8 April 1997

Press Briefing



Juan Carlos Brandt, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General, told correspondents at today's noon briefing that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was preparing for "one of its biggest and most complex" airlift operations of refugees and was presently still working out the logistical problems, which needed to be cleared before the operation reached its full strength.

The priority now was to stabilize the situation in the two makeshift camps of Kasese, with 80,000 refugees, and Biaro, with 30,000. (Both are located south of Kisangani, Zaire.) "The refugees are exhausted after months of forced marches through Zaire", Mr. Brandt said. On Sunday, 180 people died of hunger, exhaustion and disease and another 96 died yesterday, he noted.

The World Food Programme (WFP) had chartered an additional cargo aircraft to deliver relief supplies, he continued. A load of 20 metric tons of corn/soy blend for supplementary feeding programmes was sent today to Kisangani from Entebbe, Uganda, in addition to the twice daily WFP flights from the United Republic of Tanzania. The food distribution was coming close to 1,500 calories a day, according to humanitarian workers; they hoped to be able to raise it to 1,850 calories a day, which was closer to a normal ration.

Two hospitals and five first-aid clinics, as well as several feeding centres, had also been set up in those two sites, Mr. Brandt continued. Yesterday, more than 2,000 refugees had received medical treatment and close to 3,000 had registered at the feeding centres, mostly children and lactating women.

The Security Council had three items today, Mr. Brandt said. The first concerned the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The President of the Council received a letter dated 20 March 1997 from the Secretary-General on the election of judges for that Tribunal. The Council had before it a draft resolution that included the 19 candidates to be nominated by the Council, which would be sent to the General Assembly. A formal meeting of the Council on the matter was expected shortly. Those judges elected by the General Assembly -- from the list submitted by the Security Council -- would take office on 17 November 1997. The judges were elected for a term of four years. Currently, the Tribunal has 11 judges.

The second matter on the Council's agenda concerned the important concepts of peace-keeping and peace-building and how to reconcile the two. "Basically, there seems to be a gray area between those two notions", Mr. Brandt said. "Sometimes the concepts seem to merge, and it needs to be tackled with more precision."

The Council would also be briefed by the Department of Peace-keeping Operations on the upcoming elections in Eastern Slavonia, Mr. Brandt added, under the item `other matters'.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, was expected to open another round of inter-Tajik talks in Tehran tomorrow, 9 April. "This round will be devoted to consideration of two Protocols on political problems and guarantees, as well as some other issues pending from previous rounds of talks." Mr. Brandt told correspondents "the talks are expected to continue for approximately 10 days".

The Associate Spokesman then called attention to another letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, with regard to the scheduled reduction of the military component of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP). In his letter, issued as document S/1997/276, the Secretary-General recommended the Council approve the suspension of the reduction of the UNPREDEP military component until the end of the current mandate, "which expires on 31 May 1997", Mr. Brandt said.

The UNPREDEP began the mandated reduction of its military component at the end of March when it started to dismantle its observation posts along the borders with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and Albania, Mr. Brandt continued. However, the Secretary-General noted that "recent developments in Albania and the resulting situation of lawlessness and banditry in certain parts of that country have demonstrated that stability in the Balkan region remains extremely fragile". The Secretary-General adds that "proceeding with the planned reduction during a period when further regional instability continues to be a possibility could put at risk the credibility of the international community's first serious effort at preventive deployment".

Mr. Brandt said that the monthly summary of troop contributions to peace-keeping operations, as of 31 March 1997, was also available to correspondents. The sum total of contingents participating in peace-keeping operations amounted to 23,861 troops.

Tomorrow, 9 April, the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) would launch three new studies on private finance and the environment, Mr. Brandt said. The papers focus on the themes of private finance, sustainable development and the environment. "`Green' investment opportunities are growing and will reach $500 billion by the year 2000", Mr. Brandt said. Correspondents were invited to attend a press breakfast tomorrow between 8:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., at UNDP's Hank Shannon Room, One UN Plaza, twenty- first floor. Further information could be obtained through Rachel Gogos at UNDP's Office of Development Studies, tel: (212) 906-3689.

The Spokeman's office received the first issue of "Refugees and AIDS", from the Best Practice Collection of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). "According to this document, there are 40 million refugees

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and other displaced persons in the world today, of which about 75 per cent are women and children", Mr. Brandt said. "In the immediate wake of a disaster, AIDS is often overlooked, because there seem to be more important things to do. However, it is just at that time that AIDS threatens most."

