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Entries in UN (30)

Saturday
Jul132013

Attack Kills Seven UN Peacekeepers in Darfur

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NYALA, Sudan) -- There has not  yet been a claim of responsibility in what is described as the deadliest attack on United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur. Seven peacekeepers were killed and another 17 U.N. workers were wounded in the attack.

According to BBC News, the attack occurred near a Undamid base at Manawashi, when the peacekeepers were about 16 miles from a second Unamid base at Khar Abeche. Unamid is a joint African Union and United Nations mission.

Officials did not release the names or nationalities of the victims.

The attack was the single deadliest on the international force in Sudan.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov292012

Palestine Wins 'Observer State Status' at U.N. over US Objections

John Moore/Getty Images(UNITED NATIONS) -- The United Nations has voted to move Palestine a small step closer to statehood. Despite opposition from the United States and Israel,  an overwhelming majority of UN member states Thursday approved a resolution giving Palestine non-member observer state status in the assembly, an upgrade that falls short of full UN membership.

For the resolution's passage, 138 voted in favor, nine voted against, and 41 UN members abstained from voting.

The resolution's supporters saw its passage as a step toward a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.  However, the U.S. joined with Israel to vote against the measure. Immediately after the resolution was passed, U.S. and Israeli leadership explained their "no" votes.  

"This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that there will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel's citizens," Netanyahu's office said in a statement after the vote.

The statement continued, saying that Netanyahu "will not allow a base for Iranian terrorism to be established in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], in addition to those that have [already] been  established in Gaza and Lebanon."

Prime Minister Netanyahu believes peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah can only be achieved through direct negotiations "and not in one-sided UN decisions," and that "by going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will react accordingly," the statement said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate" in a speech she was giving on foreign policy in the U.S.

Ambassador Susan Rice agreed, adding that the move was counterproductive to the peace process.

"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it," Rice said Thursday.

Rice warned that Thursday's vote should not be seen as a constitution of eligibility for UN membership.

"This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

UN Votes to Condemn Syria with New Resolution

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution urging political transition in Syria, and demanding the lockdown of its chemical weapons.

“The first step in the cessation of violence,” the resolution says, “has to be made by the Syrian authorities.”

But two key provisions of the original draft were removed: there is no calling for the fall of the Assad regime, and no suggestion of punishment if “political transition” is not achieved or those weapons are not secured. China and Russia, two of Syria's allies, were against these provisions, and had vetoed three resolutions in the past, Voice of America reports.

For good measure, the resolution condemns the U.N.’s own Security Council's failure to end the violence in Syria violence.
 
The measure passed by 133 votes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Former UN Chief Named Special Envoy to Syria

Jason Kempin/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations and Arab League on Thursday named Kofi Annan, former secretary-general for the U.N., a joint special envoy to Syria.

The 73-year-old Ghanaian diplomat will be tasked to promote peace on behalf of the United Nations-Arab League in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad continues a violent crackdown on Syrian citizens.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moom and Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby made the announcement of Annan's appointment Thursday in a joint statement.  The statement said a deputy from the Arab world would be chosen later to assist Annan, according to the U.N. website.

Annan's appointment was announced following the release of a U.N. report that found a significant decrease in human rights in Syria.

Annan served as U.N. chief from 1997 to 2006.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb012012

Hillary Clinton to Russia: ‘Whose Side Are You On?’

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With Russia promising to upend any United Nations Security Council resolution calling for Syria to halt its crackdown on anti-government activists, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wedesday challenged the Kremlin to make a stand.

Speaking at a signing ceremony with the foreign minister of Singapore, Clinton appealed to Security Council members to make their place known, asking, "Whose side are you on?"

“Are you on the side of the Syrian people?” she asked. “Are you on the side of the Arab League?  Are you on the side of the people of the Middle East and North Africa who have during this past year spoken out courageously and often for their rights?”

Or, Clinton asked,  "Are you on the side of a brutal dictatorial regime?”

Chinese officials, like the Russians, have indicated they would veto any Security Council resolution that takes sides in what looks increasingly like a civil war in Syria.

Both Russia and China have lucrative business arrangements with the Assad government. Russia, in particular, sells military weapons and equipment to the Syrian government. It also keeps a naval base in Tartus, on Syria’s west coast.

But the Arab League, which called off its monitoring mission this weekend, blames the recent escalation of violence on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The armed opposition, known as the Free Syrian Army, is made up of military defectors and other, more shadowy forces.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at Wednesday’s briefing that U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice is working with other members of the Security Council on the wording of a potential resolution.

There is still, however, no timeframe for a vote.

“They’ve got some hard work to do in New York,” Nuland said, and Clinton has still not been able to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

As for the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria, Nuland said it remains open.

