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UN To Protect Children in Conflicts

August 26, 1999

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The Security Council is calling on all countries to protect children of war and stop turning them into soldiers.

During a meeting that ended late Wednesday, the Security Council heard representatives from nearly 50 countries decry the rising toll of warfare on the world’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

``Today’s children are tomorrow’s hope,″ said Deputy U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg. ``We must all work to ensure that hope is not extinguished by the blight of armed conflict.″

In the last decade, 2 million children have been killed, 1 million orphaned, 6 million seriously injured or disabled, and 12 million made homeless because of conflicts.

More than 300,000 children under 18 _ some as young as 7 _ are taking part in armed conflicts around the world, in places like Sudan, Colombia, Angola, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, U.N. figures show.

The Security Council resolution condemns the targeting, recruitment and abduction of children in war and urged all governments to ratify and adhere to treaties protecting children.

The resolution also urges warring parties to protect children and to refrain from enlisting soldiers younger than 18 to fight.

But India’s U.N. ambassador, Kamalesh Sharma, said the council should be addressing the recruitment and use of children by armed rebels, insurgent groups and terrorist organizations.

Sharma called for council action against these groups and the states that sponsor them.

Angola’s envoy, Josefa Coelho da Cruz, said her country was one of many that had faced the problem of children in armed conflict _ and efforts to protect them had been hindered by ``bandits″ that continued to pursue war against the government.

Ugandan diplomat Fred Beyendeza said nothing was more painful to his country than the systematic abduction, torture, enslavement and killing of innocent children in northern and western Uganda for the past 12 years.

Terrorist groups often targeted defenseless women and children between ages 11 and 16, he said.

Like many envoys, Beyendeza supported an appeal by U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, for the ratification and worldwide application of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.

``Words on paper cannot save children and women in peril,″ he told the council.

But Algeria’s U.N. ambassador, Abdallah Baali, warned that Africa cannot resolve the problems of children affected by conflict until the roots of war are addressed: poverty, destitution and human distress.

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