9 April 1997

Press Briefing



Juan Carlos Brandt, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General, began today's briefing by telling correspondents that dependence on technology had its limits. "Today two fax machines in the office broke down, so I was not able to get a full version of events from Spokesman Fred Eckhard in Geneva on time", he said, warning correspondents that his information might sound somewhat disjointed for that reason.

In response to a query raised yesterday, Mr. Brandt said that the trial of four individuals at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague, three Muslims and one Croat involved in the Celebici camp case, was in recess this week, but would resume next Monday. That trial, he reminded correspondents, had begun on 10 March, and so far 10 witnesses for the prosecution had testified and had then been cross-examined by the defence. Among the witnesses were two women who had been raped. One of them had not yet completed her testimony, but would do so when the trial resumed next week.

Turning to other trials, Mr. Brandt said that a verdict in the Tadic case was expected later this month. Also, the date for the trial of General Blaskic had not yet been set, but it was expected to begin before the summer. The Tribunal's press office was now preparing trial summaries for the first three weeks. Mr. Brandt urged interested correspondents to get in touch with Christian Chartier at The Hague for further information, tel: 31 70 416-5355.

The Associate Spokesman then reminded correspondents of the statement issued yesterday afternoon from the Secretary-General on the outcome of the talks in South Africa between the two Zairian parties:

"I welcome the news out of South Africa today that the first direct talks on the future of Zaire established a positive working relationship between the parties, as well as the outline of a transition process to a peaceful and democratic Zaire.

"The next step is to agree on a cease-fire. I urge the forces of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo/Zaire (ADFL) and those of the Government of Zaire to firm up their stated commitment to a total cessation of hostilities; and I urge the nations of the region to support this effort.

"I am encouraged that the parties reaffirmed their support for the United Nations/Organization of African Unity (OAU) peace plan and committed themselves to transparent, fair and inclusive elections to bring about democratic change in Zaire.

"I hope that the political family of Zaire will now work together to build a peaceful future. If they do so, the world will applaud their courage and the entire region would benefit."

A Rwandan delegation was scheduled to arrive today in Kigali and visit a refugee site. Mr. Brandt said. It was expected that the Rwandans would formally agree to the repatriation plan in Kisangani and work out details for its implementation. In the refugee camps of Kasese and Biaro, the health situation described yesterday continued to improve, although very slowly; preliminary figures indicated that the mortality rate seemed to be going down. The number of deaths per day was now under 70, as of yesterday. "It's still very high, but less than a few days ago" and it was hoped that the continuing efforts of the international agencies would soon bring it down to zero, he added.

In Kinshasa, Mr. Brandt said that due to the deterioration of the security situation in Kinshasa, the United Nations had decided to reduce the size of its presence in the city by relocating "less essential" staff members within the next 24 to 48 hours. Other donor agencies within the humanitarian community apparently were also considering an evacuation from the Zairian capital.

Turning to the Security Council, Mr. Brandt said it was set to hold a formal meeting to take action on a draft resolution that would suspend the reduction of the military component of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP), as recommended by the Secretary-General. This morning, the Council was being briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall on the situation in Zaire, including the talks in South Africa. The Council was also due to hear separate briefings by Secretariat officials on Burundi and Rwanda. Under the item "other matters", the Council would discuss the flight by an Iraqi plane to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which constituted a violation of the sanctions regime.

Tomorrow, the Security Council planned to hold a formal, open meeting on the question of the Great Lakes region of Africa, Mr. Brandt said. Council members would hear the views of representatives of international agencies and Members States. Time permitting, two officials from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) briefing the Council -- Soren Jessen-Petersen, head of the UNHCR New York office, and Augustine Mahiga, UNHCR coordinator for the Great Lakes -- would come to tomorrow's noon briefing to speak with correspondents. Otherwise, the Associate Spokesman said he would ask them to go to the stake-out position outside the Security Council to respond to correspondents' queries.

Saudi Arabia had become the fiftieth Member State to pay its regular budget assessment in full to the United Nations with its contribution of $8,788,800, Mr. Brandt said. At the same time last year, he noted, 51 Member States had paid their dues, "so we are a bit behind now". The United Nations

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 9 April 1997

was still owed $2.7 billion, of which under $1 billion corresponded to the regular budget and over $1.7 billion to peace-keeping. Last year, at the same date, the outstanding contributions level to the United Nations was $2.9 billion, of which $1.2 billion corresponded to the regular budget and $1.7 billion to peace-keeping.

The United States, he added, had made a partial payment today of over $24 million to the peace-keeping budget, a "big chunk" out of a total debt to peace-keeping operations that amounted to more than $1 billion.

