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Syria: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed that only a political solution will end the crisis in Syria. He fully supported the call of the International Committee of the Red Cross for a daily humanitarian pause or truce to enable the delivery of assistance by the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and reported that Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos will travel to Syria at the earliest opportunity to negotiate access with the authorities.

At the Friends of Syria meeting today, Hillary Clinton announced that “we view the Syrian National Council as a leading legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change and as an effective representative for the Syrian people with governments and international organization.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Council will hold an urgent meeting on Syria next week.  On Tuesday, the meeting will hear from a panel of U.N. rights experts who published a report Thursday concluding that Syrian government officials were responsible for “crimes against humanity” committed by security forces against opposition members. The panel said it has compiled a confidential list of top level Syrian officials who could face prosecution over the atrocities.


Iran:
Iran has sharply stepped up its controversial uranium enrichment drive, the United Nations’ nuclear agency said on Friday in a report that will further inflame Israeli fears that the Islamic Republic is pushing ahead with an atomic weapons program.

The confidential IAEA report said Iran has, since late last year, tripled output of uranium refined to a level that brings it significantly closer to potential bomb material, an official familiar with the agency’s probe said. Also, making clear the two sides were far apart, it said there were major differences on how to tackle the issue and that Iran had dismissed the IAEA’s concerns as “unfounded”. No further meetings are planned.


Mali
: The UN refugee agency is appealing for $35.6 million to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis resulting from the renewed fighting in northern Mali between government forces and Tuareg rebels.

An estimated 130,000 people have been uprooted within and outside Mali since the clashes resumed in mid-January, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The appeal aims to cover the needs of 85,000 of them until July. The displaced are currently hosted in remote and arid border villages that are affected both by food crisis, a severe drought, and the general insecurity in the Sahel region, UNHCR said.


Myanmar:
Myanmar is only at the early stages of its transition and must continue to tackle long-standing challenges so that the Asian country can achieve lasting peace and stability, Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar said today.

Mr. Nambiar, who visited the country last week, stressed that the Government will need to sustain momentum and positive sentiment as well as work towards delivering benefits to the population. He also outlined three priorities that will define the pace of reform. The first priority, he said, was the need to ensure that the by-elections conducted in April are free and fair; the second priority consists of working on the reconciliation between the Government and various ethnic groups; and the third priority was to accelerate socio-economic development in the country, and called on the Government to urgently address the health, education and job creation needs for their population.


Sudan:
  The United Nations today welcomed the return of its personnel to Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state, where thousands of people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Yesterday, the Government presented the results of an assessment of the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan led by the Government’s Humanitarian Aid Commission, and authorized the return. The first two international staff arrived today in the state capital, Kadugli.


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