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Sep 25, 2013

“Pink Star” diamond could fetch record $60 million, Sotheby’s says

GENEVA (Reuters) – A huge and rare pink diamond could fetch more than $60 million at auction in November as collectors chase exceptional pieces in a strong international jewelry market, Sotheby’s said on Wednesday.

The “Pink Star”, which weighs 59.60 carats, is the most valuable diamond offered at auction, it said, showing the oval stone with the top grading of vivid pink amid tight security at a luxury hotel.

Sep 24, 2013

U.N. envoy for Somalia seeks more resources to combat al Shabaab

GENEVA, Sept 24 (Reuters) – African troops in Somalia
require helicopters and armoured vehicles to counter al Shabaab,
the Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for the
deadly attack on a Kenyan shopping mall, the U.N. envoy for
Somalia said on Tuesday.

Nicholas Kay, U.N. special representative for Somalia, said
more troops may also be necessary and called specifically for
targeting three ports along the Somali coast that he said were
operated by al Shabaab for illicit trade.

Sep 20, 2013

Fragmented opposition, Syrian government both hamper aid: agencies

GENEVA (Reuters) – Aid workers are having to negotiate with an increasing number of rebel sub-factions to organize delivery of aid to Syrian civilians, while the government continues to deny access to many areas, severely hampering their work, agencies said on Friday.

Bringing supplies from the capital to the divided northern city of Aleppo – a distance of 355 kms – is slow and fraught, said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operations worldwide.

Sep 17, 2013

North Korean inmates described ‘unspeakable atrocities’: U.N.

GENEVA (Reuters) – Inmates in North Korea’s prison camps suffered starvation and torture and described “unspeakable atrocities” comparable with Nazi abuses uncovered after the Second World War, U.N. investigators said on Tuesday.

Evidence in their report, swiftly rejected by Pyongyang, showed a disturbing pattern of human rights violations, said Michael Kirby, who chairs the independent inquiry.

Sep 17, 2013

U.N. inquiry decries widespread abuses in North Korea

GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korean camp survivors suffered “starvation and unspeakable atrocities”, evidence of widespread and systematic violations by the state, U.N. human rights investigators said on Tuesday.

Michael Kirby, head of the independent inquiry, said testimony from North Korean exiles, including former political prison camps inmates, given at public hearings in Seoul and Tokyo last month, suggested a pattern of behaviour by the state.

Sep 16, 2013

Militant opposition groups step up crimes in Syria: U.N. report

GENEVA (Reuters) – Killings, crimes and other abuses by rebels, including foreign fighters invoking jihad, or holy war, have increased in northern Syria, U.N. human rights investigators said on Monday.

“Across northern Syria, there has been an upsurge in crimes and abuses committed by extremist anti-government armed groups along with an influx of rebel foreign fighters,” Paulo Pinheiro, head of the inquiry, told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Sep 13, 2013

Syria attacks hospitals, denies healthcare as ‘weapon of war’: U.N.

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian government forces are bombing and shelling hospitals in rebel-held areas to stop sick and wounded getting treatment, acts which constitute war crimes, U.N. investigators said on Friday.

Fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad purposefully denied people medical care as a “weapon of war”, they added in a report. They also had details of a smaller number of incidents when rebel forces attacked hospitals.

Sep 13, 2013

Kerry, Lavrov meeting U.N. envoy on Syria

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet the United Nations special envoy on Syria in Geneva on Friday as they work on a deal that could avert U.S. military action.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who acts for both the world body and the Arab League, was to meet Kerry and Lavrov together at 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Friday, a U.N. official told Reuters.

Sep 12, 2013

U.S., Russia differ on military force as Syria talks open

GENEVA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov opened talks on Thursday on disarming Syria’s chemical weapons programs, but differences emerged at the outset of the expected two-day negotiations.

Kerry reiterated the U.S. position that military force might be needed against Syria if diplomacy over President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile fails.

Sep 11, 2013

Diplomatic efforts intensify on corralling Syrian chemical arms

GENEVA/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Diplomatic efforts toward placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control intensified on Wednesday and U.N. investigators concluded Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for two May massacres that killed up to 450 civilians in the bloody civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone one day before they meet in Geneva to try to forge a joint strategy on eliminating Syria’s chemical arsenal.