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UN demands halt to Ivory Coast killings

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 5:57 am

The United Nations demanded a halt to the “atrocities” triggered by Ivory Coast’s political crisis that have left 173 dead, and accused Laurent Gbagbo’s troops of harassing its peacekeepers.


And in another blow to Gbagbo’s regime, the Central Bank of West African States said only his rival Alassane Ouattara’s globally recognised government could manage the country’s accounts there.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile repeated Thursday a call for Gbagbo to step down.


UN officials in Abidjan said Gbagbo’s security forces, shielded by civilian protesters and backed by unidentified masked gunmen, had prevented human rights monitors from probing reports of at least two new mass graves.


They said gangs of gunmen had carried out murderous overnight raids on civilians living in the poorest districts of Abidjan.


UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast man a position near a line of barbed wire at the entrance of the UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

“The situation is sufficiently disturbing for everyone to take it seriously and do something about it,” said Simon Munzu, UN human rights director in Abidjan.


“We’ve been stopped virtually every time we’ve tried to go into the field.”


In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn “the atrocities and violations of human rights committed in Ivory Coast”, citing killing, kidnaps, sexual violence, repression of protests and destruction of property.


In a statement to the council, Clinton said: “We reiterate our call for former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately.


“The United States joins the international community in condemning the growing violence, the grave human rights violations, and the deterioration of security in Cote d’Ivoire,” she added.


The UNOCI peacekeeping force also complained that Gbagbo’s camp continued to besiege the waterfront Abidjan hotel where Alassane Ouattara’s rival government is holed up, protected by 800 UN troops.


Gbagbo and Ouattara have been in a standoff since a November 28 presidential election, which both claim to have won. Ouattara has been recognised by the UN Security Council, but Gbagbo is determined to cling to power.


“Serious human rights abuses and intimidation continue to be reported in several districts of Abidjan. The toll of dead, wounded and missing is rising rapidly,” UNOCI spokesman Hamadoun Toure told reporters.


Human Rights Watch said it had recorded the same crimes.


But Gbagbo’s regime remained defiant, calling on supporters to resist international pressure.


“It’s a battle,” Gbagbo’s powerful wife Simone told lawmakers. “War is being waged on us in several forms. If we do not want to be crushed, we should raise our heads, resist and have confidence in ourselves.”


But in a further blow to Gbagbo, seven finance ministers representing the other countries in the West African Monetary Union said only Ouattara’s government could deal with their shared central bank.


The decision could threaten Gbagbo’s camp with a cashflow problem.

Earlier, briefing ambassadors in Geneva, the UN deputy human rights chief said the UN had been able to confirm allegations of 173 killings and 90 cases of torture or ill treatment in Ivory Coast in the past week.

Munzu said the true toll might be much higher because Gbagbo’s troops had blocked attempts by his staff to investigate reports of two major mass graves — one allegedly holding 60 to 80 bodies, the other 30.

“We get to a roadblock, manned by heavily armed elements of the Defence and Security Forces, with whom are associated hooded people who we don’t know,” he told reporters at UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

The Defence and Security Forces (FDS) are police and army regulars loyal to Gbagbo. They have been deployed to prevent protests by Alassane supporters.

“And to this is added civilians, including children, who would tomorrow be classified as ‘collateral damage’ if we tried to force our way” past roadblocks, Munzu said.

Asked if the United Nations had confirmed reports that Liberian mercenaries were in Abidjan, spokesman Toure said: “Our patrols have met a group of people speaking English and claiming to be Liberian.”

He said the group was seen at night in Abidjan and was “heavily armed”.

Toure said pro-Gbagbo security forces were blocking UN patrols and supply convoys, intimidating UN police and besieging Ouattara’s base in the Golf Hotel, “supported by masked individuals with rocket launchers.”

UNOCI was having trouble finding fuel or getting flights into Abidjan airport, but promised that the force would stay on, he added.

Nigeria will host a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Abuja, and US officials say an appeal will be made for new troops to reinforce the hard-pressed UN peacekeepers.

Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba issued a statement on behalf of the national team calling for an end to the violence.

Source: SGGP

UN renews Ivory Coast force mandate

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

The UN Security Council extended the mandate of UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast in defiance of Laurent Gbagbo’s calls that the force leave as world powers made new calls for him to stand down as leader.


Amidst UN accusations that the strongman’s followers had been involved in killings and that his entourage had hired mercenaries, the Security Council made its most explicit sign of support yet for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the rightful president.


The European Union imposed sanctions on Gbagbo, his wife and 17 other Ivorians, the United States said it was preparing new action against him.


