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UN DAILY NEWS UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE



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UN DAILY NEWS

UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE



17 August 2006

LEBANON: MORE WORK NEEDED TO MEET TROOP DEADLINE ON UN FORCE, SAYS ANNAN’S DEPUTY


17 August - Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown said there had

been “a reasonable start” from United Nations Member States participating

in today’s meeting of potential troop contributors for an expanded and

more robust peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, but that much work

remains to be done to achieve the initial deadline of dispatching an extra

3,500 troops to the region within the next 10 days.


Speaking to reporters after the meeting at UN Headquarters in New York,

Mr. Malloch Brown said that about a third of the 23 countries whose

representatives spoke during the meeting made “relatively firm

commitments,” while another third “made conditional commitments in which

they felt there was still a relatively major hurdle to cross,” and a final

third “were much more cautious, offering just support in principle.”


Many delegations will need to return to their capitals for parliamentary

approval or some other form of acceptance from their domestic governments,

he said, before they can issue a clear commitment.
The UN convened today’s meeting of potential troop contributors after the

cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah took effect on

Monday following last Friday’s Security Council resolution on the

month-long conflict in the Middle East.


That resolution called for the existing UN Interim Force in Lebanon

(UNIFIL) to be given more robust rules of engagement and expanded to

include up to 15,000 peacekeepers to support the Lebanese armed forces as

they deploy across the south of the country at the same time as Israel

withdraws from the area.
Mr. Malloch Brown warned that it was vital to install at least 3,500

troops within the next 10 days because “the current cessation of

hostilities is not going to be stable for long. It has to move towards a

full disengagement and ceasefire.”


He said some Member States had raised questions about whether their

troops, if they were dispatched, would have to take part in hostile or

offensive activities against Hizbollah members.
“What we said to them was, ‘Look, this is a prudently designed [set of]

rules of engagement, which is non-offensive in character but very much

does call on you to robustly use force if it’s necessary.’ ”
Asked about reports that France, which has been discussed as possibly

leading an expanded UNIFIL, had agreed to send 200 extra troops, Mr.

Malloch Brown said the UN was disappointed.
“We had hoped France would be able to do more. But President Chirac has

been very clear with the Secretary-General that France is keeping its

1,700 troops at sea in the area to give logistics support to the Force, it

is doubling its current level of contribution, and we’re going to stay in

touch on what more is possible.”
The Deputy Secretary-General added that he agreed with a point made by

France that UNIFIL’s legitimacy is actually “enhanced if it’s seen as

having a number of very significant contributors who between them

represent a wider geographic balance than just one lead country.”


He also said that other countries have also come forward and “we’re pretty

convinced we’ve got the elements here of a strong force which is very

multilateral in character but well able to do the task it will be given.”
Earlier, in his address to the meeting, Mr. Malloch Brown stressed the

importance of converting promises into commitments and then turning those

commitments into rapid deployments on the ground.
“Every moment we delay is a moment that the fighting could re-erupt,” he

said.

ISRAEL BEGINS WITHDRAWAL FROM LEBANON AS LEBANESE TROOPS MOVE IN, UN FORCE REPORTS
17 August - The Israeli Army has started its withdrawal from Lebanese

territory and the Lebanese Army has begun deploying troops south of the

Litani River, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which

is helping to support and coordinate the operations, reported today.


The Israeli Army withdrew yesterday from Tibnin, Frun, Ghanduriyah,

Marjayoun, Qulayah and Khiyam, handing over control to UNIFIL, which

established a number of checkpoints and patrolled these areas to verify

the withdrawal of the Israeli Army.


This morning, the Lebanese Armed Forces started the process of deployment

inside the territory vacated by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), while

UNIFIL controls a buffer zone to the south, between the Lebanese Army and

the IDF.


“Significant numbers of troops of the Lebanese Army arrived this morning

to Tyre, with around 500 already deployed in the general area of Tibnin,

and some 800 in the general area of Marjayoun,” the Force said.
The Israeli Army withdrawal and the deployment of the Lebanese Army are

planned to continue in the coming days in accordance with arrangements

worked out during a meeting which brought together the UNIFIL Force

Commander and representatives of Lebanon and Israel.


