10 April 1997

Press Briefing



Juan Carlos Brandt, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General, started today's briefing by announcing a press conference in the lounge of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) today at 1 p.m. on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Preparatory Committee for the Treaty's review in the year 2000 currently in session at Headquarters. Speakers included the Executive Director of the Committee on Nuclear Policy, Joseph Cirincione; the Director of the British American Security Information Council, Dan Plesch; and the Programme Director of the Centre for European Security and Disarmament, Sharon Riggle. Emerging themes, upcoming controversies, as well as possible outcomes of the Committee's meetings, would be reviewed at the briefing, he said.

Mr. Brandt also reminded correspondents of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country which would hold its 185th meeting today at 3 p.m. The item to be considered would be "Transportation: use of motor vehicles, parking and related matters". "Need one say more?", he commented. It would be an open meeting, he added.

Turning to the Security Council, the Associate Spokesman told correspondents that its members had a full day today. The Council's Committee which monitors the sanctions against Iraq had met at 10:30 a.m. this morning in a closed meeting. Its members had discussed the flight of an Iraqi plane to Saudi Arabia which contravened those sanctions. The Committee would then report to the Security Council.

The Security Council, Mr. Brandt continued, met afterwards to hear and discuss the report of the Sanctions Committee. "I believe there is a draft presidential statement on the flight of the Iraqi plane", he said. The second item on the Council's agenda was the situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Two senior officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); the Director of the UNHCR Liaison Office in New York, Soren Jessen-Petersen; and the Coordinator of the UNHCR operations for the Great Lakes region, Augustine Mahiga, would brief the Council on the evolution of the situation there.

This afternoon, the Security Council Committee monitoring the sanctions against Libya would hold a closed meeting in Conference Room 7, the Associate Spokesman noted.

Mr. Brandt reminded correspondents that, as indicated in today's Journal, the formal meeting of the Council on the situation in the Great Lakes region, initially scheduled for this morning, had been postponed. Next Monday, 14 April, the Council would hold an open meeting at 3:30 p.m. to consider the situation in Afghanistan.

There was a new "986 Update" from Baghdad on the implementation of the Security Council "oil-for-food" resolution, Mr. Brandt said. The report, available in the Spokesman's office, "contains a wealth of information on the ships arrival schedule at Umm Qasr with humanitarian goods, the estimated date of arrival of the goods by sea and the total tonnage of goods in Iraq as of now", he said.

Also available was UNHCR's two-page "Great Lakes Crisis" bulletin regarding the latest developments there, he announced. The document indicated that Rwandans had held discussions with UNHCR and representatives of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) including, among other issues, the planned airlift of refugees.

Relief workers, Mr. Brandt continued, had managed to ease conditions in the main encampments of Kasese, which has a population of 50,000, and Biaro, which holds 30,000 refugees. The daily death toll had been cut from a high of 180 on Sunday to 60 on Monday. On Tuesday, according to the report, 108 deaths were reported from the prolonged effects of hunger, exhaustion and diseases.

The UNHCR was also looking into reports indicating that some 15,000 refugees were on the road to Opala, located 200 kilometres west of Kisangani, he noted. About 1,000 Rwandan soldiers were said to be in that group. The civilians were apparently in very poor condition and UNHCR had requested authorization to overfly the area. The UNHCR had so far transported about 10,000 of the estimated 20,000 Rwandan refugees who had emerged at Karuba, north-west of Goma. An additional 15,000 refugees were reported to have shown up in the Masisi region. "The deeper the humanitarian organizations go into these areas, the more people they are finding. People who are probably hearing that there is this plan to take them back. So we keep finding new pockets of people. We will keep you posted on that", Mr. Brandt said.

The Special Committee on Peace-keeping Operations began today its annual assessment of United Nations peace-keeping operations, the Associate Spokesman said. The Committee would report its findings to the General Assembly later this year. The newly-appointed Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, made the opening statement -- his first to the Committee -- this morning. Copies were available in the Spokesman's office.

A new Chief Military Observer had been appointed by the Secretary- General for the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), he said. Major-General Harun-Ar-Rashid (Bangladesh) would replace Major-General Per

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 10 April 1997

Kallstrom (Sweden) who had served in that post since October 1995. The appointment would be effective as of 1 May; copies of the letters of exchange and a biographical note on General Harun would be made available later today.

Italy, Mr. Brandt said, had submitted to the Security Council its first report on the multinational force for Albania (document S/1997/296). Advance copies were available for correspondents in the Spokesman's office.

On Eastern Slavonia, Mr. Brandt said the United Nations Transitional Administrator for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium, Jacques Klein, had met today with the President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman. At the meeting, it was agreed to extend the voter registration period until midday Saturday, 12 April, which was one day before the elections. All pre-1991 residents had until that time to collect their pre-issued documents. Those who came to the region between 1991 and 15 January 1996, and whose applications were pending, could have their documents issued up to that deadline. Those who had documents, but had not registered, had until tomorrow to do so. The Transitional Administrator appealed to the local Serbs yesterday to vote in the Sunday elections, as did President Tudjman after today's meeting.

