14 April 1997

Press Briefing



Juan Carlos Brandt, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General, began today's noon briefing by reading a statement attributable to the Secretary- General on the situation in Zaire, as follows:

"While I am pleased that the parties to the conflict in Zaire have accepted the five-point peace plan endorsed by the Security Council, I am concerned that its implementation has not yet begun in earnest. There is no firm cease-fire.

"Mohamed Sahnoun, the joint United Nations/Organization of African Unity (OAU) Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, has energetically pursued a peaceful and democratic transition in Zaire. I thank those countries that have supported his efforts; but more needs to be done.

"I, therefore, appeal to all Member States to press Laurent Kabila and his supporters in the Great Lakes region to seek a negotiated solution through a cease-fire and sustained talks on the future of Zaire. I am also encouraged that President Mobutu Sese Seko has agreed to a dialogue with Mr. Kabila. A durable solution cannot be achieved through military means.

"It is obvious that Zaire is on the verge of major political change; but this change has to be managed, with the support of the international community, in a concerted and focused manner. In such situations, progress is usually made when the entire international community comes together.

"The stakes are high. If we are successful, Zaire could begin to move in the direction of national reconciliation, democracy and prosperity. If we fail, it will mean misery and stagnation for millions of people in the region."

Mr. Brandt said the statement had been issued today in Rome, where the Secretary-General was continuing his official visit to Italy. Copies were available in the Spokesman's Office. (See Press Release SG/SM/6204-AFR/2, issued today.)

Continuing, Mr. Brandt told correspondents that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had issued an update of its "Great Lakes Crisis" bulletin, which was available in the Spokesman's Office. It contained information on the ongoing preparation for the airlift of refugees, the outbreak of cholera in the camps near Kisangani and other news regarding the humanitarian efforts being conducted in the region. Tomorrow, the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF),

Stephen Lewis, who had just returned from a mission to Zaire, would be at the noon briefing to answer correspondents' queries, Mr. Brandt added.

Mr. Brandt then read another statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General:

"Professor Han Sung-Joo, the Special Representative of the Secretary- General for Cyprus, has informed the Secretary-General that, due to other pressing commitments, he will not be able to continue in that position beyond 30 April. Professor Han has also conveyed this information today to Mr. Glafcos Clerides and Mr. Rauf Denktash.

"The Secretary-General has accepted Professor Han's decision with much regret and expressed his warm appreciation for the dedicated work he has carried out in the last 12 months within the framework of the Secretary- General's mission of good offices. Professor Han has consistently demonstrated great objectivity and a deep understanding of the problems facing the two communities and their respective leaders; he has made a valuable contribution to the search for lasting solutions.

"The Secretary-General is determined to press ahead with an intensified effort to bring about a comprehensive settlement in the island. He hopes that the current process will lead to direct talks between the two leaders within the next two or three months. To this end, he will engage in early consultations to identify a successor to Professor Han." (See today's Press Release SG/SM/6203.)

In Rome today, the Secretary-General had gone through a very busy schedule, Mr. Brandt continued. This morning, he had met with the President of the Italian Senate, Senator Nicola Mancino, and afterwards he had a meeting with senior officials of the World Food Programme (WFP).

The Secretary-General later attended a luncheon, at the Quirinale, hosted by the President of the Republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Mr. Brandt said. In the afternoon, he also met with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Luciano Violante, and had meetings scheduled with the Minister of Defence, Beniamino Andreatta, and with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lamberto Dini. The Secretary-General was also due to receive a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Rome. Further details on those meetings would be available once he had received the read-out from the Spokesman, Fred Eckhard, who was accompanying the Secretary-General, Mr. Brandt added.

The United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) and local authorities had, after certain administration disappointments and technical difficulties in Sunday's election polling in Eastern Slavonia, agreed to extend the electoral process for a second day, Mr. Brandt said. A report received from UNTAES spokesman, Phil Arnold, indicated that all public polling stations were open as of midday

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today. A simplified voter identification system had been installed in order to move the process along with greater efficiency; pollers now had to show identification cards with a picture in order to be accepted. Polling stations were expected to close at about 7 p.m. local time; however, if any voters were still on line at that time, they would be allowed to cast their ballots.

The Secretary-General had submitted today his report on Angola to the Security Council, Mr. Brandt said. It was expected that the Council would take it up tomorrow at its morning meeting. During the period covered by the report, from 26 March to 14 April, the Secretary-General said that developments in Angola had been "very encouraging". The approval by the Angolan National Assembly of the legislation concerning the special status of the President of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), on 8 April, and the inauguration of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation, on 11 April, had marked an essential step forward in the peace process.

However, the Secretary-General said in his report, much remained to be done, Mr. Brandt continued. With the establishment of the new Government of Unity and National Reconciliation, the parties should move expeditiously to normalize State administration throughout the whole country, to complete the formation of the unified armed forces and the national police, as well as to demobilize the excess UNITA military personnel.

In that context, Mr. Brandt continued, the Secretary-General recommended that the Council approve the extension of the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) until 30 June, on the understanding that the operation would gradually proceed with the transition towards an observer mission. Should the Council agree to extend UNAVEM's mandate, the Secretary- General would further recommend that the observer mission, to be known as the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (UNOMA), be formally established on 1 July.

Mr. Brandt said the main activities of the Observer Mission, in addition to the completion of the remaining tasks, would focus on political, police and human rights aspects, as well as on humanitarian and public information programmes aimed at supporting and consolidating the national reconciliation process, with a view to creating conditions to political stability, economic and social recovery and sustained development.

The Security Council today had before it the first report on the mission to Albania (document S/1997/296), as announced last week, Mr. Brandt said. They were also scheduled to be briefed by the Head of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan, Norbert Holl, who would afterwards speak with reporters at the stake-out position. Under the item "other matters", the Council was set to discuss the question of the flight of the Iraqi plane to Saudi Arabia.

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This afternoon, the Council would hold a formal meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, Mr. Brandt went on to say. His understanding was that all 15 Council members, plus some nine or 10 other non-members, would speak. Should the afternoon not be sufficient to hear all speakers, the meeting on Afghanistan would continue tomorrow afternoon. At tomorrow's morning meeting, the Council would discuss the report on Angola, Mr. Brandt reminded correspondents.

Regarding the proposed emergency special session of the General Assembly on the occupied territories, Mr. Brandt told correspondents that, so far, 60 replies in favour of the session had been received.

Turning to Iraq, Mr. Brandt said that the total oil proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil according to Security Council resolution 986 (1995) had reached the $1 billion mark at the end of last week. The cumulative total was $1,046,978,939 as of last week. Of that amount, $691 million was allotted to humanitarian supplies, $314 million to the United Nations Compensation Fund and the rest to other programme elements.

As of last Friday, Mr. Brandt continued, 48 oil contracts were submitted and approved, with the total volume of 119.7 million barrels. The United Nations Secretariat had received 468 applications for the sale of humanitarian supplies. Of those applications, 124 were submitted to the Security Council Committee monitoring the sanctions against Iraq, which approved 91 and put 22 on hold; 11 were pending "no objection" deadlines.

Also from Iraq, a report from the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Steffan de Mistura, indicated that a total of four geographical observers were now deployed in the three northern governorates of Dahuk, Irbil and Sulaymanyiah, Mr. Brandt said. Eventually, he added, up to 20 observers would be based there, in addition to the 151 planned for the central and southern governorates. Observers in the northern governorates would have similar responsibilities to their colleagues in the rest of the country and would be based in Irbil; they would remain an integral part of the Geographical or Sectoral Observation Units.

The WFP, which was responsible for the distribution of food, according to resolution 986 "oil-for-food" programme, began wheat flour distribution to food agents in Dahuk and Sulaymanyiah today, Mr. Brandt continued. Wheat flour was expected to reach consumer level shortly; there was further information on these subjects in the latest updated report from the WFP, which was available in the Spokesman's Office.

Upcoming press conferences included today's briefing by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at 2:30 p.m. in room 226, Mr. Brandt said. The press conference, sponsored by the Mission of Sweden, would feature Swedish Ambassador Bo Kjellen, in his capacity as Vice-Chairman of the WWF Panel on Trade and Development. Other participants included Magda Shain (Egypt),

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Norine Kennedy (United States), Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz (Switzerland) and Gordon Shephard and Charles Arden-Clark from WWF-International.

On Tuesday in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, there would be a panel discussion on "Lead Pollution and Lead Poisoning, a Human Settlements Issue" from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., he continued. Panellists would include the Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt L. Schmoke, who would address the problems created by lead pollution. On Wednesday in Conference Room 7, there would be another panel discussion on "Building Drug-free Sustainable Cities and Towns", from 1 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Panellists would include the Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey, Douglas Palmer. Correspondents were invited to attend both panels, sponsored by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat). The second panel was also sponsored by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme. Further information could be obtained with Bill Hass, in the Department of Public Information (DPI), at tel.: (212) 963-0353.

Also, Mr. Brandt announced, there was an invitation from the Permanent Mission of France to a concert tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Visitors' Entrance. The Symphony Orchestra of the Lycee David D'Angers would perform works from Bizet, Gershwin, Mozart, Schubert, Stamitz, Offenbach and Roux. "A little music in the middle of the day is always welcome", said Mr. Brandt.

Opening the question-and-answer session, a correspondent inquired whether Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko, since his most recent arrival in Kinshasa, had met with any United Nations official. Mr. Brandt indicated that, to his knowledge, he had not.

The Secretary-General's statement seemed to imply that President Mobutu had agreed to meet with Mr. Kabila, but the President had said he would meet with Mr. Kabila only if he was asked for it "very politely", which was not likely to occur, the correspondent said. Mr. Brandt reminded the correspondent he could only speak on behalf of the Secretary-General. "The Secretary-General is, and has been, extremely clear and forceful in his statements regarding the situation in Zaire, both from the humanitarian and the political sides. On this particular occasion, what the Secretary-General is saying is that the international community needs to express its support as effectively as it can to make possible for a peaceful solution to the Zairian question. All sides should understand the need for that."