The UN Security Council also warned that it could order “targeted” sanctions and reinforce the 10,000-strong UNOCI peacekeeping force.


Nearly all the international community has recognized Ouattara as winner of Ivory Coast’s November 28 election and fears of a repeat of the country’s 2002 civil war have grown as Gbagbo has clung to the presidential palace.

UN peacekeepers patrol near the UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan on December 20, 2010.

The UN has accused Gbagbo’s security forces of involvement in dozens of alleged kidnappings and murders.


UN peacekeeping supremo Alain Le Roy warned that the UN force faced a “dangerous” confrontation with Gbagbo and accused the disputed leader of using mercenaries.


“It is clear that President Gbagbo’s camp is doing everything to make life difficult for us, including by blocking our supplies and by harassing our personnel, and carrying out provocations, some armed,” Le Roy told AFP.


“They want to cut all of our fuel. They are forcing us to leave the apartments we use,” added the UN under secretary general after briefing the UN Security Council on the UN mission in Ivory Coast, UNOCI.


“There is direct harassment of UNOCI. They are really trying to make our life difficult, they want to make it impossible.”


Security Council resolution 1962 warned that UN might more troops “as may be needed” from other peacekeeping missions and it called on countries to be ready to help any new appeal for forces.


It said the Security Council was ready “to impose measures, including targeted sanctions, against persons who, among other things, threaten the peace process and national reconciliation.”


UN peacekeepers and France’s 900-strong force continued to patrol the streets of Abidjan and to protect the Golf hotel where Ouattara has set up his base.


UNOCI chief Choi Young-jin accused Gbagbo’s troops of blockading the Golf Hotel and “on and off denying access to food and water supply trucks.”


He complained that gunmen in military uniform opened fire on a UN patrol, and said the Gbagbo camp had sent armed young men to intimidate UN staff in their homes at night.


Gbagbo and Ouattara have both declared themselves president, but the Gbagbo retains control of the armed forces and the presidential palace.


Ouattara is backed by the former rebels that control areas north of a 2003 ceasefire line but in the south, home to the cocoa ports that dominate Ivory Coast’s economy, he is confined to the Golf Hotel.


Meanwhile, in the poor suburbs of Abidjan, there are reports of gangs in uniform raiding houses at night and killing suspected Ouattara backers.

On Sunday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern about “the growing evidence of massive violations of human rights”.

“In the past three days there has been more than 50 people killed, and over 200 injured,” she said.”

Pillay said “armed individuals in military uniform accompanied by elements of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) or militia groups” took people at night and some were “found dead in questionable circumstances.”

Gbagbo’s interior minister, Emile Guirieoulou, rejected accused the UN of producing a “partisan report” about alleged rights abuses.

“The violence of the past few days has seen around 14 members of the Defence and Security Forces shot dead. That is not said often enough,” he told AFP.

The Ivorians sanctioned by the European Union include top presidential advisers, senior security officials and military officers, the head of state television, Gbagbo’s wife Simone and her chief bodyguard.

France urged Gbagbo to restrain his forces, and warned that the French peacekeeping contingent will protect its estimated 15,000 expatriate citizens there.

In Washington, the Barack Obama administration urged Gbagbo to step down and threatened sanctions against him and his family within days, saying there is no doubt he had lost a disputed presidential vote.

“The election was clear, its result was clear, and it’s time for him to go,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Source: SGGP

UN Security Council fails to reach accord on Korea crisis

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 6:27 am

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 19, 2010 (AFP) – The UN Security Council failed Sunday to agree a statement on the Korean military crisis and Russia warned that the international community was now left without “a game plan” to counter escalating tensions.


China rejected demands by Western nations that North Korea be publicly condemned for its November 23 attack on Yeonpyeong island which killed four South Koreans, diplomats said.

South Korean marines patrol on the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on December 20, 2010. AFP

About eight hours of formal talks by the 15 nation council and private discussions, which brought in the North and South Korean ambassadors, ended without accord.


“We were not successful in bridging” differences between the parties, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters.


He added that unofficial talks would continue, but Susan Rice, the US ambassador and Security Council president for December, said it was “safe to predict that the gaps that remain are unlikely to be bridged.”


She added that “the majority of council members made clear their view that it was important to condemn” the November 23 artillery attack and the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.


Rice called the incidents “unprovoked aggression” by North Korea on the South.


However China even rejected a version of Russia’s statement which did not mention North Korea or the Yeonpyeong name in a proposed paragraph on the November 23 attack, diplomats said.


Britain produced a rival draft statement which said the council “condemns the attack launched by the DPRK on the ROK on November 23.” The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of the North and the Republic of Korea is the South.