“Our operations are open, but our concerns remain” about security, she said, because the Syrian government has still not provided the security measures specified by U.S. officials.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

UN Security Council on Syrian Crisis: Not About a Military Intervention

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The theme of the speeches at Tuesday afternoon’s U.N. Security Council meeting was for the Assad regime to immediately end the violence against the Syrian civilians.  Foreign ministers speaking in support of the resolution also said that the resolution does not mean there will be a military intervention in Syria.  There will be no vote on this resolution as of Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton in her remarks said, “I know that some members here are concerned that we are headed toward another Libya.  That is a false analogy.  Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances there.”

Qatari FM Hamad bin Jassim al Thani reaffirmed that the resolution represents the Arab League’s calls to be a facilitator towards a peaceful transition to democracy and that it was not about a military intervention.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al Arabi said his organization had gone to the U.N. as a regional institution working to end the violence in Syria.  He said the League wants to avoid a foreign military intervention in Syria and wants the Syrian people to decide its own fate.

Bashar Ja'afari, Syria’s ambassador to the U.N., noted in his remarks that he found it strange that the Arab League had gone to the U.N. Security Council given what he said were the hundreds of vetoes the body has cast against Arab causes.  

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe labeled as a “myth” the statement that the resolution can be construed as authorizing force in Syria.  He stressed how it was the Arab League that hopes to bring a peaceful resolution to Syria.  
    
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague was the most forceful in his remarks, noting, “This is not the West telling Syria what to do,” but Arab nations seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis.  He said the resolution makes no call for military intervention, though it puts Syria on notice that future options could be considered if the violence doesn’t stop.

He said it was ironic that Syria’s Ja'afari had focused on the innocence of Syrian children growing up in an idealistic period during the 1950s and '60s.  Hague pointed out it was ironic given that it was now the children of those grown children who are suffering in Syria.  Hague was critical of Ja’afari for seeking to place blame for Syria’s troubles on outside forces, saying it was the Assad regime that had started the violence and only they who could stop it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan262012

Large Shipment of Cocaine Delivered to UN

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The NYPD and Drug Enforcement Administration are investigating a peculiar shipment of drugs seized at the United Nations earlier this month.

Mailroom workers at the U.N. discovered packages containing around 16.5 kilos of cocaine on Jan. 16.  Upon their discovery, the nearby police precinct was called, and the drugs and other evidence was seized.  

Sixteen and a half kilos, or just over 35 pounds, of cocaine carries a street value of about $440,000, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Browne says the packages originated in Mexico.

Officials say the investigation has so far yielded no arrests.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec012011

Syria Death Toll Rising Above 4,000, UN Official Says

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images(GENEVA) -- The United Nations says that more than 4,000 people have been killed in almost nine months of violence in Syria.  The High Commissioner for human rights said that though they are placing the death toll at 4,000, they believe the actual number is much higher.

Commissioner Navi Pillay also characterized the uprising as a civil war, a term that has been much debated to describe what's happening in Syria.  Pillay said that she's calling it a civil war because more and more army defectors are threatening to take up arms against President Assad's regime.

On Thursday, the U.S. and European Union tightened sanctions on the Syrian Real Estate Bank and the Military Housing Establishment as well as two close associates of President Assad, according to Voice of America. With these new additions to the list of individuals and entities blacklisted from the U.S. financial system, some officials familiar with the matter say the departure of the Syrian president is almost certain.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov082011

UN Peacekeepers Caused Cholera in Haiti, Group Says

THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- More than half a million Haitians have contracted cholera, and an advocacy group has filed a complaint with the United Nations blaming the fast-moving epidemic on UN peacekeepers who allegedly allowed raw sewage to leach into a tributary of the nation's largest river.

After half a century without a single case of cholera, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti says, a country already ravaged by a massive 7.0 earthquake, intractable poverty and waves of political instability has now seen five percent of the population contract the illness, and more than 6,000 people die from it, because of the reckless actions of peacekeepers from Nepal.

"The sickness, death, and ongoing harm from cholera suffered by Haiti's citizens are a product of the UN's multiple failures," states the complaint filed by the advocacy group, which represents more than 5,000 cholera victims and their families. "These failures constitute negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference for the lives of Haitians."

The allegations, announced during a press conference Tuesday, are liable to further heighten tensions between the Haitian people and the more than 7,000 United Nations peacekeepers stationed there on a mission to protect them.

In September, ABC News reported on a cell phone video that allegedly showed the brutal assault of a young man at the hands of UN peacekeeping troops from Uruguay. The video sparked street protests and an outcry from Haitians who objected to the lack of accountability for the brigades of blue-helmeted troops that lived on bases inside the country.

While the assault on the Haitian man tapped into what Haitians interviewed by ABC News called a growing sense of distrust of the UN mission there, the cholera outbreak has had more far-reaching and catastrophic implications for the country. The complaint filed Tuesday estimates that more than 457,000 have been infected, some 6,477 have died, and attempts to corral the outbreak have so far proven unsuccessful.

