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Daily Archives: February 2, 2008

UN peacekeepers vandalise West Sahara prehistoric art

United Nations peacekeepers have vandalised prehistoric art carved onto rocks depicting human and animal figures in Western Sahara, The Times reported yesterday.
According to the newspaper, which quoted a senior UN official, personnel attached to the UN mission there had sprayed graffiti onto rock art at an isolated site known as Devil Mountain, which the local population regards as of great cultural significance.
"I was appalled. You'd think some of them would know better. These are officers, not squaddies," Julian J. Harston, the UN representative of the secretary-general for Western Sahaha and head of the mission there, known by its French acronym Minurso.
Harston said the UN would discipline officers "kind enough to leave their calling card. They will not enjoy the action we have taken. We will report it to the troop-contributing countries. We can move them."
The Times said that several of the UN personnel who sprayed graffiti onto the rock art signed and dated their work, thereby revealing their identities and home countries.
One Croatian peacekeeper reportedly sprayed "Petar CroArmy" across a rock face, while "Ibrahim" sprayed his name and number over a painting depicting a giraffe, among various such examples.
Harston told The Times that he was all the more shocked because the area was "one of the most beautiful places I've come across, and that beauty in itself should have prevented people."
He added that he was seeking funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to remove the graffiti.

UN chief ‘encouraged’ by commitment of leaders in Kenya talks

Sample ImageUN chief Ban Ki-moon said yesterday he was "reasonably encouraged" by the commitment of all sides in talks to resolve Kenya's political crisis, and called for them to end weeks of deadly violence.
"I'm reasonably encouraged by the commitment and the willingness of all the political leaders as well the community leaders who are now looking at the possibility of resolving this issue though dialogue and peaceful means," Ban told a news conference here.
But he added: "The killing must stop. The violence must end for the sake of the Kenyan people and for the sake of Kenya."
"You have lost already too much in terms of national image, in terms of economic interests. You lost many tourists, this is a very unfortunate situation for a country which has been enjoying freedom and security and stability," the UN Secretary General said.
Ban arrived in Kenya Friday to add his diplomatic weight to efforts led by his UN predecessor Kofi Annan to mediate the turmoil sparked by disputed presidential elections on December 27 in which almost 1,000 have died.
"I'm encouraged to find a constructive spirit that has prevailed throughout my discussions so far," Ban said after meeting with President Mwai Kibaki on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Ethiopia Thursday and with opposition leader Raila Odinga in Nairobi Friday.
Kofi Annan earlier resumed talks between three representatives each of Kibaki and Odinga after postponing them the previous day when an opposition lawmaker was shot dead in the western town of Eldoret, sparking yet more clashes.
"We are closely monitoring the situation and all the causes of grievances which have made the problems," Ban said, adding that he was also assessing the humanitarian situation after almost 300,000 people have been displaced.
"The volatile security situation in the country is making it increasingly difficult for aid agencies to operate," he added.