Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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22-Jan-1997 00:10:51
Briefing by Fred Eckhard, Acting Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Fred Eckhard, Acting Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, began today's noon briefing by informing correspondents that Secretary-General Kofi Annan was deeply disturbed by reports of a fresh round of killing in the Ruhengeri district of northern Rwanda. Twenty villagers had reportedly been murdered by armed gangs.

Still on the question of the Great Lakes region of Africa, Eckhard said the Secretary-General had submitted a letter to the President of the Security Council outlining his proposals for the region. Among its contents was information that SG Annan had agreed with the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Salim A. Salim, to name Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun of Algeria as the United Nations/OAU Special Representative to the area. Copies of the Secretary-General's letter and of an updated United Nations biography of Sahnoun were available at the Spokesman's office.

Turning to the situation in the former Yugoslavia, Eckhard informed reporters that the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, had replied yesterday to the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the matter of a letter from President Biljana Plavsic of the Republika Srpska. President Plavsic had argued in her letter that the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and former Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, should not be subjected to the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Corell had rebutted those arguments in a detailed letter, which concluded: "It is the position of the United Nations that unconditional cooperation with the International Tribunal is imperative, and that the Republika Srpska should surrender Dr. Karadzic and General Mladic, as well as all other accused within this Entity to the International Tribunal to stand trial."

On the Secretary-General's visit to Washington, D.C., Eckhard said Nane Annan would accompany her husband to the United States capital today, where she would follow parts of his programme but also go by separate agenda items. Tomorrow, Thursday, she would visit an educational institution, the Duke Ellington School for the Arts; have lunch with the wife of Sweden's Ambassador to the United States, Nil Liljegren; and meet, at 2:30 p.m., with the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Later in the day, she would visit the National Museum of Women and the Arts. On Friday morning, she would visit the Phillips Collection.

The Acting Spokesperson informed media representatives that the Secretary-General's address at the National Press Club on Friday would be shown live on United Nations Television at Headquarters.

On the budgetary situation, Eckhard told reporters that five more Member States had paid up their 1997 dues: Austria, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. That meant that so far, 16 Member States had paid up their assessments for the year.

He also informed correspondents that members of the Security Council would be watching a video presentation on the work of the United Nations Compensation Commission, which would be introduced by the President of the Commission's Governing Council, Goncalo de Santa Clara Gomes (Portugal) and the Executive Secretary, Ambassador Carlos Alzamora. The video would later be screened at 1 p.m. for correspondents, in room 226, with the two officials available for questions.

Eckhard then told correspondents that the Secretary-General's reports on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (document S/1997/42) and on the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) (document S/1997/47) were available, with each of them seeking a six-month extension for respective mission mandates expiring at the end of January. The report on the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) would be released tomorrow.

Referring to the Secretary-General's appointments for today, Eckhard said SG Annan had met with representatives of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States. "This completes a sweep of the five regional groups' initial consultations that he [the Secretary-General] expects would be ongoing", Eckhard added.

Continuing, the Acting Spokesperson said Cyrus Vance, the Secretary- General's Special Envoy with regard to the outstanding problem between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece, had met yesterday with both countries' representatives. Details of their discussions were not available.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had announced the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize in Paris today to the President of Guatemala, Alvaro Arzu, and a leader of the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG), Rolando Moran, according to Eckhard. They were chosen for their roles in ending their country's 36-year civil war. The chairman of the judging committee was former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. A press release, containing quotes by Kissinger and others, was available in the Spokesperson's office.

Continuing, Eckhard said the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was addressing the opening of the Fourth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, in Washington, D.C., today. A related press release, embargoed until 6 p.m. today, was also available.

In a subsequent question-and-answer session, Eckhard was asked whether the letter from the United Nations Legal Counsel, Corell, would be made available to the media. In response, he said his initial inquiries on that had been discouraged on the grounds that the letter was an internal communication. However, he assured reporters that he would ask again to see whether it could be released. [It was later announced that the letter was available to the media.]

Asked whether the mandate of the United Nations/OAU Special Representative to the Great Lakes region would include the provision of electoral assistance to Zaire, Eckhard said, "Most likely, yes". However that and other details still had to be sorted out. The Secretary-General had proposed in the letter that the Special Representative should have three deputies, with the idea that all activities for restoring stability in the region should come under the Special Representative. While the electoral process might have to be headed by a technical person in that area, it would be operating under the Special Representative.

In response to a question as to whether the United States would pay its debts to the Organization as a result of the Secretary-General's visit to Washington, Eckhard said that the Member State's budget process for fiscal year 1998 was just starting, with the President proposing a budget to the Congress. The purpose of the Secretary-General's trip was to open a dialogue with the leaders of the United States Administration and Congress and also to urge them to pay up their arrears. SG Annan would discuss his reform concepts and try to convince them that "they need the United Nations as much as the United Nations needs them", he said.

Asked about those accompanying the Secretary-General, Eckhard said they included Nane Annan; the Executive Coordinator on Reform, Maurice Strong; Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management, Joseph E. Connor; the Secretary-General's Executive Assistant, Elizabeth Lindenmayer; and the Adviser for Public Affairs, Gillian Martin Sorensen. "And I think I am probably forgetting someone -- myself", he added.

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