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Dec 19, 2013

Iran and Russia helping Syrian aid effort: European officials

GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran and Russia have used their influence on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to get visas for U.N. aid workers and improve access for convoys in Syria, but much remains to be done, senior European officials told Reuters on Thursday.

U.S. officials were more cautious, saying that “all voices” taking part in secretive U.N. talks aimed at bringing food and medical supplies to civilians in out-of-reach areas are critical. There was limited progress in recent weeks, they said.

Dec 19, 2013

Secret detention part of Syria ‘campaign of terror:’ U.N.

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian activists and other citizens have vanished into secret detention as part of a “widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population” by the Damascus government, U.N. investigators said on Thursday.

The state-run practice of enforced disappearances in Syria -

abductions that are officially denied – is systematic enough to amount to a crime of humanity, they said in a report.

Dec 17, 2013

2013 believed to be deadliest for desperate migrants: IOM

GENEVA (Reuters) – More than 7,000 migrants may have perished at sea or while crossing deserts trying to reach a safe haven this year, believed to be the deadliest on record, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

In what it called the first global estimate based on data from border agencies and activist groups, the IOM said at least 2,360 migrants died in 2013 chasing the dream of a new life, many having paid smuggling gangs to make the perilous trip.

Dec 16, 2013

U.N. seeks 3.98 billion pounds for Syria crisis in 2014

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations appealed for £3.98 billion ($6.5 billion) for Syria and its neighbours on Monday to help 16 million people next year, many of them hungry or homeless victims of a 33-month-old conflict that has no end in sight.

The Syrian appeal accounted for half of an overall funding plan of $12.9 billion to help 52 million people in 17 countries, announced on Monday by U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos at a meeting of donor countries in Geneva.

Dec 16, 2013

U.N. seeks $6.5 billion for Syria crisis in 2014

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations appealed for $6.5 billion for Syria and its neighbors on Monday to help 16 million people next year, many of them hungry or homeless victims of a 33-month-old conflict that has no end in sight.

The Syrian appeal accounted for half of an overall funding plan of $12.9 billion to help 52 million people in 17 countries, announced on Monday by U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos at a meeting of donor countries in Geneva.

Dec 15, 2013

Insight: Syria uses red tape, threats to control U.N. aid agencies

BEIRUT/GENEVA (Reuters) – It is a 15-minute drive from the five-star hotel that houses U.N. aid staff in Damascus to rebel-held suburbs where freezing children are starving to death.

Yet it is months since convoys from the United Nations and other agencies have delivered food or medical care to many such areas – prevented by a Syrian government accused of using hunger as a weapon of war against its people.

Dec 15, 2013

Syria uses red tape, threats to control U.N. aid agencies

BEIRUT/GENEVA, Dec 15 (Reuters) – It is a 15-minute drive
from the five-star hotel that houses U.N. aid staff in Damascus
to rebel-held suburbs where freezing children are starving to
death.

Yet it is months since convoys from the United Nations and
other agencies have delivered food or medical care to many such
areas – prevented by a Syrian government accused of using hunger
as a weapon of war against its people.

Dec 12, 2013

Brahimi sets deadline for naming Syrian delegations to peace talks

GENEVA (Reuters) – International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has given Syria’s warring sides until December 27 to name their delegations to planned peace negotiations next month, officials said on Thursday.

About 30 ministers from big powers, regional countries and others are due to gather in the resort of Montreux on January 22 to give their blessing to the negotiations between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to oust him.

Dec 10, 2013

U.N. plans first aid airlift to Syria from Iraq as winter grips

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations’ first relief airlift to Syria from Iraq will deliver food and winter supplies to the mostly Kurdish northeast this week with the permission of both governments, the UNHCR refugee agency said on Tuesday.

The airbridge, using Ilyushin-76 commercial cargo planes to Hassakeh from Arbil in northern Iraq, will begin on Thursday. Up to 12 flights are scheduled through Sunday, said Amin Awad, director of UNHCR’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau.

Dec 6, 2013

Hosting Games one of Mandela’s last wishes

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – Anti-apartheid campaigner and IOC member Sam Ramsamy wants to bring the Olympics to South Africa so that he can fulfil one of Nelson Mandela’s last wishes.

As the world mourned a man hailed as one of the greatest humanists of our time, South Africa’s International Olympic Committee representative Ramsamy said it “was is a time to celebrate the achievements of Nelson Mandela”, who died on Thursday aged 95.