Blood transfusions, he continued, are often needed in large numbers and they represent a serious danger for the spread of the HIV virus. Also, prostitution often occurred around refugee camps, and the risk of sexual violence, rape and trafficking, as well as forced or consensual sex with the military greatly increased the risk of infection. Refugees, he added, interact in many ways with the local community and the problems of the refugees became the problems of the host community, and vice-versa. Copies of the UNAIDS document were available in the Spokesman's office.

A press conference was scheduled for tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in room 226, with the Permanent Representative of Australia, Richard Butler, and former Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Admiral Stansfield Turner. The subject would be "Advanced steps to reduce the nuclear threat, promote nuclear disarmament and strengthen the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT)", Mr. Brand announced.

What was the relation between Mr. Butler and the former CIA Director, a correspondent asked. Why was Australia sponsoring such a press conference? Mr. Brandt said that he was certain they had the highest regard for each other. Mr. Butler was sponsoring the press conference and he was bringing Admiral Turner as his guest. "It's no secret that Australia has played a very important role when it comes to nuclear disarmament and, when it comes to the Treaty, during last year's and also this year's discussions".

With regard to the nominees for the International Criminal Tribunal, were the names of the candidates available and when would the General Assembly decide? a correspondent asked. The names were contained in the draft resolution before the Security Council, which had been issued as document S/1997/283, Mr. Brandt said. The Assembly would consider the matter when it received from the Security Council the list of candidates nominated by the Council.

The Associate Spokesman then noted that he had had several questions, outside the briefing, on the proposed General Assembly special session on the occupied territories. The spokeswoman for the President of the Assembly, Samsiah Abdul-Majid, had indicated that so far 43 letters on that matter had been received, 42 of them favourable to the session and one against. He reminded correspondents that a simple majority of Member States was needed for the decision to be taken.

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Had anything in particular prompted the discussion on peace-keeping and peace-building? a correspondent asked. "I believe it was Ambassador Antonio Monteiro of Portugal who suggested it to his colleagues in the Security Council", Mr. Brandt said.

Regarding the boycott of the cafeteria, was it true that Restaurants Associates did not pay rent to the United Nations for use of the cafeteria? a correspondent asked. Mr. Brandt replied that the contract between that company and the United Nations "has not been signed yet" and negotiations were still going on. It was important to distinguish between the contract between the United Nations and Restaurant Associates, and the contract between Restaurant Associates and its employees, which were two totally unrelated matters. "It is a union situation", he said, adding that it would not be prudent to make further comments on the contract itself, including whether they would pay rent or not, as it was a situation that was still evolving. "However, when the contract is signed and the process is completed, I will be glad to answer questions", he said.

When would it be completed? a correspondent asked. "Soon", Mr. Brandt said.

Any comment on the elections in Haiti? a correspondent asked. Mr. Brandt noted that a report received in the morning indicated that the full results of the election would be known in about two weeks time. The turnout had been low; about 10 per cent. The elections had been monitored by the Organization of American States (OAS).

Why had the letters between the Secretary-General and New York Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani not been released to the press when the parking problem had come up? a correspondent asked. Would the Secretary- General make those letters available to the Committee on Relations with the Host Country. "Those letters were totally unrelated to the parking question", Mr. Brandt replied. "The letters had been sent by the Secretary-General at the beginning of his mandate, as is customary. They were warm letters of the leader of an organization based in New York, telling the local and state authorities that he was in place, that in a way he was a New Yorker because of all the years he had lived here, and expressing his willingness and desire to work together." As to why they had not been released, Mr. Brandt said the answer was that "basically I was not told I could release them. These are private letters".

Mr. Boutros-Ghali had released the letter from President Clinton, when told to defend himself, the correspondent continued. "There is no particular reason", Mr. Brandt said. "It was a question of courtesy. If I hear from the Governor and Mayor that I can release them to the press, then I will."

Was there any news from the International Court of Justice at The Hague, on a process against three Bosnian Muslim guards involved in the concentration camp at Celebici? a correspondent asked. There had been no updated report on that matter from The Hague, Mr. Brandt said.

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For information media. Not an official record.