Under a resolution adopted Friday calling for the cessation of hostilities

– which UNIFIL said is generally holding – the Security Council welcomed

the Lebanese Government's plan to deploy 15,000 troops across the south of

the country as Israel withdraws behind the Blue Line, and also backed the

simultaneous deployment of an expanded and enhanced UNIFIL with up to

15,000 peacekeepers.


Although no shots were fired, UNIFIL said three times over the past 24

hours, Israeli aircraft violated Lebanese airspace.


UNIFIL de-mining team from the Chinese contingent continued operations to

clear unexploded ordnance – considered a key threat to civilians now on

the move as they return to their homes – from the area.
The Force also distributed food and water to a number of villages and has

been providing medical assistance and water to a number of local villages

in its area of operations. In addition, peacekeepers provided fuel to the

village of Rmeich to power the water supply system there.


SUDAN MAY BE GEARING UP FOR MAJOR OFFENSIVE IN DARFUR, UN PEACEKEEPING OFFICIAL WARNS


17 August - The Sudanese Government seems to be determined to pursue a

major military offensive in strife-torn Darfur, building up its armed

forces in the region as the situation there deteriorates, the Security

Council heard today.
In a closed-door briefing, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping

Operations Hédi Annabi also warned the Council that Sudanese President

Omar al-Bashir has reiterated his opposition to a United Nations

peacekeeping force in Darfur and vowed that the Sudanese armed forces

would fight any UN force dispatched to the region.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that Mr. Annabi

urged the Council to consider re-engaging Khartoum directly for a final

discussion on the question of whether it would agree to a UN peacekeeping

operation in Darfur.


Mr. Annabi noted that the security situation in Darfur, a region roughly

the size of France on Sudan’s remote western border with Chad, has

worsened since the last such briefing to the Council in June.
There has been an unprecedented level of attacks against humanitarian

workers, with Mr. Annabi stating that some non-governmental organizations

(NGOs) have indicated they may be forced to withdraw entirely from North

Darfur, one of three states which comprise the region.


The implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), signed in May, is

not going well either, the Assistant Secretary-General added, noting there

have been violations of its provisions by both signatories and

non-signatories.


The President of the Security Council, Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng,

told reporters following the meeting that a draft resolution had been

introduced on Sudan. “We are looking at the possibility of bringing all

the major players to a meeting here, the League of Arab States, the OIC

(Organization of the Islamic Conference), the African Union and a

representative of the Sudanese Government,” he said, adding that the first

two had already accepted.
Last week Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote to the Council to express

alarm about the situation in Darfur, especially after the wave of attacks

against humanitarian workers – in July there were 36 reported incidents

that led to nine deaths.


The increased fighting and the attacks against aid workers means it is

harder for those who remain to direct humanitarian assistance to those in

need. As many as 1.6 million people were now inaccessible, Mr. Annan said

in his letter.


On Wednesday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that funding

shortages could force cuts to the rations now going to 6 million people in

Darfur and warned that this would lead to nutritional degradation.
Mr. Annabi’s bleak assessment to the Council comes as Sima Samar, the UN’s

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, voiced concern following a

visit to the region about the lack of justice for victims of violent

crimes.
Ms. Samar told a press conference in Khartoum that “there is not only a

lack of prevention and protection, but also a lack of justice for the

crimes that are committed – whether it is killing of civilians, rape,

looting or destruction of property. Where impunity is allowed to prevail,

protection will remain elusive.”


She called on the Sudanese Government to urgently disarm the militias

operating in Darfur and to strengthen the criminal justice system there –

especially by ensuring it has adequate resources to investigate and

prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses.


Ms. Samar stressed that, during recent clashes in Darfur, “there is a

clear failure to differentiate between combatants and the civilian

population.”
Scores of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million

others have been displaced since conflict erupted in 2003 between rebels,

Government forces and allied militia groups in Darfur.

