United Nations, Feb 01 (Xinhua/UNB)- At least 34 United Nations and associated personnel -- 26 peacekeepers and eight civilians -- were killed in malicious attacks in the line of duty in 2018, said a UN spokesperson Thursday.
The 2018 casualty rate was among the lowest of the last five years and was less than half the number recorded in 2017, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said at a regular press briefing, citing a report from the UN Staff Union.
In 2018, the peacekeeping mission in Mali suffered the greatest loss of life, with 11 peacekeepers killed. It was followed by the missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 8 peacekeepers were killed. In the Central African Republic, 7 peacekeepers were killed, according to the report.
Since 2012, at least 344 United Nations and associated personnel have died in malicious and deliberate attacks, it said.
President of the UN Staff Union Bibi Sherifa Khan said: "United Nations staff work in some of the world's most dangerous places. Any cut in the budget of peacekeeping operations increases the dangers for staff members and risk jeopardizing the goals and objectives of the organization."
The union president added: "When the United Nations sends its staff to work in conflict zones, it must ensure, along with member states, that the necessary resources are provided and that those who attack our colleagues are brought to justice."
Saudi Arabia, Jan 31 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Arabia says 12 people have died and more than 170 have been injured this week due to flooding from heavy rain in the northwest.
The Civil Defense says Thursday that 10 people died in the area of Tabuk, one in Medina and another in the Northern Borders region. It did not say what caused the deaths.
Civil Defense forces say they rescued 271 people over the past four days, most of them in the al-Jawf region that borders Jordan. Several were also rescued in Mecca, Tabuk, and the Northern Borders region.
The heavy rains have flooded desert valleys and forced schools to close. The English-language Arab News in Saudi Arabia posted video of water engulfing a street in the city of Medina, home to one of Islam's holiest sites.
Peru, Jan 28 (AP/UNB) — A hotel wall collapsed during a wedding celebration in Peru, killing at least 15 people on Sunday, authorities said.
National civil defense chief Jorge Chavez said dozens of people who had been dancing were caught under the collapsing wall and a roof early Sunday at the Alhambra hotel in the Andean city of Abancay in southern Peru. He told RPP radio that at least 30 people had been pulled from the debris with injuries and were being treated at a nearby hospital.
The local civil defense head, Rusby Zela, said the city had been battered by five days of rains, and she said that led to the collapse.
Cairo, Jan 28 (AP/UNB) — French President Emmanuel Macron aims to speak out stronger than in the past about human rights issues while in Egypt, where France seeks to reinforce strategic ties with a country he considers a key regional partner, he told reporters on Sunday.
Heading a large delegation on a three-day trip to the Arab world's most populous country, Macron said he wants to "pursue a truthful dialogue on topics of public freedoms and human rights," an area he feels Egypt has not progressed enough on since he raised it with officials earlier in his mandate.
France, which considers itself the birthplace of human rights, has come under pressure by advocates to raise the issue with general-turned-President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose human rights record has been widely condemned and is seen as worsening. Macron said that too many people who present no threat to the country were being jailed.
"It is on this area of what is happening in Egypt that I will continue to focus things. I will do it more openly during this trip," he said, adding that he considered it in the interest of el-Sissi and Egypt to respect human rights.
Macron said he felt the current crackdown on opposition in Egypt, begun after el-Sissi overthrew his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor in 2013, had become worse than under the country's longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
"I think what is happening here sooner or later threatens the stability of Egypt. That's to say, I think that the policies as they are being done are perceived by intellectuals, the Egyptian civil society, as being even stronger than (under) the Mubarak regime," he said.
Macron said he would raise specific names to el-Sissi in a confidential discussion. Aside from heightened public emphasis on human rights, he did not mention raising any new specific levers to try and incentivize el-Sissi.
Rights groups and activists have urged France and other Western powers to halt weapons sales to Egypt, a major purchaser, until it shows improvement on the way it treats its own citizenry. But Macron dismissed using such pressure, saying it was important to respect Egypt's sovereignty and not cut it off because that could drive it further into the arms of the West's authoritarian rivals, Russia and China, which el-Sissi has courted.
Asked specifically if human rights issues could affect specific arms sales -- such as one under discussion for additional Rafale advanced fighter jets to Egypt, -- Macron said such matters were separate.
"I would differentiate between the two subjects, they are not linked for us and they never were."
Macron arrived earlier in the day in the country's south, where he visited the famed temple of Abu Simbel and other archaeological sites. He meets el-Sissi on Monday, when he will sign several bilateral accords.
His delegation includes government ministers, two dozen representatives from academic, cultural, and scientific fields, and a dozen business leaders -- including the heads of Rafale producer Dassault. Macron will dine with local business leaders and meet the heads of Egypt's Christian and Muslim communities during the trip, his first to Egypt since taking office in 2017.
Rome, Jan 28 (AP/UNB) — Italian lawmakers boarded a migrant rescue ship within eyeshot of the island of Sicily on Sunday to inspect conditions for 47 men and boys nine days after they were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.
The ship operated by German humanitarian group Sea-Watch picked up the migrants on Jan. 19 in waters off Libya. It was allowed to shelter Italy's territorial waters due to threatening weather Thursday, but the government refuses to let aid groups disembark in Italian ports.
Opposition lawmakers who inspected the Sea-Watch 3 said the migrants were suffering mentally after months or years of detention in Libya while waiting for the chance to attempt the dangerous sea crossing to Europe.
For many, having to stay on the rescue ship "is a form of continuation of imprisonment" they experienced in Libya, Riccardo Magi, a lawmaker with the tiny More Europe party, said.
The Italian news agency ANSA quoted Syracuse prosecutor Fabio Scavone as saying the captain requested psychological assistance for the passengers.
Another lawmaker, Stefania Prestigiacomo of the center-right Forza Italia party, said the migrants were exhausted. She noted the boat had only one toilet.
"OK, we're all in agreement that Europe should do more in taking in migrants" rescued at sea, "but let them off" this boat, Prestigiacomo told reporters.
Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's far-right League party, adopted a policy after Italy's current government took office last year of refusing to let aid group ships put the people they rescue on Italian soil.
Salvini contends the rescue groups benefit human smugglers that charge migrants to cross the Mediterranean in unseaworthy vessels.
He has threatened to send police officers onto the Sea-Watch 3 to investigate if the German aid group was in cahoots with traffickers and said other European countries should let the ship dock.
Following Italy's rejection of private rescue boats and a similar refusal by Malta, Sea-Watch 3 is the only humanitarian aid vessel working to rescue migrants in the central Mediterranean.
While anchored about a mile from the eastern Sicilian port town of Syracuse, the vessel has been unable to be on the lookout for other endangered migrants near Libya.
Italian coast guard brought donated socks, shoes and food Sunday to the 47 boys and men rescued earlier.
The number of migrants reaching Italian ports via the central Mediterranean smuggling route dropped sharply last year. During the previous few years, some 600,000 rescued migrants were brought to Italian ports by the Italian coast guard or navy, other European military ships or cargo vessels.