Turning to Angola, Mr. Brandt informed corespondents that the Angolan Parliament had approved yesterday legislation granting the head of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Jonas Savimbi, official status as the President of the largest opposition party. The vote had been 120 in favour, none against and 6 abstentions. At the occasion, the President of the National Assembly had reminded deputies that UNITA deputies would be sworn in today. Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos also sent Mr. Savimbi an invitation to participate in the inaugural ceremony of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation next Friday, 11 April.

Mr. Brandt said the Secretary-General was "very, very pleased with these developments. He looks forward to the formation of the Government". He added, "not to sound our own trumpet, but in no small measure, this happened thanks to the very timely intervention of the Secretary-General when he went there. I'm not saying it only happened because of his visit, but it did make a very big difference". The international community "should be proud of having a Secretary-General who, in spite of suggestions to the contrary, went there and did what he had to do".

Turning to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Mr. Brandt said the joint trial of Obed Ruzindana and Clement Kayishema was scheduled to begin this morning in Arusha. That trial was the third since the establishment of the Rwanda Tribunal; charges included conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed against the population in the prefecture of Kibuye. The other ongoing trials included those for Jean-Paul Akayesu and Georges Rutaganda, which began earlier this year. Up to now, 21 individuals had been indicted by the Tribunal; of those, 13 were currently in the Tribunal's custody.

The Secretary-General had a very full programme today in Geneva, Mr. Brandt said. He began his day with a meeting with the Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky, during which they discussed United Nations reform. He also met with the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands, Eveline Herfkens, who is currently occupying the Presidency of the European Union. She indicated during that meeting that the diplomatic community in Geneva wished to be more involved in the process of United Nations reform.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 9 April 1997

The Secretary-General also met with the Permanent Observer for Switzerland to the United Nations, Walter Gyger. Mr. Brandt said. There was a discussion of the possibility of using the building known as the Palais Wilson in Geneva as a United Nations Centre for Human Rights. The Secretary-General indicated his support for that offer, but no final decision was taken.

The Secretary-General also had a meeting with the Permanent Representative of Mauritius, Dhurmahdass Baichoo, in his capacity as Chairman of the African Group in Geneva, and with the Ambassadors of the Group, whom he briefed on his mission to Africa over the past month.

Mr. Brandt said that in address to the Commission on Human Rights, currently meeting in Geneva, the Secretary-General had made four basic points: his strong, personal, commitment to the cause of human rights; the link between human rights and peace building in post-conflict situations; the right to development, which was a measure of the respect allotted to all other human rights; and finally, his expectations of how the United Nations reform efforts would strengthen the efforts of the Commission.

The Secretary-General then went to a luncheon hosted by Mr. Petrovsky and attended by the Chairmen of the regional groups. In the afternoon, he had a meeting with the President of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans, Mario Soares. "Unfortunately I do not have a read-out on that", Mr. Brandt said.

The Secretary-General, as previously announced, later met with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community, Mr. Rauf Denktash, Mr. Brandt said. The meeting took place in the context of the mission of good offices of the Secretary-General with the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. In that context, he meets periodically with the leaders of both communities and to advance the process. In that connection, Mr. Brandt added, the Secretary- General had met with his Special Representative for Cyprus, Han Sung-Joo, and the head of the Cyprus mission, Gustave Feissel.

The Secretary-General was then due to go to the Institut universitaire des hautes ├ętudes internationales, where he would make a speech, the Associate Spokesman continued. In the evening, he would be the guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the Director General of the World Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, and attended by the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Michel Camdessus, and the President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn. The Secretary-General's programme in Geneva and his speeches before the Commission on Human Rights and before the Institut were available in the Spokesman's Office, he added.

Mr. Brandt called correspondents' attention to the third issue of the Humanitarian Newsletter issued by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs. "I urge you to read this material, particularly the last page with its 'In Brief/Upcoming' section which can be particularly useful", he said.

Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 9 April 1997

On behalf of the spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly, Samsiah Abdul-Majid, Mr. Brandt told correspondents that this afternoon President Razali Ismail (Malaysia) would address the Commission on Sustainable Development at 4:45 p.m. The Commission was meeting in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, he said. Also, on the proposed emergency session of the General Assembly on the situation in the occupied territories, Ms. Abdul-Majid had informed that 45 letters in favour of the meeting had been received, and one against the proposal.

The heads of the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had launched an appeal today to the international community and world leaders to support efforts aimed at eliminating female genital mutilation, the Associate Spokesman said, adding that the WHO press release was available in the Spokesman's Office.