UN AGENCIES AGREE ON CLEAN-UP PLAN TO TACKLE OIL SPILL POLLUTING LEBANON AND SYRIA


17 August - United Nations agencies backed a wide-ranging multimillion

dollar action plan today to tackle up to 15,000 tonnes of fuel oil that

spewed into the Mediterranean Sea, killing marine life and affecting

around 150 kilometres of Lebanese and Syrian coastline, after a power

utility was damaged last month during the fighting between Israel and

Hizbollah.
The plan, which envisages an initial cost of around $64 million with

possibly more funds needed next year, was agreed to at a meeting convened

by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the UN Environment

Programme (UNEP) in Athens, Greece, and which also involved countries in

the region and the European Commission.
“Now the bombs have stopped and the guns have been silenced we have a

chance to rapidly assess the true magnitude of the problem and finally

mobilize the support for an oil clean-up and a restoration of the

coastline,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director.


“The experts are on standby and today the international community have

agreed on an action plan. I sincerely hope we have secured the financial

backing to swiftly and comprehensively deliver on this promise to the

Lebanese people, on this request to the UN for assistance from the

Lebanese authorities,” he added.
The International Assistance Action Plan envisages three stages of

response, namely priority short-term actions – including immediate

helicopter aerial surveys to determine the extent of the pollution;

medium-term actions – including a workforce of 300 people cleaning up to

30 sites simultaneously; and long-term actions to assess the lessons

learned.
“I am delighted that we have been able to agree on this action plan which

now sets the stage for the wide-ranging assistance the Lebanese and, to a

lesser extent, the Syrian authorities so urgently need,” said Efthimios

Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the IMO.
Several countries have offered clean-up and oil containment equipment and

the Plan recommends that each donor providing equipment should also make

available one or several specialists to train local staff in its use. It

also highlights a “continually evolving scenario demanding a move, for

example, from vacuum trucks and pumps to mechanical grabs as the oil

becomes more viscous”.


The Plan has been prepared by the Experts Working Group for Lebanon under

the supervision of the UNEP-Mediterranean Action Plan’s Regional Marine

Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) and

the Minister of the Environment of Lebanon.

HATE MESSAGES IN DR CONGO MEDIA TARGETING ‘WHITE PEOPLE’ SPARK UN CONCERNS
17 August - The top United Nations envoy to the Democratic Republic of the

Congo (DRC) has expressed concern about hate messages in the local media,

which are inciting Congolese to target and take revenge on “white people

and foreigners,” a spokesman for the world body said today.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the DRC, William Lacy

Swing, made his feelings known this morning, following yesterday’s

decision by the Congolese High Authority on Media to suspend for 24 hours

the local RTAE and CCTV television stations because of the broadcasts.


CCTV television station is owned by presidential candidate and current

Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told

reporters in New York, adding that the official Congolese Broadcasting

Corporation television station has also been suspended for 24 hours on

similar grounds.
On a separate issue, the UN Mission to the DRC (MONUC) reports that some

97 per cent


of the votes cast in last month’s landmark presidential election, and some

50 per cent of those cast in the parliamentary poll, have been compiled so

far, Mr. Dujarric said.
The Mission says election organizers are confident that official

provisional results for the presidential poll will be available this

Saturday, one day ahead of schedule, despite logistical difficulties in

the vast African country.


During the largely peaceful elections on 30 July, millions of voters went

to some 50,000 polling stations to choose from among 32 candidates for

president and more than 9,000 candidates for the National Assembly.

UN INVESTIGATES ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD PROSTITUTION INVOLVING PEACEKEEPERS IN DR CONGO


17 August - The United Nations is investigating a suspected child

prostitution ring involving its peacekeepers and Government soldiers in

the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN mission in the vast

African nation said today, as it re-emphasized the world body’s zero

tolerance policy against all forms of sexual exploitation.
The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) says that while most patrons are

reported to be Congolese soldiers, early victim testimonies suggest that

the suspected ring leaders cited the presence of UN troops in the region

and their perceived financial resources to incite impressionable young

girls to engage in prostitution.
MONUC takes these allegations very seriously and expressed “extreme shock”

at the testimonies of the victims of this illegal activity, which

allegedly took place in the northeastern province of South-Kivu, the

Mission said in a press release.


