UN loses 41 staff members in various incidents over past week, will fly flags half mast tomorrow, SG to travel to D.C. to hold key meetings Thursday and more from UN Direct

Cote d’Ivore: UNOCI started an operation yesterday aimed at protecting civilians in accordance with resolution 1975 (to take necessary measures to prevent use of heavy weapons against civilians), after Gbagbo’s forces escalated its use of heavy weapons against civilians.  The SG has emphasized that UNOCI is not a party to the conflict and has taken this action in self defense and to protect civilians.   OCHA says situation in Abidjan is “alarming” – most hospitals not functioning and access is impossible due to fighting.  ASG for Human Rights Simonovic and USG for Humanitarian Affairs Amos flew to western Cote d’Ivoire yesterday, and linked up with a UN human rights team investigating mass killings.  Amos also met with IDPs, stressing the need for physical protection and humanitarian assistance.

SG: the SG has written to all UN staff to express his sorrow at the tragic losses faced by the UN in recent days, including the Afghanistan attack and plane crash in the DRC, as well as recent events in Cote d’Ivoire and Haiti – at least 41 people have died in these incidents.  The UN will fly all flags at half mast tomorrow and the SG will partake in a wreath-laying ceremony at 9am.

OIC: SG met with a group of Ambassadors representing OIC member States today.  Referring to the Quran burning, the SG said he condemned the incident and said actions of this sort cannot be condoned by any religion; furthermore, he said such actions contradict the UN’s efforts to promote tolerance, intercultural understanding and mutual respect among cultures and religions.

SG Travel: will travel to D.C. Thursday to discuss the work of the UN with legislators in Senate and House, as well as Secretary Clinton, and will return to NY on Friday.

Middle East: the SG’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Serry has reiterated that any settlement activity in the OPT is illegal and contrary to the Roadmap, calling on Israeli officials to halt the planning of new settlement units.

Iraq: the SG’s latest report to Iraq has been released, welcoming the elections, but emphasizing the need to complete the Government formation as soon as possible.