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Spain assists UN in Haiti & DR Congo

Annan welcomes Spanish police contribution for Haiti, assistance in DR Congo

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is on an official visit to Spain, welcomed a decision by Madrid today to commit Spanish police officers to the UN operation in Haiti as well as its support for a Rapid Reaction Force that will back up the UN’s mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the impoverished African country heads toward expected elections in June.

Speaking to reporters after a wide-ranging discussion with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, Mr. Annan also welcomed Spain’s relations with Morocco, in particular regarding the situation in Western Sahara, where the UN has fielded a peacekeeping operation, known as MINURSO, to foster a settlement over the disputed territory.

“We did talk about Haiti, and I am grateful that you are giving us police, working with Morocco, which is also another good sign. And I also note that you’re joining the European Rapid Reaction Force that will back up the UN operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For that, also, we are immensely grateful, and I am sure the people of Congo and that whole Great Lakes region are also grateful,” he said.

Mr. Annan also highlighted the importance of last month’s decision by the Basque group ETA to declare a permanent ceasefire, expressing his hope that it would lead to “a new era of peace and non-violence for the people of Spain, who have gone through violence for far too long.”

The discussions also touched on UN reform and the progress made toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a set of targets seeking to slash a host of socio-economic ills by 2015 – and the Secretary-General announced a special session on one of the goals, the fight against HIV/AIDS, to be held at the end of May and early June.

Mr. Annan also congratulated his host for the concept of an Alliance for Civilizations, which seeks to generate a concerted effort to bridge divides, combat extremism and overcome prejudices, misconceptions, and polarization between Islam and the West that potentially threaten world peace.

Recent developments “have made it quite clear that the suggestion that we have to improve the alliance among civilizations couldn’t have come at a better time,” he told the reporters.

“And the panel is working very hard and I hope they will come out with concrete and useful suggestions that will help governments, communities and groups find their way forward, out of the challenges that we face.”

Mr. Annan is scheduled to have a number of other official meetings in Spain over the next few days, including chairing tomorrow’s gathering of the Chief Executives Board, which brings together the heads of the UN agencies, funds and programmes. From Madrid, he will then travel to The Hague to speak at the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

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