Tonight, the opening session of the 1997 Conference of the National High School Model United Nations would take place in the General Assembly Hall, Mr. Brandt said. This year's conference, he noted, would attract over 2,250 high school students from the United States, Canada, Colombia, Germany and Mexico. At the opening session, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Alvaro de Soto would deliver introductory remarks on behalf of the Secretary-General. The keynote address would be delivered by the Permanent Representative of Syria, Mikhail Wehbe. The students would return to Headquarters on Saturday for closing plenary sessions. Correspondents wishing to cover the event should get in touch with Sonia Lecca of the Accreditation Service of the Department of Public Information (DPI).

On upcoming press conferences, Mr. Brandt noted that at 1:30 p.m. today, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) would hold a press briefing at the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) lounge. The head of the WWF's Forest for Life campaign, Francis Sullivan, and Carole Saint-Laurent would discuss pledges made by governments to protect the world's forest.

At 3:30 p.m. in room 226, there would be a press conference on the preparations for "Earth Summit + 5", the special session of the General Assembly to review and appraise the implementation of Agenda 21 since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, the Associate Spokesman said. The session would be held at Headquarters from 23 to 27 June. Speakers today included ministers in charge of environmental issues from the Netherlands, United Republic of Tanzania, United States and Egypt. More information could be obtained by reaching Pragati Pascale, at (212) 963-6870.

Continuing, Mr. Brandt said that at 6:15 this evening, in Conference Room 1, the Environment Agency of Japan would hold a panel discussion entitled "ECO-Asia: towards sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region". The panel would be chaired by the Vice-Minister for the Environment Agency, Takao

Daily Press Briefing - 6 - 9 April 1997

Onishi, and would include government officials from New Zealand and China, as well as the Director of the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, Joke Waller- Hunter. The panel discussion was organized within the context of the high- level segment of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Mr. Brandt then announced that tomorrow Thursday, 10 April, at 11 a.m. in room 226, there would be a press conference on the progress achieved in the establishment of an international convention on forests held by the Canadian Minister for Natural Resources, Anne McLellan, and the Minister for Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries from the Netherlands, J.J. van Aartsen. The press conference was sponsored by Canada.

Opening the question-and-answer session, a correspondent asked how many people were pulling out of Kinshasa, and how many were staying behind? Mr. Brandt said there were 12 staff members performing "less essential" tasks who would be evacuated. Three people from UNICEF, four from UNHCR, one from the World Food Programme (WFP), two from WHO and two from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). After their departure, the number of United Nations internationally recruited staff in the city would be reduced to 55.

What was Jonas Savimbi's role now? another correspondent asked. As official head of the opposition, Mr. Brandt remarked, he had a clear role to play as in any other democratic process. "You will have a democracy in place, a government formed. You might say, let the games begin." Once the Government of Unity and Reconciliation was in place on Friday, he added, a new era would start.

Would Savimbi be a member of Parliament, or would he accept the role of Vice-President? a correspondent asked. Mr. Brandt said that it would be best to follow developments after the establishment of the Government.

Would the Secretary-General be represented on that occasion? a correspondent asked. "Yes, by his Special Representative Alioune Blondin Beye. No doubt that all the other United Nations agencies' representatives in Angola will be there."

How are we going to deal with Mr. Savimbi's absence at the inauguration of the Angolan Government, since he kept saying he would not be there? a correspondent asked. "Things have to be sorted out by the opposition and the Government. We are happy that the swearing-in of the UNITA deputies took place, with a large attendance. The necessary elements for the democratic process are now in place, and we hope that things will happen in the best possible way."

For the record, on the procedures of the Security Council, how was the mission in Haiti extended when one of the Permanent Members -- China -- walked out of the meeting? Was there a precedent for that? a correspondent asked.

Daily Press Briefing - 7 - 9 April 1997

"I gave you all this information orally and in writing a few days ago. The relevant resolution of the Security Council on Haiti had a built-in mechanism by which the Council could extend the mandate until the end of July, if the report indicated that the conditions and need for that extension were present." That without an addition resolution. The Associate Spokesman added that he had no indication whatsoever that the Chinese delegation had walked out of the meeting. "I have talked to several people and read the minutes of the meeting, and they do not indicate that."

A correspondent, referring to the Restaurant Associates contract with the United Nations, asked whether it would be possible to obtain the normal advertising procedure, whether any other bids were received and if so, from whom? Mr. Brandt said he would find out.

The Canadian Prime Minister was in Washington visiting with President William Clinton and, according to the Canadian press, their conversation had been entirely on Haiti. Would the Associate Spokesman be briefed on that conversation? a correspondent asked. The Canadian Mission to the United Nations was thoroughly briefing the Department of Peace-keeping Operations on Haiti, Mr. Brandt said.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.