The Commissioner of the United Nations International Task Force (IPTF), Manfred Seitner, would travel to Brcko tomorrow, the Associate Spokesman said, for the opening of the Office of the High Representative. The High Representative, Carl Bildt, would be represented in Brcko by Robert William Farrand of the United States during the one-year transition period. "There would be 74 United Nations police monitors deployed in Brcko as of tomorrow", he said. "We expect the United Nations police force to reach its full strength by the end of May, with 258 monitors."

In Geneva, the Secretary-General had attended this morning the meeting of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), Mr. Brandt said. "It was his first opportunity to talk to the independent actors of the United Nations system, on how to make it a more functional family whose members work closely together and are mutually supportive." The meeting began -- as is traditional for ACC meetings -- with a working breakfast hosted by the Secretary-General for the members of the ACC. "It gives him a chance to meet with them, one by one, to exchange a few words before the actual meeting takes place", he added. During the breakfast, the United Nations relation with the United States was discussed. Other issues reviewed included the need for better coordination and the role of civil society. During a photo opportunity before the meeting, the Secretary-General said that many agencies were doing interesting and substantive things in the way of reform, and that it was important that they shared information with each other and with the public. "In particular, he stressed the need for more effective communication with the public", Mr. Brandt added.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 10 April 1997

The ACC, Mr. Brandt reminded correspondents, was the highest level coordination body in the United Nations system and held two sessions a year, the first at the headquarters of one of its member organizations and the second at Headquarters in New York. Administrative questions, as well as two or three substantive issues, were discussed during such encounters. The present meeting at the United Nations Office at Geneva had begun today and would conclude tomorrow, 11 April. "Of course, this is the first ACC meeting chaired by the present Secretary-General and each and every one of the heads of all United Nations agencies and programmes are right now at the meeting in Geneva." Also attending the meeting were the Executive Coordinator for United Nations Reform, Maurice Strong, and the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky. A list of the United Nations agencies and programmes attending the ACC meeting was available in the Spokesman's office, as well as a background note to correspondents.

Prior to his departure tomorrow for Italy, the Secretary-General would hold a press conference in Geneva at 12:30 p.m., local time, Mr. Brandt said.

Upcoming press conferences included this afternoon's joint United Nations/Non-governmental Organizations press briefing entitled "Earth Summit + 5", at 3:30 p.m. in room 226, Mr. Brandt said. The purpose was to brief the news media on the role and positions of NGOs in the current preparatory talks for the review of the Rio agreements. Speakers at the briefing would include the Major Focal Point in the secretariat of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Zahra Aydin, for the United Nations, and representatives of the National Wildlife Federation, Greenpeace International, Third World Network and United Nations Environment and Development of the United Kingdom. Further information could be obtained by calling Pragati Pascale from the Department of Public Information (DPI), at tel.: (212) 963-6870 or fax: (212) 963-1186.

Tomorrow, Friday 11 April at 11:15 a.m. in room 226, Christine Chanet of France, the first woman to be elected Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee would brief the press on the outcome of the Committee's fifty-ninth session. She would be accompanied by two Vice-Chairmen, Prafullachandra N. Bhagwati of India and Cecilia Medina Quiroga of Chile.

Also tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. in room 226, a panel of experts participating in the workshop entitled "Changing Consumption Patterns in Human Settlements" would brief correspondents, Mr. Brandt said, adding that the names of the speakers would be available later this afternoon. Topics included resource conservation strategies in human settlements based on the efficient use of natural resources, including energy, forests, and the reuse and recycling of wastes. The workshop would take place tomorrow in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A Note to Correspondents was available in the Spokesman's office. Further information was available from Bill Hass, from the Department of Public Information (DPI), at tel: (212) 963-0353.

Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 10 April 1997

The first question in today's briefing referred to the meeting between the Secretary-General and the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot Community, Rauf Denktash, were there any details? a correspondent asked. Mr. Brandt said he was expecting notes from Fred Eckhard's briefing in Geneva, where the matter had surely been discussed.

Had the United Nations been able to confirm that Lubumbashi was in the hands of the Alliance? a correspondent asked. There had been some conflicting reports of incidents from the south-east part of the city where the airport was located, including gunfire and explosions, possibly indicating pockets of resistance, Mr. Brandt said. But otherwise news seemed to confirm that Lubumbashi had fallen to the Alliance.

Someone in authority, a correspondent said, had thrown away all the NGO documents and brochures on display outside the Trusteeship Council Chamber, where the Commission on Sustainable Development was meeting. The incident represented a loss of thousands of dollars for the NGOs, as it was now impossible to retrieve the documents. Would it be possible to find out who was responsible for that? he asked. Mr. Brandt said he would look into that situation. If the person responsible was listening to the briefing, he should call him at extension 3-2991 and explain the situation.

Was there any update on the tally of letters on the emergency General Assembly session on the Middle East? a correspondent asked. According to the spokeswoman for the General Assembly President, Samsiah Abdul-Majid, there were 50 letters in favour of the session and one against, Mr. Brandt said, adding that if enough favourable letters were received within the next few days, the session might be held some time next week.

The General Accounting Office in Washington had been asked to review the United States' participation in United Nations peace-keeping operations, and the result would be tied to the payment of the $1.6 billion [owed by the United States], a correspondent said. Was anyone monitoring that situation? he asked. Mr. Brandt said that he had no doubt that the Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Washington, D.C. "and my former boss", Joe Sills, was monitoring the situation very closely.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.