Churkin said Russia demanded the meeting on Saturday because of its “grave concern” about tensions between North and South Korea, a region right on Russia’s doorstep.


The South has vowed to go ahead with a live firing drill near Yeonpyeong. The North has threatened to retaliate.


Russia had wanted a call of “maximum restraint” to be sent to the two Koreas and for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send a special envoy to negotiate with the rival states.


Churkin said the idea of a UN envoy had received “strong support” in the talks.


“I hope that this idea can still be pursued because now we have a situation with very serious political tension and no game plan on the diplomatic side,” said Churkin.


Six nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons have come to a standstill “and there is no other diplomatic activity, so we believe that there must be an initiative and this initiative of the secretary general appointing an envoy might be something which will set a political process in track,” Churkin said.


The foreign ministers of Russia and China have called on South Korea not to stage its military drills and this was reaffirmed by Churkin.


“We know that it is better to refrain from doing this exercise at this time,” he said.


South Korea has US backing however and Rice countered that it had a legitimate right to stage the exercises.

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Source: SGGP

CNN: North Korea agrees to return of UN nuclear inspectors

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 6:27 am

SEOUL, Dec 20, 2010 (AFP) – North Korea has agreed with US troubleshooter Bill Richardson to permit the return of UN nuclear inspectors as part of a package of measures to ease tensions on the peninsula, CNN reported Monday.


CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, who is travelling with Richardson in Pyongyang, said the North Koreans had agreed to let inspectors from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency go back to its Yongbyon nuclear facility.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak (L) speaks during a meeting for a duties report on Ministry of Public Administration and Security at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on December 20, 2010. South Korea ordered civilians on five border islands to take shelter ahead of a live-fire exercise on December 20. AFP

They had also agreed to allow fuel rods for the enrichment of uranium to be shipped to an outside country, and to the creation of a military commission and hotline between the two Koreas and the United States, Blitzer said.

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Source: SGGP

UN rejects demand to leave I.Coast

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

UN chief Ban Ki-moon rejected a demand that UN peacekeepers leave Ivory Coast, heightening the international confrontation with contested leader Laurent Gbagbo.


Gbagbo had earlier ordered UN and French peacekeepers out of the country, accusing them of backing rebel fighters supporting his rival Alassane Ouattara.


The demand for their “immediate” departure reflected the growing anger of Gbagbo’s nationalist supporters, and came as his most notorious lieutenant urged young Ivorians to make ready to fight for their sovereignty.


But Ban condemned attacks on UN troops in the West African nation and warned of “consequences” for those behind such action.

A supporter of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo attends a demonstration in central London. UN chief Ban Ki-moon rejected a demand that UN peacekeepers leave Ivory Coast, heightening the international confrontation with contested leader Laurent Gbagbo

The UN mission, UNOCI, “will fulfil its mandate and will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on UN peacekeepers,” Ban was quoted as saying in a statement.


The United Nations, United States, European Union and Ivory Coast’s west African neighbours all demanded that Gbagbo cede power to Ouattara after both men claimed to have won last month’s presidential election.


But the veteran strongman retains control of the official armed forces and his backers have vowed to fight on, turning their anger on UN peacekeepers, former colonial power France and Ouattara’s own Ivorian supporters.


“The president of the Republic of the Ivory Coast has just asked for the immediate departure from Ivorian territory of UNOCI and the French forces that support it,” Education Minister Jacqueline Lohoues-Oble said on Saturday.


As tension mounted between the two camps, Gbagbo’s supporters accused the United Nations’ 10,000-strong force and France’s 900 troops in Ivory Coast of supporting pro-Ouattara rebel fighters.


The spokeswoman repeated these claims and accused the UN mission of broadcasting rebel propaganda on its radio station to destabilise the country.


Ban said: “The international community has spoken with one voice regarding Mr. Gbagbo’s attempt to hold onto power.”


He added that statements of support for Ouattara by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, and the African Union “have shown that the African continent is united in its commitment to respect the democratically expressed will of the Ivorian people.”


About 800 UN forces are protecting Ouattara’s government headquarters in an Abidjan hotel, while Gbagbo retains the presidential palace and the loyalty of the Ivory Coast army.


Ban “is deeply concerned about the attacks on a UN patrol and sentries at UNOCI HQ perpetrated by elements of the Ivorian security forces apparently loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, and an attack on UN military observers by Young Patriots on Saturday, 18 December, which left two military observers wounded.”


The Young Patriots also back Gbagbo.


Ban warned: “There will be consequences for those who have perpetrated or orchestrated any such actions or do so in the future.”


The UN leader reaffirmed a warning made on Friday that “any attack on UN forces will be an attack on the international community and those responsible for these actions will be held accountable.


