2 June 1997

Press Briefing



Fred Eckhard, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, announced at today's noon briefing that the Secretary-General arrived yesterday afternoon in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he met with local United Nations staff, or "the country team" as he was encouraging them to call themselves.

Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General had a rather full programme today and had already met with the President of Algeria, Liamine Zeroual; his Special Representative for Angola, Alioune Blondin Beye (Mali); the President of Angola, Eduardo dos Santos; President Nelson Mandela of South Africa; the President of Congo-Brazzaville, Pascal Lissouba, and the President of Sudan, Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir.

Later today, the Secretary-General would meet with several other Heads of State or Government, Mr. Eckhard said. Around midday, he had addressed the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Summit, which was the main purpose of his visit.

In his speech, the Secretary-General said "Africa can no longer tolerate, and accept as a faits accomplis, coups against elected governments and the illegal seizure of power by military cliques, who sometimes act for sectional interests, sometimes simply for their own", Mr. Eckhard said. The full text of the speech was available in the Spokesman's office.

The Secretary-General's comprehensive report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 986 (1995), which permits the sale of Iraqi oil to pay for humanitarian goods, was being finalized this morning, Mr. Eckhard said. He did not expect the report to be distributed to the Council until tomorrow.

"To those correspondents who accuse the Spokesman's Office of leaking the report to some of their colleagues, I say 'full denial'", Mr. Eckhard said, adding that he had not even seen the report.

The United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) had observed movements by government military forces in the Lunda Norte province, Mr. Eckhard said. The situation in the north of Angola remained tense and there had been reports of gunfire and some casualties. The UNAVEM personnel and officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) had visited refugee camps in that province, where they observed refugee conditions and the construction of new refugee camps.

Mr. Eckhard then announced that Kuwait had, on 29 May, become a State party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.

The weekly newsletter, UNDP Flash, was available in the Spokesman's office, Mr. Eckhard said. Among other things, it mentioned that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was allocating $2 million for the reintegration of Burundi war victims through the Burundi Ministry for Reintegration. That programme would increase the Ministry's capacity to coordinate humanitarian assistance and would offer shelter, water, and sanitation services to war victims.

Mr. Eckhard said that an article in today's Washington Times had "fairly depicted" the Secretary-General's budget plans under his reform scheme, except for a quote by a staff member of United States Senator Jesse Helms. The quote contended that the United Nations programme budget for 1988-1999 would be $20 million more than that of 1996-1997, and that the negative budget growth would be achieved by an accounting change. "This is the smoke and mirrors philosophy that prevails in certain limited circles in Washington", Mr. Eckhard added. The Spokesman's office had the figures put out by the Under- Secretary-General for Administration and Management Joseph Connor. The accounting change had been spelled out in the budgetary document and it did not account for the negative growth budget. A handout on the article was available in the Spokesman's office.

Mr. Eckhard then announced that the first provisional list of speakers for the fifty-second session of the General Assembly, as well as the sixth provisional list of speakers for the June Special Session to Review and Appraise the Implementation of Agenda 21, were available in the Spokesman's office.

On Friday, the Permanent Representative of Spain Carlos Westendorp was named to succeed Carl Bildt as High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Eckhard said. He would take up his new duties around 20 June. The appointment was made by the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Security Council was expected to endorse it.

A correspondent said there had been quite a fuss recently in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) because the Secretary-General had not produced a performance report on the 1996-1997 budget. Last week, a letter delivered to its Chairman claimed that a document presented last year was, in fact, a performance report, he said. What was the problem in providing an assessment of programme delivery? Mr. Eckhard said he had not been following the issue in the Fifth Committee but he would look into it.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 2 June 1997

What was the Secretary-General's position on the controversial performance evaluation that Mr. Connor wanted all department heads to use to rate all United Nations employees? a correspondent asked. "We noticed a bit of resistance to the new system", Mr. Eckhard said. Currently, the Secretary- General did not have a position on the matter.

The new performance evaluation system had been established because the old one was felt to be "pro forma and useless", Mr. Eckhard went on to say. Some had found the new system burdensome and "equally useless", but there was no official position on that. "It just might take a little more time for the system to work itself out."

Was it accurate to say "some" were dissatisfied? a correspondent asked. Was it true that the Department of Peace-keeping Operations and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs had more or less officially told Mr. Connor they were not going to use the new system? "Some", Mr. Eckhard replied. Asked if the Secretary-General would have to step in on the matter, Mr. Eckhard said that "at the rate things are going, he might".

Did the report on resolution 986 include a recommendation to renew? a correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said he could not comment until the report was released. Some correspondents seemed to have gotten their hands on a draft of the report, but the final report was still not ready. "Or if it was, it would only be in the last hour or so."

A correspondent asked if additional information was available on the Maurice Pate Award, which the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was to present at 6 p.m. today. Mr. Eckhard said he had met someone from the UNICEF press office, which had agreed that, as of today, there would be tighter consultations. "So, UNICEF, if you are out there, please get the message. Let us know what you are doing so we can let the journalists know." Mr. Eckhard said he would call UNICEF for additional information on the award following the briefing.

Did the Secretary-General believe that the distribution plan between Iraq and the United Nations under resolution 986 should be adjusted in the light of events over the past six months? a correspondent asked. Was the correspondent referring to the report as well? Mr. Eckhard asked. He could not comment on the Secretary-General's position as contained in that report.

Asked if he had any more information on the latest developments in Sierra Leone, Mr. Eckhard said that since the United Nations had evacuated all of its people, it was getting its information primarily from news sources.

Was the call by the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) for an invasion of Sierra Leone acceptable to the United Nations? a correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said he would not comment on any statements by the head of another international organization.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 2 June 1997

Did the private retailers at Headquarters -- specifically the newsstand in the Secretariat lobby -- pay rent to the Organization? a correspondent asked. If so, what sort of revenue was involved? Mr. Eckhard said all details on revenue were contained in budget documents and reports to the General Assembly. His Office would check on the Organization's arrangements with the retailers.

Did the Secretary-General intend to recommend extending the mandate of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES)? a correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said he would not comment on the Secretary-General's recommendations, but he had been in regular contact with UNTAES Transitional Administrator Jacques Klein and had anticipated some of the problems in the area. The Secretary-General was not ready to announce his recommendations on UNTAES.

A correspondent asked for information about discussions between the United Kingdom's Defence Minister George Robertson, who was visiting Headquarters today, and the Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations, Kieran Prendergast. Mr. Eckhard said he would check with the Department of Peace-keeping Operations.

Asked for details regarding the Secretary-General's plan to visit Latin America in June, Mr. Eckhard said June was too early and no dates had been finalized. The Secretary-General was expected to visit Latin America towards the latter part of 1997.

Asked when the Secretary-General was expected back at Headquarters, Mr. Eckhard said he would be flying back to Boston on Friday to give a commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On Friday afternoon, he would fly to Washington, D.C., where he would give a speech to a fund-raising dinner of the UNA-USA.

The Secretary-General would have additional items on his agenda in both Boston and Washington and would return to New York either on Friday night or Saturday morning, depending on some appointments still to be confirmed, Mr. Eckhard said.

Would the Secretary-General meet with Senator Jesse Helms? a correspondent asked. Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General had no plans to meet with United States congressional representatives. He might meet casually with any one who attended the UNA-USA dinner on Friday night.

Asked whether there had been any feedback from Washington on the United Nations budget, Mr. Eckhard said that was now an internal matter. The Secretary-General was counting on the assurances given to him in January by United States President Bill Clinton, that he and his Administration would make the best case to the United States Congress.

Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 2 June 1997

There were "a lot of benchmarks hanging out there", but the Secretary- General continued to expect that the United States President, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the Permanent Representative Bill Richardson, and whoever else was involved, would weigh in at the appropriate time, Mr. Eckhard said. The United States budget process would continue until the end of September and would become effective on 1 October with the beginning of the American fiscal year. It was a multiple step process. So the Secretary- General was counting on the United States Administration to do what it could on the Congress to appreciate the value of the United Nations, and not least of all, on the New York delegation, which had a stake it should be protecting.

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For information media. Not an official record.