2 February 2007Despite the recent alarming surge in the number of violent attacks against relief workers in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, United Nations humanitarian officials pledged today to continue their work across the area, even if they have to modify operations. Acting Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström said Darfur is becoming one of the most dangerous areas in the world for aid workers, with many places and roads now either deemed “no go” or extremely insecure, making it difficult to reach those in need, especially in North and West Darfur.“Every day there are more people who need our help, yet our colleagues are being threatened by all sides,” she said in a statement. “We need all parties to stop the fighting and attacks. We finally need an effective ceasefire, after almost four years of relentless violence.”About 4 million people across Darfur, an impoverished region roughly the size of France, depend on 13,000 relief workers from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for basic aid and services, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).The situation continues to deteriorate: more than 2 million people are internally displaced, with another 25,000 added to that total last month alone. Fighting continues between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy, and officials have warned that the conflict threatens to spill over into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).Ms. Wahlström said she was particularly concerned that the attacks were rising, despite repeated and clear appeals from the UN and NGOs that they should be spared. The attacks include hijackings of humanitarian convoys.Yesterday a civilian police officer with the AU peace monitoring mission in Darfur (known as AMIS) was killed at a camp in North Darfur for internally displaced persons (IDPs), and in mid-December armed groups launched a major attack against NGO compounds in the South Darfur town of Gereida.OCHA said it was also appalled by last month’s incident in which Government police and local security officials arrested and assaulted 20 UN staff members and NGO workers taking part in a social gathering in the town of Nyala.“We have been promised a full investigation into this terrible incident,” Ms. Wahlström said. “The Government has to ensure that the perpetrators will be held accountable, and send a strong message that it will not tolerate attacks against relief workers by its own officials or anyone else.”
Declaring extremism a global issue and decrying false Muslims who shed blood and behead in the name of Islam, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered a strong call from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly today for a united world response to the scourge.“The extremists of the world have found each other and have put out the call: ‘extremists of the world unite.’ But are we united against the extremists?”, he asked leaders from 193 countries on the second day of the Assembly’s annual 69th high-level General Debate.“I deeply regret to say that terrorism has become globalized: from New York to Mosul, from Damascus to Baghdad, from the easternmost to the westernmost parts of the world, from A1-Qaeda to Daesh,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), whose beheading of hostages in Syria and massacres and persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other Muslims in Iraq have dominated much of the debate at this year’s meeting. Although extremists have flowed into the Middle East from all around the world, lacking a single language, skin colour or nationality, they have a single goal, which is the destruction of civilization, giving rise to Islamophobia and creating a fertile ground for further intervention of foreign forces in the region, he added.While noting that today’s anti-Western views spring from yesterday’s colonialism and racism, and that the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, unemployment, discrimination, humiliation and injustice must be addressed, Mr. Rouhani deplored ISIL’s and other terrorist groups’ distortion of Islam.“The pain is made greater when these terrorists spill blood in the name of religion and behead in the name of Islam,” he declared. “They seek to keep hidden this incontrovertible truth of history that on the basis of the teachings of all divine prophets, from Abraham and Moses and Jesus to Mohammed, taking the life of a single innocent [person] is akin to killing the whole of humanity.“I am astonished that these murderous groups call themselves Islamic. What is more astonishing is that the Western media, in line with them, repeats this false claim, which provokes the hatred of all Muslims.”He said that Muslim people who everyday recall their God as merciful and compassionate and have learned lessons of kindness and empathy from their Prophet, see this defamation as part of an “Islamophobic project.”Turning to his country’s nuclear programme, which Iran says is for peaceful energy production but which some other countries fear may be used to make nuclear weapons, Mr. Rouhani voiced hope for success in the talks with the so-called P5+1 group – China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.These seek to achieve “a mutually-agreed, long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful” and are currently due to conclude in November. “A final accord regarding Iran’s peaceful nuclear program can serve as the beginning of multilateral collaboration aimed at promoting security, peace and development in our region and beyond,” he said.