-mine crisis" in an article in the September/October 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs which made the problem crystal clear. "While it began as a military problem it was now an ongoing humanitarian disaster", the Secretary-General wrote. The proliferation of mines had created a triple crisis. Individuals were the victims of inhumane weapons, developing countries were unable to go forward with economic and social programmes, and families, localities and nations were compelled to bear an increasingly heavy medical and social burden, he stated.

Mr. Fawzi said he had raised the issue of land-mines because the Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons "which may be deemed excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects" would meet 22 April to 3 May in Geneva. The meeting would focus on the problem of land-mines.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia would begin hearing evidence in the case of Bosnian Serb lvica Rajic, on 2 April. A press release from the Hague was now available, Mr. Fawzi said.

Referring to a question asked at yesterday's briefing, Mr. Fawzi said the United Nations had not received a request for help from the United Kingdom on the outbreak of "mad cow disease" in that country. However, the World Health Organization had called a meeting of experts at its headquarters in Geneva on 2 and 3 April on the disease which was known officially as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The meeting would identify the technical and scientific measures which must be addressed in developing "best practices" to protect the consumer. The WHO had recommended that if a similar disease was identified in any other countries, the national health authorities must be immediately notified.

A correspondent asked how much the Russian Federation owed to the United Nations and Mr. Fawzi said today's payment to the regular budget would bring down their debt by almost $50 million. When he last checked, the Russian Federation had owed approximately half a billion dollars to the peace-keeping budget and he would get back to the correspondent with the latest figure.

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For information media. Not an official record.