Annan flags human rights issue in latest report on Ethiopia/Eritrea
20 September -- Amidst persistent accusations of human rights abuses by both Ethiopia and Eritrea, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report released today that he intends to establish a human rights component in the newly authorized United Nations peacekeeping mission for the two countries.

In his latest status report on the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Mr. Annan also warns that the complex humanitarian emergency situation in both countries, resulting from a combination of war and drought, is "a cause for major concern."

According to the report, large numbers of the estimated 350,000 Ethiopians who were displaced by the recent fighting have been returning to their homes, but they need assistance in almost every aspect of their lives, and many of the areas they are returning to are heavily mined. Meanwhile, drought has left over 10 million in need of emergency assistance.

Continued humanitarian assistance is also needed in drought-affected Eritrea, where some 400,000 internally displaced people and some 50,000 refugees have returned to the areas they come from and require assistance. Another 200,000 internally displaced people are held back by the lack of resources or security concerns, while 35,000 Eritreans continue to live as refugees in the Sudan.

In order to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, the Secretary-General calls on both countries to continue to exercise restraint. He also appeals to international donors to respond to requests for assistance, particularly in the areas of nutrition, health, sanitation and agriculture.

As for the security situation, Mr. Annan reports improvement over the past month. Also, deployment of UNMEE is moving ahead, with the first military observers and civilian support staff already in both countries, and the next wave of observers coming in mid-October. The Secretary-General says he will nominate a Special Representative and a Force Commander in the near future.

Security Council extends UN mission in Sierra Leone
20 September -- The United Nations Security Council today unanimously approved a resolution that extends the mandate of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) until 31 December 2000.

In resolution 1321, the Council also decided to review the situation of the UN peacekeeping operation no later than 31 October.

UNAMSIL's mandate was due to expire today.

During its deliberations, the Security Council had before it the most recent report on UNAMSIL by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who noted that the priority tasks for the UN operation included restructuring the peacekeeping force, strengthening its headquarters, equipping infantry battalions and boosting deployment at areas close to Revolutionary United Front positions.

In another development, the Security Council is to dispatch a mission to Sierra Leone from 7-14 October, according to a letter being sent to Mr. Annan from Council President Moctar Ouane of Mali, a UN spokesman told reporters today in New York.