“The Mission will uphold its staff policy of zero tolerance for sexual

misconduct and, should the allegations against UN peacekeepers prove

well-founded, it will take all necessary disciplinary measures without

delay,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.


MONUC will now work closely with its local partners to fully investigate

the matter, contribute to the eradication of this prostitution ring and to

the arrest of its backers by the Congolese authorities, it said. It will

also take great care in “ensuring the victims of this intolerable

trafficking receive all the protection they need.”
The findings of the investigation will be made public by MONUC once it is

over, as well as any disciplinary measures taken against staff if they

found to have been involved in this criminal activity, the Mission said.
The UN imposed a policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and

abuse by its own staff, particularly peacekeepers in the field, following

allegations in 2004 against blue helmets in the DRC. At the time the UN

Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) cited payments ranging from

two eggs to $5 per encounter. Some victims were abandoned orphans who were

often illiterate.


Since then UN investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and

abuse have resulted in the repatriation from the DRC of more than 100

military and 11 police personnel, the summary dismissal of seven civilian

personnel, the reprimand of three civilians and the suspension of six

civilians, Mr. Dujarric said.
MONUC currently has more than 17,000 uniformed personnel in the DRC

helping to keep the peace in the strife-torn country and also assisting in

the follow-up to last month’s landmark elections that the UN helped

organize.


WATER AND OTHER ESSENTIALS NEEDED IN BEIRUT, SAYS UN, AS IT SENDS MORE CONVOYS SOUTH


17 August - The tens of thousands of people returning to the war-ravaged

southern suburbs of Beirut desperately need clean drinking water, medicine

and other essentials, the United Nations said today, as it dispatched more

aid convoys to others in need in the devastated towns and cities in the

south of the country.


The three convoys are headed to Sidon, Tyre and Marjayoun, a UN spokesman

told reporters in New York, adding that the World Health Organization

(WHO) is also sending more than 120 trauma kits and six medical kits, with

equipment for some 12,000 operations, to the Marjayoun hospital.


In addition, a WHO fuel tanker has left Tyre for the southern village of

Bint Jbeil, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, while highlighting that

since the beginning of the current crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP)

has distributed more than 1,300 tonnes of food to over 262,000 Lebanese.


Almost 100,000 people have now returned from Syria, or more than half of

an estimated total of 180,000 Lebanese who fled there to get away from the

fighting, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today, as it

continued to organize bus transport for many of the returnees.


“The people are very excited to go. They certainly know about the

difficult situation in Lebanon, but all we see here are happy faces,” said

UNHCR protection officer, Lisa Quarshie, at the Al Aarida border crossing.

“Lately we see people with lots of boxes going back, filled with food and

bedsheets and other donations from the Gulf States.”
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which along with providing essential aid

is also helping run awareness programmes on the danger of unexploded

ordnance in Lebanon, estimates that 6,000 people are headed back toward

the worst-hit areas in the south of the country every hour.


A UNHCR team has now arrived in the southern port city of Tyre, which was

cut off at one stage during the conflict, and the agency says this is the

advance guard of the staff who will establish warehouse facilities and

establish exactly what assistance will be needed by those trying to

rebuild in the worst-affected areas.
“There's severe destruction caused by aerial bombardments,” said UNHCR's

senior liaison officer Harry Leefe. “Where there was once a house, I could

just see a bomb crater. There are also lots of cluster bombs.”
UN DEMANDS IMMEDIATE END TO DEMOLITIONS AND FORCED RELOCATION OF DISPLACED SUDANESE