Last week, a correspondent said, a representative of the UNHCR had briefed the Security Council and had said that the failure of the international community to act in eastern Zaire had led to thousands of deaths. Had anything changed that led the Secretary-General to believe that the international community was now prepared to act? Mr. Brandt said that it was the Secretary-General's duty to call attention to the situation. Press reports today had indicated that the forces of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) were now ready to advance towards Kinshasa after major victories in other parts of the country. It was

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the Secretary-General's duty to keep calling the attention of the international community to the situation. "There is, of course, nothing we can do, other than use our moral strength and stance to impress on the participants everywhere that there is a situation that needs to be addressed urgently", he said.

But had the Secretary-General been in touch with the permanent members of the Security Council? the correspondent asked. "Yes, he has, he has done so directly, and Mr. Sahnoun, after the talks in South Africa, did not sit and wait for things to happen, either. He is also working on it", Mr. Brandt said.

Had they given him the green light? the correspondent asked. "Yes, everybody has agreed to the five-point peace plan. Now, what is needed is the necessary political will to implement that plan and to agree on the need to have a cease-fire and to put such a cease-fire into place. Mr. Sahnoun is shuttling between different participants" to get them to do that, Mr. Brandt said.

Since the rebels were winning and did not need a cease-fire, "didn't the United Nations weaken its position and take sides by still calling for a cease-fire"? he was asked. Mr. Brandt said, "I don't think that we have given any indication that we are supporting one side or the other. We are calling, as is our responsibility, for a peaceful solution for this question. Chances for a cease-fire are very difficult. Nevertheless, it is a big country, many people would suffer the consequences of a military attack and we have to sensitize the international community to this, and this is what the Secretary- General is doing", Mr. Brandt replied.

What was the relation of the United Nations to the rebels? the correspondent asked. "We are talking to all sides, and we are talking to anybody who can help put the cease-fire into place", Mr. Brandt said.

Had Mr. Kabila said he wanted to see a United Nations involvement after the conflict was over? the correspondent asked. "Well, the United Nations is very much involved. Mr. Sahnoun, and this is not a secret, has met with representatives from both sides since the beginning. And don't forget that the Secretary-General was present in Lomé, Togo, at the first so-called 'handshake' between the two sides, and later Mr. Sahnoun met with both parties in South Africa on several occasions", Mr. Brandt said.

Was there a name for the replacement of Professor Han, the Special Representative for Cyprus? Mr. Brandt said he was not aware of any candidate yet. The Secretary-General would undertake urgent steps to look for a candidate.

Would there be a briefing next Thursday? "No, Thursday, 17 April, is an official United Nations holiday", Mr. Brandt noted, though the Spokesman's Office would be open and staffed for correspondents' needs. [The General

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Assembly requested the Secretary-General in its resolution 51/211 of 18 December 1996 to include Id al-Adha in the list of official United Nations holidays.]

In the parking war between the United Nations and the City of New York, the Mayor had come up with the idea that the number of visitors to the United Nations Building had declined over the last two years, a correspondent said. Could the Spokesman's Office come up with some numbers? "Are you saying that the United Nations is no longer a prime tourist destination in New York City?" Mr. Brandt asked.

The Mayor said so, the correspondent said, adding that Yankee Stadium apparently received more visitors than the United Nations. Mr. Brandt said that he would get the latest figures regarding visitors, "but I think the City of New York continues to be very proud of the presence of the United Nations. The relation between the United Nations and New York has been long and productive, and we are completely certain that it will continue to be that way". He added that he was certain it still was a very important tourist destination for the city, "and we are very happy that such is the case". [Immediately after the briefing, the following figures were made available to correspondents: "Number of visitors to United Nations Headquarters who have taken the guided tour in the previous three years are as follows: 389,610 in 1994; 415,205 in 1995; and 420,370 in 1996. It should be noted that others visit Headquarters without taking the tour. These estimates are about the same for those taking the tour."]

Did the briefing from eastern Slavonia detail the difficulties during the elections, since there were not only technical difficulties but numerous irregularities and the Serbian side had asked for the cancellation of the elections? a correspondent asked. Steps had been taken to overcome the technical and administrative difficulties, Mr. Brandt said, but otherwise it would be best to wait until after the voting and the next report from UNTAES.

Asking for a photo identification document seemed to imply that there were some identification problems, a correspondent remarked. "There were problems, not because we failed to do our job but because up to the last minute there were objections as to the way things were being carried out by some political sectors", Mr. Brandt said, "and that was why the voting registration period was twice extended, to allow everyone to vote."

Was there a danger of the elections being declared unfair? the correspondent asked. "Let's hope not", Mr. Brandt said.

What would the presence or absence of Mr. Savimbi do for the new government in Angola? a correspondent asked. "There is now a democratic government in place, a democratic system, and now let us hope that things go the way they are supposed to in a democracy", Mr. Brandt concluded.

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For information media. Not an official record.