24 August 2007The Security Council today renewed the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) by another year and called on all parties in the region to play their part to turn last year’s cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah into a permanent ceasefire and a more durable solution. The Security Council today renewed the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) by another year and called on all parties in the region to play their part to turn last year’s cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah into a permanent ceasefire and a more durable solution. In a unanimous vote, Council members agreed to extend UNIFIL until 31 August 2008, saying the deployment of the peacekeeping mission “together with the Lebanese Armed Forces has helped to establish a new strategic environment in southern Lebanon.” They also called on all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities and the entirety of the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon. First created in 1978, UNIFIL’s mandate and size were enhanced last year in the wake of the deadly conflict between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hizbollah, and today’s resolution urged all sides to cooperate fully with the mission and to do their utmost to respect the safety of UN personnel in the region. In June, a UN patrol in southern Lebanon was struck by a bomb, killing six Spanish peacekeepers and seriously wounding two other blue helmets, while last month an explosion occurred near a UNIFIL vehicle but there were no casualties. In addition to its original mandate, UNIFIL now has responsibility, among other tasks, for: monitoring the cessation of hostilities; supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces as they deploy in the south of the country; and helping ensure humanitarian access to civilians and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons. The mission currently fields more than 13,000 troops out of its increased ceiling of 15,000.
“We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people,” Mr. Ban said as the first UN chief to address an IOC session. “We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face.”Mr. Ban cited Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter which enshrines the IOC’s opposition to any form of discrimination. He added that the UN stands “strongly” behind its own ‘Free & Equal’ campaign and looks forward “to working with the IOC, Governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance.”“Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century,” the top UN official stressed, noting also the need to combat “ugly and hurtful racist displays at sporting matches.”Speaking later to the press in Sochi alongside Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, Mr. Ban said that “the Olympics give us an opportunity to celebrate everyone’s right to compete on equal terms – no matter what they look like, where they come from or whom they love.”Earlier the two men had taken part in the Olympic torch relay, with Mr. Ban receiving the flame from Mr. Bach on a bridge over the Sochi River. The flame will be nested tomorrow after its 65,000-kilometer (39,000-mile) route at the opening ceremony, attended by Mr. Ban.In his remarks, the Secretary-General praised the increasingly strong and productive partnership between the UN and the IOC, with shared values of universality, solidarity and non-discrimination that make a “dynamic global duo.”He noted the many UN agencies – including the office of his Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke – are working directly with the IOC to advance the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of the 2015 deadline, including efforts to combat AIDS and drug abuse, protect the environment and promote education. In his speech to the IOC today, one day before the opening of the Games, Mr. Ban reiterated the UN’s call for the observance of the Olympic Truce, especially in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.“Athletes send a unified message that people and nations can put aside their differences,” he said. “If they can do that in Sochi’s sporting arenas, leaders of fighters should do the same in the world’s combat areas.”The symbolic Truce, which started one week before the XXII Olympic Winter Games, will run until a week after the closing of the XI Paralympic Winter Games, to be held 7 to 16 March.Mr. Ban stressed the essential nature of the Paralympic Games to the Sochi Winter Games and highlighted how the Olympic Movement promotes human rights which include the rights of people with disabilities.“I am one of millions of people inspired by those athletes,” he said.“The Olympics have served to break down negative stereotypes and build positive attitudes,” he added. “I am pleased that the United Nations counts many Olympic athletes as champions of our causes – peace, development and human rights.”In his remarks today, Mr. Ban said he appreciated President Vladimir Putin’s assurances that “there will be no discrimination whatsoever,” and that people with different sexual orientation are welcome to compete and enjoy the Olympic Games.