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Despite slight overall progress in Guinea-Bissau, concerns remain, Annan reports

Despite slight overall progress in Guinea-Bissau, concerns remain, Annan reports

While there has been a slight overall improvement in Guinea-Bissau's political situation, certain crucial aspects remain unresolved, according to a new report on the country by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"After the cycles of violence and paralysis of recent years, there is now real hope that the country, despite its serious difficulties, can move forward," Mr. Annan writes in his latest report to the Security Council on Guinea-Bissau and the activities of the UN Peace-building Support Office (UNOGBIS).

Noting some of the recent positive steps, the Secretary-General says that since December, there has been definite progress in Guinea-Bissau towards the consolidation of the democratization process, including the resumption of the work of the National Assembly at the end of February.

Mr. Annan also notes that some human rights activists have been released in recent months, two independent press organs have been authorized to resume publishing, and the country's demobilization programme has restarted.

"I call on the Government of Guinea-Bissau and the international donors to do all in their power to move ahead decisively to implement current demobilization plans and restructure the armed forces," the Secretary-General says. "The creation of professional, modern armed forces under democratic civilian control, adequately remunerated and equipped to meet Guinea-Bissau's genuine needs, is essential if lasting stability is to be secured."

Despite such progress, the country's new Constitution has not been promulgated, the Secretary-General says. He also notes that the depressed state of the economy means that it is impossible for the Government to balance the budget, and calls for direct budgetary support of $3 million to help offset Guinea-Bissau's chronic deficit.

"Further massive help is needed to rehabilitate the economic, social and cultural infrastructures; such rehabilitation, in turn, is essential for the effective relaunching of economic activities, " Mr. Annan observes. "A very high level of technical assistance to support key State institutions will also be necessary."

The Secretary-General says he looks forward to the convening later this year of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Round Table Conference on Guinea-Bissau and in the meantime, encourages all interested countries and organizations to increase their bilateral aid in those areas.