17 August - A United Nations human rights expert joined her voice today to

the growing alarm about the Sudanese authorities’ demolition yesterday –

without warning – of the homes of 12,000 long-term internally displaced

persons (IDPs) living in a camp south of the capital Khartoum.
Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Sudan, told a press

conference in Khartoum that there had been reports “of a number of

deaths,” including some children, during the demolition operation.
“I call on the authorities to immediately halt the forced relocation and

allow access to the area so services can be provided to the population,”

Dr. Samar said.
In a statement released today the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said heavily

armed policemen and tanks surrounded the squatter camp at Dar Assalam,

situated about 43 kilometres from Khartoum, about 8 a.m. yesterday.
With only a few minutes’ notice, bulldozers then moved in and demolished

hundreds of houses. UN officials in the area were barred entry and told to

leave after they heard gunshots.
UNMIS, which has also condemned the operation and asked for immediate

access to the area to assess the humanitarian situation, said it was

particularly concerned because Dar Assalam residents and authorities had

signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) earlier this year indicating

that there would be no forced relocations until another site acceptable to

both sides had been found.


“The UN remains ready to provide all necessary assistance to ensure that

any relocation of the people of Dar Assalam takes place on the basis of

the MoU and with due regard to the human rights and humanitarian needs of

all residents,” according to the UNMIS statement.


Most residents of Dar Assalam have lived there since the 1980s, having

fled western Sudan during the famine of that period.


UNICEF WORKING TO HELP QUAKE-AFFECTED SCHOOL CHILDREN IN TAJIKISTAN

17 August - With thousands of children returning to school in Tajikistan

in the first week of September as usual, the United Nations Children’s

Fund (UNICEF) is working to ensure that those living in areas hit by a

recent earthquake will be able to learn despite the devastation wrought by

the disaster.


The earthquake that rocked Qumsangir on 29 July left 5,000 children

without classrooms, causing severe damage to over a dozen of the area’s 44

schools.
“UNICEF stands ready to provide school-in-a-box kits, school desks and

chairs for a number of affected schools before school resumes in early

September,” said the agency’s Representative, Yukie Mokuo, who visited the

affected sites earlier this month along with officials from the

Government. The team found that many classrooms are unsafe and will not be

ready for the beginning of the school year.


In a news release on Wednesday, the agency warned of the threat of a

possible outbreak of water-borne diseases in the area, which relies solely

on a damaged irrigation canal as its source of water supply for cooking

and drinking. Sanitation conditions are also poor.


Immediately after the earthquake, UNICEF sent initial emergency supplies

worth $10,000 containing hygiene kits, water purification tablets, towels,

jerry cans and high protein biscuits to the affected areas. Another batch

of supplies, mostly hygiene items, will be distributed next week in

partnership with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

working on health care and hygiene promotion.


UNICEF AND ITS PARTNERS HAVE ALSO ASSESSED WATER AND SANITATION AND ARE WORKING TO ENSURE THEIR LONG-TERM REHABILITATION.
The Government of Tajikistan is working to rebuild the damaged schools

with support from the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, a global

partnership between donor and developing countries to ensure universal

primary education by 2015, UNICEF said.

Bird flu virus becoming endemic in parts of Asia – UN
17 August - Laboratory results show that a recent wave of bird flu in

poultry in Thailand and Laos was the result of both old and new strains of

the H5N1 virus, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

said today, calling for vigorous implementation of control measures to

prevent further spread of the disease.

The FAO says last month’s outbreak in Thailand’s Pichit province was

caused by the same strain that has been circulating in the area since

2003, meaning the virus has become endemic to the region.


“The H5N1 virus thus remained alive in central Thailand in a reservoir of

birds and poultry, most probably a mix of backyard chickens, ducks and

fighting cocks,” said Laurence Gleeson, regional manager of FAO’s bird flu

centre in Bangkok today.