"Once cholera is introduced, it is extremely difficult to eradicate," the complaint says. "The cholera epidemic is expected to persist in Haiti for at least several years."

In an interview with ABC News in September, a top UN official said his organization was deeply concerned about the outbreak, and was devoting resources to combat it. But he did not believe there was conclusive proof that the UN troops were responsible for carrying cholera into Haiti.

Anthony Banbury, the assistant secretary general for field support, told ABC News that the UN commissioned four independent research studies with the goal of tracing the origins of the outbreak, but that it remained unclear if the troops were to blame, or if a backpacker or aid worker or tourist was ultimately at fault.

"We don't know if it was the U.N. troops or not," Banbury said. "That's the bottom line."

The Institute for Democracy in Haiti lays out its case in a 37-page complaint, which it filed with the UN under the rules established when the international body first deployed peacekeepers to Haiti. It describes how cholera is endemic in Nepal, how new Nepalese troops arrived in the village of Meille in October of 2010, how the troops failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their encampment, how witnesses described dark plumes of refuse leaching into a major waterway, and how cholera exploded in the region near the Meille camp in the weeks after their arrival.

Further, it cites numerous independent studies that match the strain of cholera to the one in Nepal using DNA and other evidence. One study, published in the medical journal The Lancet in July, found that all the evidence pointed to the Nepalese UN troops.

"There was an exact correlation in time and places between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in Meille a few days after," said the study by leading epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux. "The remoteness of Meille in central Haiti and the absence of report of other incomers make it unlikely that a cholera strain might have been brought there another way."

The advocacy group has asked the UN to empanel an independent claims commission to review their complaint, and award them a financial judgment to compensate victims for their suffering and economic losses. They are also seeking a greater investment by the UN in efforts to eradicate the deadly disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct312011

Missing Libya Missiles: UN Calls on Libya, Neighbors to Find Weapons

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(UNITED NATIONS) -- A resolution calling on Libya and its neighbors to secure unguarded Libyan weapons stockpiles and prevent terrorists from acquiring them was unanimously adopted Monday by the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council.

The resolution called on "Libyan authorities to take all necessary steps to prevent the proliferation of all arms […], in particular man-portable surface-to-air missiles" to keep the weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a North African offshoot of the terror group. It also called upon neighboring nations to "consider appropriate measures to prevent the proliferation" of these weapons, but stopped short of suggesting concrete measures to help secure the munitions.

A U.N. Security Council diplomat told ABC News this resolution would allow greater international cooperation in securing the weapons and would put in place a reporting and tracking mechanism that would help better monitor the situation.

Since the fall of Tripoli in late August, multiple weapons depots with stockpiles of heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, heavy machine guns and ammunition have been discovered unguarded by journalists and NGOs. The Gadhafi regime once had as many as 20,000 Russian surface-to-air missiles, and U.S. military contractors are now in Libya trying to find thousands that are unaccounted for.

In the past month, some of the SAMs have turned up in Egypt and at the Israeli border. Egyptian authorities say they have arrested weapons smugglers bringing the weapons east from Libya toward Israel. According to the Washington Post, so many of the weapons were being sold in Egyptian black markets that the price had dropped from $10,000 to $4,000 per weapon.

It would take only one of the shoulder-fired, heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, which have a range of two miles, to bring down a commercial aircraft.

In a report aired on ABC News last week, a month after U.S. officials told ABC News they were moving quickly to secure unguarded weapons in Libya, human rights investigators filmed a huge cache of unprotected weapons, including bombs, tank shells and dozens of surface-to-air missiles, in the city of Sirte.

"Anybody want a surface-to-air missile?" asks Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, in a video shot last week near where Moammar Gadhafi and his son Mutassim made their last stand. Though the U.S. is rushing more and more specialists to Libya in a race to find the weapons that have gone missing since the start of the Libyan uprising, Bouckaert beat them to Sirte.

Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News that there was "obviously" a race to find the weapons before they fall into the hands of terrorists, "and that's why we're deploying people as quickly as we possibly can." Shapiro said the U.S. plans to increase its presence on the ground from 10 teams of weapons specialists, or less than 35 people total, to 50 teams.

"We believe that based on our examination of the numerous sites that thousands of missiles were actually destroyed during the NATO bombing campaign," said Shapiro, "and [that another] thousand missiles have been disabled or damaged."

But Shapiro also said the U.S. still doesn't know how many of the 20,000 surface-to-air missiles once held by the Gadhafi regime are unaccounted for. "We're in the process of visiting sites and putting together the information about the scope of the problem," said Shapiro.

Last week, Bouckaert found dozens of Russian SA-7 missiles scattered across the ground in Sirte, along with empty crates.

"These facilities are still uncontrolled," said Bouckaert. "We could literally have come here with a convoy of 18-wheeler trucks and wheeled away whatever we wanted without even being noticed." Bouckaert says despite his warnings to the U.S. State Department and the CIA since February, real progress in securing the weapons has been slow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio