3 June 1997

Press Briefing



Fred Eckhard, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, began today's noon briefing by announcing that the Secretary-General had a full schedule of meetings in Harare, Zimbabwe today, mainly with Heads of State or Government. Those appointments included breakfast with the newly re-elected Secretary- General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Salim Ahmed Salim. The meeting was consistent with the pattern of consultations between the United Nations and the OAU which took place both after the OAU summit and during the General Assembly session in the fall.

The two leaders discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Sierra Leone, Mr. Eckhard said. The Secretary-General stated that there was a consensus in the OAU not to recognize the coup leaders in Sierra Leone. An OAU Executive Committee statement urged neighbouring States to make life impossible for the new so-called government in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General also met today with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laurent Kabila. The first issued raised was the plight of refugees and the need for more cooperation with the humanitarian community. When the Secretary-General suggested that a representative from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) join the meeting, Mr. Kabila agreed immediately and proposed one of his ministers as the contact between his Government and UNHCR. He also pledged to work closely with the agency.

President Kabila told the Secretary-General that his Government needed United Nations assistance with reconstruction, Mr. Eckhard said. The Secretary-General offered such assistance and urged Mr. Kabila to broaden his Government further.

The Secretary-General was scheduled to leave Harare tonight for London, where he would have a full day of appointments on Wednesday, Mr. Eckhard said. He would meet with the new Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook; the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short; and attend a luncheon hosted by the Minister of State in the Foreign Office, Tony Lloyd. In the evening, he might attend a reception for World Environment Day hosted by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

"For those correspondents who played by the rules", Mr. Eckhard said, the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 986 (1995), known as the oil-for-food plan came out today. The report recommended renewal of the programme for six months.

The report of the Security Council Committee established by resolution 661 (1990) on the sanction regime against Iraq was also released today, Mr. Eckhard said. The Committee had approved a total of 51 oil contracts for a total volume of 121 million barrels of oil at an estimated cost of $2.16 billion. The excess amount above the $2 billion ceiling related to pipeline fees. As of 30 May, the United Nations Secretariat had received 630 applications for humanitarian sales. Of those, 24 were subsequently cancelled, 331 contracts were approved, 191 were placed on hold, 14 were locked in, and 38 were pending approval. An additional 32 applications are yet to be submitted. The Council was expected to consider the oil-for-food plan tomorrow.

The President of the Security Council for June, Sergey Lavrov (Russian Federation), called for consultations this morning to discuss the Council's programme of work, Mr. Eckhard said. Ambassador Lavrov also asked the Secretariat to brief Council members on the situation in Angola and Sierra Leone, as well as on last Friday's incident in the Golan Heights in which two Austrian peace-keepers were killed.

Mr. Eckhard said the UNHCR had temporarily halted its operations at the Karuba collection point, 45 kilometres west of Goma, following the killing there late last week by armed soldiers believed to be from the new Congolese Government army of a local worker for Save the Children and four refugees. The Agency had called for an investigation of the incident and would resume its operation only when it received assurances that its staff and those of other aid agencies could work with security and without being harassed. In the incident in question, the aid worker had been carrying a small child, when he, the child, and the three other refugees walking with him were all killed.

In Geneva today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a summary report on the human rights situation in Rwanda and on the activities of its field operation there, Mr. Eckhard said. In May, there had been a steady deterioration in the security situation in some parts of Rwanda, while other areas remained relatively stable. In March and April, the field operations office received reports of 344 people killed in 48 separate incidents, with 162 killings said to be the responsibility of the State -- including members of the Rwandan Army -- and 51 attributed to members of the Interahamwe militia. The highest number of killings had been reported in the Ruhengeri Prefecture in northern Rwanda.

The High Commissioner's Office had also expressed concern at recent developments which might be described as ethnic cleansing or ethnic killings, Mr. Eckhard went on to say. During March and April, there had been reports of ethnically motivated killings and other attacks. In two separate attacks on schools, 23 students had been killed on ethnic grounds.

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At the end of April, in Kigali Ville Prefecture, the editor of Umuravumba magazine had been killed by two unidentified individuals, Mr. Eckhard said. The report said it might have been for his views as a journalist.

The Special Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Elisabeth Rehn, announced today that she would not run for the office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Eckhard said. A press release from Ms. Rehn's office was available in the Spokesman's Office.

The Secretary-General had decided to appoint Lakhan L. Mehrotra of India as his Special Representative for Cambodia, Mr. Eckhard said. A release on that appointment was available in the Spokesman's office. (See Press Release SG/A/637-BIO/3075 of 3 June.)

Press reports that the United Nations had 100 representatives in Algeria were incorrect, Mr. Eckhard said. In response to a request from the Algerian Government, four United Nations consultants were providing technical assistance for the country's parliamentary elections. The consultants would brief electoral observers, assist with their deployment throughout the country, and facilitate their final debriefings. However, United Nations technical assistance would not judge the outcome of the elections.

A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) press release to mark World Environment Day on 5 June was also available in the Spokesman's office, Mr. Eckhard said. Two press releases from the Department of Public Information (DPI) containing the Secretary-General's message and a list of the Day's events and activities were available on the racks (see Press Release SG/SM/6246-ENV/DEV/421 of 3 June and Note to Correspondents No. 5411 of 2 June, respectively).

The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Yasushi Akashi, returned yesterday from his visit to Kazakstan, Mr. Eckhard said. Journalists who wished to talk to Mr. Akashi about his trip should call his office.

Mr. Eckhard drew correspondents' attention to two other press releases available in the Spokesman's office. A press release from the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a simplified treatment for leprosy. Another concerned the opening on Monday, 9 June, of the fourth plenary session for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

At 4 p.m. today at 777 United Nations Plaza, the Non-Governmental Organization Steering Committee for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development would hold a press briefing on the June Special Session of the General Assembly to Review and Appraise the Implementation of Agenda 21, Mr. Eckhard announced.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 3 June 1997

In reply to a question, Mr. Eckhard said he would have to check whether the Secretary-General had met with the President of Nigeria, Sani Abacha. (It was later learned that General Abacha did not attend the OAU Summit.)

Asked about the Secretary-General's position on Nigerian military actions yesterday in Sierra Leone, Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General hoped the situation could be resolved without the use of military force. Negotiations had taken place over the weekend and on Sunday there appeared to be some kind of agreement. That had been turned down by the Revolutionary United Front and the fighting began on Monday.

To another question, Mr. Eckhard said he did not have anything from United Nations sources regarding press reports that some Nigerian soldiers were being held hostage in Sierra Leone.

A correspondent asked for further information in a follow-up to a question asked at yesterday's briefing regarding financial arrangements between the United Nations and the newsstand in the Secretariat lobby. Ms. Sophie Sebirot-Nossoff, from the Spokesman's office, said the payments by the newsstand were not termed as "rent" but as reimbursement for utilities, security and related services, such as garbage disposal.

Mr. Eckhard said the charges were for the kind of services used by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) when it held an event at United Nations premises.

Another correspondent said the newsstand charged the "outrageous price" of $8 for two radio batteries. Mr. Eckhard said he would convey the correspondent's concerns to the newsstand.

Another correspondent asked who set the prices in the cafeteria, which charged 95 cents for a bread roll. Mr. Eckhard said he thought the rolls were free and had not noticed that he had been charged.

In reply to another question, Mr. Eckhard said he would check on the rate of reimbursement paid by the newsstand.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, had questioned the impact of proposed United Nations reforms on the agency, a correspondent said. What was the Secretary-General's response to her comments? Mr. Eckhard said Ms. Bellamy had been briefing the UNICEF Executive Board, which was holding its last meeting before the Secretary- General's reform package would be announced in July.

There were no detailed reform proposals on the table, Mr. Eckhard continued. The Executive Coordinator for United Nations Reform, Maurice Strong, was consulting widely with UNICEF and other agencies. The main purpose of the reform process was to strengthen the United Nations role in

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development, not weaken it. The aim was to reduce fragmentation and increase cooperation among the various United Nations entities, both at Headquarters and in the field.

Mr. Eckhard said he believed Ms. Bellamy was responding to some of the options which had been discussed and had expressed her concerns directly to the Secretary-General. Both Mr. Strong and the Secretary-General would take those concerns into account. The idea was not to bury UNICEF in United Nations bureaucracy but merely to coordinate it, the World Food Programme (WFP) and other United Nations entities, for more efficient product delivery.

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Note:In the third paragraph on page 4 of the Daily Press Briefing notes for 2 June, Kieran Prendergast was incorrectly identified as the Under- Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations. Mr. Prendergast is the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

For information media. Not an official record.