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New York, Jan 3 (DPA) Libya has taken over the hot seat of the UN Security Council presidency as the African country and four other countries Wednesday began their two-year terms in the UN body whose political decisions are binding on the 192 UN members.

Libya
, Vietnam, Croatia, Costa Rica and Burkina Faso are the newest elected members on the 15-nation council. Libya became president during the first month of its tenure because of the alphabetical rotation of the post.

Usually the council president spends the first days of the month discussing the month’s work programme in advance.

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UN: 3 January 2008 – The United Nations will lead a third round of talks on Western Sahara, bringing together representatives from Morocco and the Frente Polisario, next week outside of New York City.

“As was the case with the previous meetings, and due to the sensitivity of the ongoing discussions, the talks will once again be private,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.

The three-day meeting which begins on Monday will take place in Manhasset, Long Island, at the Greentree Estate – the site of the two previous rounds of negotiations that took place in June and August of 2007.

Last month, Ms. Montas announced that the upcoming discussions will be facilitated by Peter van Walsum, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. Letters of invitation were extended to Morocco and the Frente Polisario, as well as to neighbouring countries.

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KABUL, 31 December 2007 (IRIN) – Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), returnees from Iran and Pakistan, food-insecurity, widespread poverty and conflict-related disasters are some of the main humanitarian challenges that millions of Afghans will face in 2008, Tom Koenigs, the UN Secretary-General’s outgoing special representative for Afghanistan, told IRIN on 30 December.

“The humanitarian situation has partly improved; the food security is better, but partly things have gone worse because war-affected areas have produced IDPs, and also the expulsions of Afghans from Iran have caused internal displacement,” said Koenigs, who has headed the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) over the past two years.

UNAMA was established on 28 March 2002 through UN Security Council Resolution 1401 to assist in, and coordinate, the post-conflict rebuilding and development process in Afghanistan. The UN Secretary-General is expected to appoint a new special representative to head UNAMA, UN officials said.

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The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2008 to be the International Year of Languages. As language issues are central to UNESCO’s mandate in education, science, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information, the Organization has been named the lead agency for this event.

To celebrate the International Year of Languages, UNESCO invites governments, United Nations organizations, civil society organizations, educational institutions, professional associations and all other stakeholders to increase their own activities to promote and protect all languages, particularly endangered languages, in all individual and collective contexts.

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UN: 26 December 2007 – The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia has called for the release of two female staff members of the international aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières who have been abducted in the strife-torn Horn of Africa nation.

Expressing his shock at the incident which occurred in Bosasso, Puntland, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said kidnapping humanitarian workers “did not serve the cause of peace or Somalia’s traditional culture of hospitality,” in a statement issued today.

He appealed for those involved to free the two women unconditionally.

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UN: 23 December 2007 – Capping off days of intensive negotiations, the General Assembly has adopted a two-year budget of $4.17 billion for the United Nations, with the United States casting the lone negative vote.

Following marathon talks that lasted through the night, the Assembly adopted the 2008-2009 budget early Saturday morning by a vote of 142 to 1. The US, which contributes around 22 per cent of the world body’s budget, was the only country to vote against the plan, citing concerns that the actual budget would be significantly higher than what was approved with all the add-ons.

Welcoming the Assembly’s decision, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked Member States for their efforts "to reach a budget level for the United Nations sufficient to preserve efficiency and fiscal discipline, while maintaining the priorities of the Organization."

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UN:19 December 2007 – The Security Council today called on all sides in Somalia to use peaceful means to consolidate peace in the East African nation that has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

Foreign Minister Massimo D’alema of Italy, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, read out a statement urging “all Somali parties to reject violence and… to enter into substantial dialogue aimed at achieving a full and all-inclusive national reconciliation.”

The 15-member body lauded last month’s appointment of Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, which “offers a renewed opportunity to make further progress on dialogue and political reconciliation,” as well as on tackling the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Mr. Hussein’s appointment, the Council said, also bodes well for the implementation of the National Reconciliation Congress’ outcomes, “leading to a road map for the remainder of the Transitional Period and democratic elections in Somalia, as set out in the Transitional Federal Charter.”

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PARIS (AFP)16/12/2007: – Major powers and key donors gathered Sunday in Paris for a conference aimed at raising billions of dollars to help the emergence of a viable Palestinian state and give political impetus to the newly-relaunched peace process with Israel.

Ninety international delegations are expected at Monday’s Conference of Donors for a Palestinian State, the biggest of its kind since 1996, which aims to shore up the process jumpstarted in the US city of
Annapolis last month.

President
Mahmud Abbas is seeking 5.6 billion dollars (3.85 billion euros) spread over 2008 to 2010 for an ambitious development plan to underwrite a promised state and tackle economic hardship in the Palestinian territories.

The amount the Palestinians needed for 2008 was "around 1.6 to 1.7 billion,"
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told journalists accompanying her on the plane to Paris.

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NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – U.N.-led climate talks in Bali agreed on Saturday to launch negotiations on a new global warming pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol after the United States dropped last-minute opposition.

 Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar, the host of the talks, banged down his gavel on the deal to rapturous applause from delegates after an impassioned plea by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"This is the defining moment for me and my mandate as secretary-general," he said over the breakthrough.

"I am deeply grateful to many member states for their spirit of flexibility and compromise," Ban told Reuters, in remarks echoed by the head of the U.N.
Climate Change Secretariat, Yvo de Boer."I think it was encouraging, That was a real sign of willingness to compromise," he said of the U.S. climbdown.

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UN: 14 December 2007 In response to recent studies showing that Iraqi refugees living in neighbouring countries are running out of money, the UN refugee agency is set to issue ATM cards to 7,000 of the most needy and vulnerable families living in Syria.

More than 4.5 million Iraqis are currently uprooted – 2.4 million inside Iraq and nearly 2.2 million outside – most of them in Syria and Jordan, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

This Sunday, UNHCR will start providing the ATM cards, providing each family with between $100 and $200 per month.

“The families have been interviewed by community services staff and identified as being in urgent need of financial assistance,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva. “They include women at risk, families with working children and refugees with chronic illnesses.”

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