22 May 1997

Press Briefing



Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, began today's press briefing by announcing that approximately 200 Kurds had forced their way into the Palais de Nations, the site of the United Nations Office at Geneva, this morning. The group was demonstrating against Turkey's military offensive into northern Iraq. The incident, which lasted about five hours, ended at 4 p.m., local time, when the demonstrators were pacified and left the scene voluntarily. While there were a large number of Swiss Police outside the Palais, they were not invited inside, and the United Nations dealt with the demonstrators peacefully.

The demonstrators disbanded and left the scene after hearing a statement made by the Secretary-General at a press conference earlier this week in Vienna, Mr. Eckhard continued. At his press conferences in Vienna and Moscow, the Secretary-General had addressed the situation in northern Iraq. In Vienna the Secretary-General said: "On the question of the situation in northern Iraq, I have made it quite clear that we cannot condone the Turkish incursion into Iraq. The Iraqi territorial integrity has to be respected, and I have urged that the Turkish troops withdraw as soon as possible. I hope other Governments are exercising the right pressure on them to pull back."

Mr. Eckhard said the Charge d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of Zaire had addressed a letter to the Secretary-General, dated 20 May, relaying instructions from his government. The letter stated that as of 17 May, Laurent Desire Kabila was the President of the country and that Mr. Kabila had decided to change the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There was also a new national anthem, and the national flag would revert to the version raised in June 1960, on the day of independence of what was then the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The letter was reviewed by the Office of Legal Affairs yesterday, which affirmed the validity of the credentials of the Deputy Permanent Representative who signed it, he continued. Therefore, the Secretary-General would comply with the letter's contents, including that it be circulated as an official document. To date, there had been no challenges from other Member States to the credentials of the delegation, which continued to represent the country.

Mr. Eckhard said the Security Council was briefed this morning by United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Yasushi Akashi on his recent visit to Iraq to assess the implementation of Security Council resolution 986 (1995) on the "oil-for-food"

plan. Mr. Akashi had asked to brief correspondents about the same subject, but his briefing would be rescheduled if he did not arrive in time.

The Council was also expected to hold a formal meeting on the four-month mandate extension of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), he said. In addition, it was scheduled to take up a draft presidential statement welcoming the successful completion of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA). A formal meeting on that item could also be held today. The Council would also discuss a draft resolution on the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that would extend that mission's mandated by six months but reduce its strength from 1,100 to 800 after four months. In addition, the Security Council would be briefed on the situation in Burundi.

The General Assembly would meet this afternoon to consider a draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Mr. Eckhard said. By the resolution, which was introduced by the Netherlands in the Assembly yesterday, the Assembly would invite the Secretary-General to take steps to conclude an agreement to regulate the relationship between the two organizations. It would also authorize the Secretary-General, pending the conclusion of the agreement, to enter into temporary arrangement concerning the issuance of laissez-passer to the organization's inspectors to be used as a valid travel document.

Mr. Eckhard announced that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was sending an assessment team into Congo-Brazzaville today where 10,000 refugees -- from Rwanda through Zaire -- had been reported. Meanwhile, the repatriation of Rwandan refugees from the Kisangani area was continuing. New repatriation efforts had begun today in Mbandaka, where 300 refugees had been airlifted to Rwanda. It was believed that there were 10,000 refugees in the Mbandaka area.

Elections in Liberia, initially scheduled for 30 May, had been postponed to 19 July, by a decision taken at the summit meeting of the Economic Community of West African States' (ECOWAS) Committee of Nine, Mr. Eckhard said. The new government would be inaugurated on 2 August. If run-off elections were necessary, they would be held on 2 August, and the new government would be inaugurated on 16 August.

He then announced that the Spokesman's Office had two press releases from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Libya, Mozambique and Nigeria had paid in full their United Nations budget contributions for the current year, Mr. Eckhard announced. Libya

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submitted a cheque of $344,281; Mozambique paid $122,400; and Nigeria paid $1,171,586. So far 62 Member States had paid their contributions in full for 1997.

Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General had announced today the appointment of Major-General David Stapleton as Force Commander of the United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF), which was stationed on the Syrian Golan Heights, with effect from 1 June. Major-General Stapleton succeeds Major- General Johannes C. Kostars of the Netherlands who served as Commander from January 1995. The Secretary-General took the opportunity to pay a warm tribute to Major-General Kostars for his distinguished service to UNDOF.

He then announced that Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Greece Yannos Kranidiotis would brief correspondents on Tuesday, 27 May, at 5 p.m. following his meeting with the Secretary-General.

A correspondent announced that United States Permanent Representative Bill Richardson would meet correspondents in the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Club this afternoon at 2 p.m.

The same correspondent then asked how long it would take for Zaire's name change to take effect? Mr. Eckhard said the name would change after the official notification by the Secretary-General. Then, the signmakers would draw up new signs and the seating arrangement would be juggled in the General Assembly. Those changes would be done relatively quickly, but acquiring a new flag would take longer.

Has the current Secretary-General, or his predecessor, ever condemned Turkish incursions into northern Iraq? the same correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said he would check with his office after the briefing.

The same correspondent said that SkyLink had recently been suspended again from bidding on contracts. Could you find out what steps Under- Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Karl Theodor Paschke was taking and if the people responsible for the mistakes were going to pay for them? he asked. Mr. Eckhard said that after the briefing he would attempt to confirm any suspension of SkyLink and investigate the reasons for it.

Asked what the current thinking was within the Secretariat regarding the recent experiences in the central African region, Mr. Eckhard said what was remarkable about the situation in Zaire was the degree of involvement of the various countries in the region, led by South Africa and the joint United Nations/Organization of African Unity (OAU) Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, Mohamed Sahnoun. Those efforts were also supported by a number of States outside Africa, including France and the United States. The relatively peaceful takeover of Kinshasa was in part due to those external interventions.

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Had there be any calls for an investigation into human rights violations, mercenary activities and other kinds of foreign intervention in Zaire? the same correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said governments would have to decide whether they wanted to open up that question now or if they would rather focus on advising Mr. Kabila on how to best form a broad-based government, institute democratic processes and get on with the reconstruction of Zaire. Regarding humanitarian issues, there were still unanswered questions that must be pursued, including incidents in the camps and recent allegations that refugees had been hunted down and killed in retaliation for events that took place in Rwanda in 1994.

Had the Secretary-General already met with Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast and when was he going to issue an invitation to the two Cypriot leaders? a correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said Mr. Prendergast would be arriving in his office in the afternoon, and the Secretary-General would probably not be meeting with him on Cyprus until sometime tomorrow.

Had the Secretary-General made a statement about the demonstration in Geneva today? the same correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary- General had made statements when he was in Vienna and Moscow during the past week, and texts of both statements were available in the Spokesman's Office.

Asked why the change of name and flag for Afghanistan had been delayed, Mr. Eckhard said there did not seem to be a critical mass of support for the Taliban as the new government of Afghanistan.

A correspondent asked what the latest developments in Afghanistan were. Mr. Eckhard said there was a lot of international concern that if the Taliban completed its military conquest, it might also create longer-term problems by driving opposition forces into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. At the same time, there was also some hope that a negotiated solution might still be achieved.

The same correspondent said that last week the Secretary-General had written a letter to the President of the General Assembly regarding an Assembly resolution on human resources management, particularly putting an end to "back-door" recruitment. How many people would be kept on because of the implementation of the resolution, and was there a breakdown by nationality? he asked. Mr. Eckhard said he would ask the Office of Human Resources Management if it was possible to obtain such a breakdown, and he would relay the question to them.

Asked if Mary Robinson was going to be offered a new job when she visited Headquarters tomorrow, Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General had announced that he would name the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights by the end of July. While it was well known that Ms. Robinson

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was a prominent candidate for that post, it was also well known that she was not the only candidate. Tomorrow would not be the decision day.

How many refugees remained in the jungle in Zaire and how many refugees were still in the country? a correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said approximately 230,000 refugees were still unaccounted for.

How many of the refugees were children? the same correspondent asked. Many of the 230,000 were women and children, Mr. Eckhard said. It would be safe to assume that the majority of refugees unaccounted for were also women and children.

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For information media. Not an official record.