“Any continued actions obstructing and constricting UN operations are similarly unacceptable.”

Guillaume Soro, Ouattara’s choice for prime minister and the leader of the New Forces former rebel movement, dismissed Gbagbo’s orders as having no authority.

“In any case, this decision can’t be put into effect as Mr Gbagbo is no longer president, so we don’t need to be concerned with it. We find this act of a beaten president entirely ridiculous…,” he told AFP.

France has said in recent days that its contingent, known as “Licorne”, could be used to ensure the safe departure of the 15,000 French civilians living in Ivory Coast if the situation turns dangerous.

The UNOCI mission deployed in 2004 to help end a civil war between Gbagbo’s southern forces and northern rebels dubbed the New Forces. The rebels now back Ouattara and Gbagbo’s order will increase fears of a new conflict.

“Play time is over,” declared Charles Ble Goude, Gbagbo’s minister for youth, who has been under UN sanctions since 2006 for “acts of violence by street militias, including beatings, rapes and extrajudicial killings”.

“We are going to defend the sovereignty of our country until the last drop of our sweat. I urge all Ivorians to make themselves ready for this combat. We are going to totally liberate our country,” he told AFP.

On Friday, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy called for Gbagbo to stand down, warning he and his powerful wife Simone face individual international sanctions, including an EU visa ban and asset freeze.

“If Sarkozy plans military intervention, he’d better be ready to kill a lot of Ivorians,” Ble Goude warned at his rally.

On Thursday, street clashes between pro-Gbagbo security forces and Ouattara supporters left between 11 and 30 people dead, and the Red Cross has treated almost 550 wounded since the start of the stand-off.

The UN Security Council is to discuss the Ivory Coast crisis on Monday and take a scheduled vote on whether to extend its current mandate which ends on December 31.

Source: SGGP

UN rights envoy warns N.Korea further isolating itself

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2010 at 11:21 am


SEOUL, Nov 26, 2010 (AFP) – The UN human rights envoy for North Korea warned Friday that the country is isolating itself at a time when it badly needs humanitarian aid.


Marzuki Darusman was on his first mission to South Korea since taking the post this year but, like his predecessor, was denied entry to the country formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).


“The DPRK should not find itself in isolation at a juncture when it needs the support and cooperation of the international community the most, both to address the human rights situation and the humanitarian needs,” he said.


Darusman was speaking days after the volatile regime fired a deadly barrage of shells and rockets at a South Korean island near the disputed sea border, claiming it had acted in retaliation to a military exercise being staged there.

A North Korean soldier on a naval vessel on the banks of the Yalu River some 70 kms north of the North Korean border town of Siniuju which lies across the river from Dandong in northeast China’s Liaoning province on November 26, 2010. AFP

The UN envoy noted that, after devastating floods hit the North in August, South Korea had offered 5,000 tons of rice and 250,000 bags of cement in humanitarian aid for victims in the impoverished country.


All such aid shipments have been frozen since the North launched its strike on the island of Yeonpyeong, which killed two marines and two civilians and wounding 18 other people.


It was the first shelling of civilians since the 1950-53 Korean War.


Darusman said that despite the outbreak of hostilities, “it is important to continue to provide such humanitarian assistance”, while ensuring that all aid distribution “reaches the neediest population”.

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Source: SGGP

UN, Education Ministry mark Teachers Day

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

UN pleads for end to Haiti unrest

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 at 8:42 am

Vietnam’s education ministry, UN mark Teacher Days

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 at 6:42 am

Breakthrough ‘near’ at UN biodiversity talks

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 9:40 am

NAGOYA, Japan (AFP) – A UN biodiversity meeting is close to adopting what would be a historic deal governing the use of genetic treasures such as those found in the Amazon, host Japan said on Friday.


“A draft decision has been agreed upon by representatives of regional groups. I would like to consider the adoption of this draft agreement later,” Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto told delegates.

An area of Sumatran forest cleared by a logging company, seen in August 2010. AFP

Negotiators involved in the talks have said that, if the deal is struck, it would likely pave the way for agreement on a 20-point plan aimed at protecting ecosystems and curbing the rapid extinction of animal and plant species.


However, delegates cautioned that each individual country still needed to approve the proposed “Access and Benefits Sharing Protocol”.


“On the edge of our seats in Nagoya. Do we have a deal on ABS?” European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a message posted on microblogging website Twitter.


Brazil and other developing countries argue rich nations and companies should not be allowed to freely take genetic resources such as wild plants to make medicines, cosmetics and other products for huge profits.


The 12-day summit is due to end on Friday night.

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Source: SGGP