Outbreaks in Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom province and Vientiane in Laos, on

the other hand, were caused by strains that did not exist there previously

but that did resemble ones found in southern China, the FAO said.
The bird flu situation in the region has reached a “critical juncture,”

said the agency, noting that outbreaks were continuing in China and also

reoccurring in Laos, while cross-border poultry trade persisted across

South-East and East Asia, despite well-known risks. For all of those

reasons, heightened vigilance was essential throughout the region.
“Timely reporting and sharing information continue to be crucial,” said He

Changchui, FAO’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific,

pointing out that while some countries can beat back occasional bird flu

reoccurrence, poorer countries still need funding to strengthen veterinary

services and build up transboundary animal disease containment programmes.

UN OPENS NEW OFFICES IN AFGHANISTAN’S TROUBLED SOUTHERN REGION


17 August - The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA)

has opened a new regional office in Qalat, Zabul, in the south of the

country, where a growing insurgency threatens stability, as part of its

efforts to work with Afghans to boost development and monitor human

rights.
“The new offices build on our current network and will help us to listen

closely to the needs of the people, the community, the elders and the

local authorities to get a better understanding about what can be done to

help to bring prosperity to Afghanistan,” said the Secretary-General’s

Special Representative to the country, Tom Koenigs.
“The office will closely cooperate with the local government and local

governors and with all the administration to strengthen good governance

and the rule of law, as well as monitoring human rights issues and will

assist the local population where needed to ensure that more development

reaches these areas,” he said.
UNAMA has plans to open more offices across in the whole country, the

envoy noted. “We believe that our presence can help contribute to the

stabilization of the country,” said Mr. Koenigs.

The mission is mandated to provide political and strategic advice for the

peace process and help the Government towards implementation of the

Afghanistan Compact, a five-year development plan for the country. UNAMA

is also promoting human rights, providing technical assistance, and

continuing to manage all UN humanitarian relief, recovery, reconstruction

and development activities in coordination with the Government.
Mr. Koenigs has warned the Security Council that Afghanistan faces a

growing insurgency in the south, calling for international efforts to

counter the threat he said was posed by a coherent leadership with a clear

intention to overthrow the Government and return the country to the way it

was under the Taliban.
UN-ORGANIZED ‘RED RIBBONS’ AWARDED FOR LOCAL AIDS INITIATIVES
17 August - As part of an effort to highlight some of the most outstanding

and least recognized participants in the frontline response to HIV and

AIDS, the first-ever Red Ribbon Awards were handed out to five local

community groups at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto last

night.
Nearly 600 communities around the world were nominated for the $20,000

awards, which were organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in

partnership with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Twenty

finalist communities will also receive $5,000 each.


“The Red Ribbon Award is a great opportunity to bring communities together

that have fought this disease,” said UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis.

“Sometimes they work in extremely difficult situations, in contexts of war

or extreme poverty, and yet they have found ways despite these obstacles

to make things happen, to generate some real success on the ground.”
Zimbabwe’s Girl Child Network, which counsels and supports girls in rural

areas, including victims of sexual abuse, received the award for best

practice in overcoming women’s equality from UNAIDS Special Representative

HRH the Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway.

The Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, which successfully

campaigned to bring anti-retroviral treatment into Thailand’s

public-health system, was honored for its role in providing access to

care, treatment and support.


The All Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a lobbying

group, was rewarded for its efforts to address stigma and discrimination,

secure treatment and organize support for people living with HIV/AIDS in

Ukraine.
Durjoy Nari Shongo, a Bangladeshi project that educates, protects and

advocates for sex workers and their families, received the award for its

work in promoting prevention initiatives.


Mboole Rural Development, a youth-led community network in Zambia that

sews school uniforms for AIDS orphans, was also honored last night.


The winners were chosen by an international jury that included the

Norwegian Crown Princess, actress Naomi Watts, and former Irish President

Mary Robinson.

REPORTED EXECUTION OF AFGHAN PROMPTS UN ENVOY TO TAKE STAND AGAINST DEATH PENALTY


17 August - The top United Nations envoy in Afghanistan today condemned

the death penalty as reports emerged that Iranian authorities recently

executed an Afghan national living in Iran.


“My position on the death penalty is clear: in all countries and for all

crimes without exception I stand against it. There can be no room in any

modern society for state executions,” said Tom Koenigs, the

Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, in a statement

issued in Kabul.
“The United Nations has always and continues to support the abolition of

the death penalty amongst all member states.”

