UN weapons inspectors entered a church and monastery in Baghdad on Wednesday June 18, an incident their boss called "a terrible mistake." They barged into the church and convents in a rude way amid protests of priests and nuns. The incident violating all civilized protocol occurred at the Chaldean Mar Paulis church and al-Ibtdaa' and al-Sanabul convents for nuns in al-Za'franiya area in Baghdad.
Gustavo Zlauvinen, an Argentinean on the weapons inspection staff apologized, but said the church was in an industrial area that Ekeus had asked the team to investigate. One inspector, without the knowledge of the full team, had gone into the church.
Baghdad television showed footage of UN cars and inspectors in front of St Joseph convent and one of the inspectors entering the monastery. Iraq's Deputy Chaldean Patriarch Emnuel Dally sent a letter to Pope John Paul and U.N secretary-general Kofi Annan protesting against the inspection.
``Today in the morning, they intruded into the convent...It was a big shock for us...They entered the convent looking for destructive materials and found nothing,'' Dally told reporters of Western news agencies and TV networks who were taken to the site by the Iraqi Culture and Information Ministry. He said that the convent, in Za'franyia area 20 km (13 miles) southeast of Baghdad, was inspected by one UN expert while four others waited at the doors. Baghdad television said Ekeus had ordered the team to inspect the church and two convents and showed a copy of a letter signed by the UNSCOM head to this effect.
These incident come on top of US Colonel Scott Ritter, whose team was barred from entering a site which had already been inspected in July and August 1996 and intimidation of university staff that Ekeus claims have been involved in a biological weapons programme. Ekeus claims that when UN inspectors visited a university where professors were suspected of having been involved in a biological weapons program, one of them tried to escape with a batch of papers. The man was intercepted and the documents were found said to relate to development of ``a major biological warfare agent.'' But the man in question was a young student who was running of with some examination papers to burn them.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, in a recent letter to the Security
Council, said access to some sites had recently been denied because of
concern that the inspections were not to carry out UNSCOM's mandate but
to ``detect the arrangements made for the security of Iraq, its leadership
and the personnel involved.'' Mr. Aziz added: "What supports our concern
is that many of those who are entrusted with these missions in the inspection
teams are Americans transferred to work with the Special Commission."
A 17-year-old mystery over the crash of an Italian plane that killed 81 people made headlines again on Wednesday when national media said recently released radar records showed it was downed by a missile. But the Italian air force's top officer at the time of the June 1980 crash off Sicily contested the newspaper versions, saying the crash was probably caused by a bomb.
Italian media have long suspected a cover-up over the crash of the DC-9 jet of the now-defunct Itavia airlines, which remains one of Italy's enduring unresolved mysteries. All major daily newspapers said on Wednesday that the plane was shot down in an air battle involving Libyan, U.S., French and Italian air force fighters.
They said that radar monitoring recently released by NATO showed that at least seven fighter aircraft were in the vicinity when the jet plunged into the sea off the island of Ustica. They said the radar showed one or two Libyan MiGs had tried to evade detection by flying close to the airliner. Three Italian F-104 warplanes and a U.S. Corsair and a French fighter pursued the Libyan jets and a battle ensued, according to the reports.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who comes from the central city of Bologna where the DC-9 took off from, told reporters that his government "had done its duty and nothing more" in seeking to clarify the June 27, 1980 mystery. The centre-left government, voted into power in 1996, last year made a fresh appeal to NATO's secretary-general Javier Solana to release radar charts and all documents that could help throw fresh light on the case.
Daria Bonfietti, a senator who is also president of the victims' families association, said the reports strengthened a hypothesis her group had always held. "It seems to me to strengthen the hypothesis of a war scenario that we have always upheld and definitely calls into question the fabrication that the Italian air force has knowingly sustained through all these years," she said. She accused the air force and former political establishment of a deliberate and prolonged cover-up.
Source : Reuter
With evidence mounting that Canadian, Italian and Belgian troops tortured Somali civilians, the head of U.N. peacekeeping said on June 20 that monitoring, training and rebukes had to be stepped up. Undersecretary-General Bernard Miyet said, "We have taken account of lessons of what has happened in Somalia. Any kind of improvement we can have in this system, we will do it. "It is the image of the United Nations that has been tarnished," he told a news conference.
Two years after U.N. forces withdrew from Somalia, stories of atrocities are still emerging. Belgium is trying two soldiers on charges of roasting a live Somali child over an open fire in 1993 and Italian papers recently released photos showing an officer applying electrodes to the hands and genitals of a naked Somali. And Canada, once the bedrock of U.N. peacekeeping, discovered that members of a parachute unit in 1993 had murdered a Somali teenager and photographed themselves smiling next to the corpse.
In each case U.N. officials said they did not know of the abuses. If they had they could not prosecute the offenders but only insist their countries send them home for action. Miyet, in answer to questions, said the United Nations was considering placing monitors with the chief commander to alert officials to abuse and stepping up training for troops, who are supposed to be given briefings on how to treat civilians.
Since Somalia, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said, officials were more vigilant, and in Mozambique soldiers were sent home for patronising child prostitutes even before a U.N. report emerged on the subject. "If there is the slightest doubt," Miyet said, "we ask the country to take action. This is the rule."
Abuses by peacekeepers first came to light in Cambodia, where both civilian
and military officials were accused of harrassing women, widescale prostitution
and drunken behaviour. Bulgaria was singled out frequently as the worst
offender. But in public U.N. officials brushed off complaints there. In
Bosnia, the blackmarket was at an all time high and U.N. troops were accused
of going to or drinking near brothels run by Serbs with captive Bosnian
or Croatian women.