Syria; Libya; Iran; South Sudan; Kenya; and more

Syria: The Arab League says it has made mistakes with its heavily criticised observer mission in Syria and has appealed to the United Nations for help. Arab government sources said yesterday the mission, attacked by critics as ineffective and shackled by the Syrian authorities, would continue.

Meanwhile, asked about UN support to the Observer Mission of the League of Arab States in Syria, the Secretary-General’s Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of Qatar yesterday and discussed practical measures by which the United Nations could assist the Mission. He added that such support, which was still under discussion, would take place under the auspices of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and would consist of training observers from the League of Arab States.

A senior United Nations official who has visited the Libyan cities of Bani Walid, Sirte and Misrata, which saw some of the most intense fighting during last year’s military campaign to oust Muammar al-Qadhafi’s regime, said today he was impressed by the rate of return of displaced residents to their homes. He noted that an estimated 60 per cent of the population displaced by the fighting had returned to Bani Walid and Sirte. He also voiced his admiration of the strong resilience amongst residents and the local council’s striving to tackle the prevailing humanitarian challenges.

Iran says it is willing to resume talks with the United Nations over its nuclear program that the West says designed to create weapons. Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi during a joint Tehran press conference with visiting Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday expressed his preference for Turkey to host the negotiations between his country and the the UN Security Council’s five veto-wielding members and Germany.

South Sudan:
UN peacekeepers have seen several dozen bodies in a remote South Sudan town which came under attack this week from a rival tribe, peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Thursday. Ladsous said UN helicopters took 75-80 injured people to safety.

Meanwhile, Kouider Zerrouk, a spokesperson for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), told UN Radio today that the mission is “beefing up” its presence across Jonglei to support the national Government’s efforts to restore security and protect civilians.

The UN’s humanitarian arm today voiced concern over inter-communal clashes in northern Kenya where some 46 people have died in recent months in reprisal attacks linked to rivalry over pasture and cattle rustling. The clashes between the Borana and Gabra livestock herding communities around the northern Kenyan town of Moyale, which is situated on the border with Ethiopia, have reportedly also displaced thousands of people.

The African Union today asked the United Nations to authorize an increase of its peacekeeping force in war-torn Somalia by 5,700 to 17,700 amid mounting attacks by Islamist rebels. Monica Juma, Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, made the announcement. The African force, called AMISOM, has been functioning under UN mandate since 2007 in the lawless Horn of Africa nation., the online game that allows players to improve their vocabulary while fighting global hunger by making donations to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has crossed another milestone today as it reached one million registered players. The game reaches an estimated 1.3 million players per month and has raised almost 100 billion grains of rice, enough to feed five million people for a day in countries in need of food aid.