WITH UN SUPPORT, CONSTRUCTION OF NEW HOUSING UNITS BEGINS IN SERBIA

17 August - Top government and civil society leaders have formally laid

the first foundations of new homes under a housing and social integration

programme for tens of thousands of war refugees and other vulnerable

people in Serbia being supported by the United Nations Human Settlements

Programme (UN-HABITAT).


The programme aims to provide some 670 new homes for 3,000 refugees and

vulnerable people, to build institutional capacities for social housing

development, assist the social and economic integration of refugees and

displaced people, and help boost the development capacity of local

governments in their development planning and municipal information

systems, the agency said in a press release.


Special ceremonies were held in the municipality of Niš on 9 August,

following others in different areas, where senior government and local

officials were at hand to witness the start of the initiative.
The Settlement and Integration of Refugees Programme in Serbia is a

three-year effort being funded by the Government of Italy.


UNESCO CHIEF CONDEMNS MURDER OF MEXICAN MAGAZINE EDITOR


17 August - Continuing his campaign to draw the world’s attention to

threats against freedom of the press, the Director-General of the United

Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today

condemned the killing of the editor of a Mexican magazine.


The body of Enrique Perea Quintanilla was found on the outskirts of the

northern city of Chihuahua on 9 August with bullet wounds to the head and

back. Mr. Perea was the editor of Dos Caras, Una Verdad (Two Sides, One

Truth), a monthly magazine focusing on local drug trafficking and closed

murder cases.
“Crimes against journalists and editors constitute a grievous offence

against democracy and rule of law,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro

Matsuura in a statement released in Paris. “They undermine the freedom of

media professionals to inform public debate and participation.”


“I trust that the special prosecutor appointed to deal with crimes against

the press will be able to ensure that the perpetrators or such crimes are

brought to justice and that Mexican journalists will be able to carry out

their professional duties without fear of reprisals,” Mr. Matsuura added.


According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), four Mexican

journalists have been killed in the past five years in direct reprisal for

their work. The CPJ is also investigating the slayings of six other

journalists, whose murders may be related to their work. Two journalists

are currently missing. One was abducted last month and the other in April.
Mr. Matsuura has recently condemned a wave of murders of journalists in

Iraq, as well as killings of members of the press in China, Russia and

Brazil.

TIMOR-LESTE: UN SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE CHAIRS ELECTION MEETING


17 August - As a first step toward helping Timor-Leste hold free and fair

elections next year, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in

that country today convened a meeting of the major political parties to

negotiate a new law that would govern those elections.

Politicians representing 17 parties discussed two competing drafts, one by

the ruling Fretilin party and the other by members of opposition parties.

An electoral adviser from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) offered an

analysis of the proposals. Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta, who also

attended the meeting, said he would study both drafts.
“This was an extremely important exercise in preparation for free, fair

and credible elections next year,” said the Secretary-General’s Special

Representative in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, who noted that he had

already seen a movement toward consensus among the political parties.

“This is democracy at work.”

The tiny South-East Asian nation is still recovering from a wave of

violence earlier this year. Dozens were killed and 155,000 people forced

to flee their homes after clashes broke out when the government dismissed

some 600 soldiers who had gone on strike.
In a report last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the UN Security

Council to establish a new mission in Timor-Leste to help rebuild

institutions, promote national reconciliation and assist in next year’s

elections. He also proposed a UN police force of more than 1,600 that

would, among other activities, provide security during the voting.
At today’s meeting, Mr. Hasegawa noted that the Secretary-General had also

requested a team of electoral advisors and specialists. He added that the

UN would be prepared, if requested by Timor-Leste’s Government, to send a

high-level team to certify each step of the electoral process.


“The international community is committed to assisting in further

strengthening the democratic foundations of Timor-Leste and believes that

jointly, we can make the 2007 elections a success,” said Mr. AHasegawa.

___________________________________________________________________________




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