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Monday, June 22, 1998 Published at 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK


UN: Save children from conflict

Tamil Tigers were blamed for bombing Kandy in Sri Lanka

Children are under attack in countries as far apart as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Uganda, the United Nations special representative on children in war zones has said.

BBC News' Ian Pannell: 2m children killed, 4m disabled in war in last 10 years
He was speaking as a two-day conference convened in London on the impact of armed conflicts on children.

The organisers hope to put pressure on governments and insurgent groups involved in conflicts around the world to stop targeting children.

The UN representative, Olara Otunnu - who is to address the meeting - told the BBC that the problem was widespread.

He described the systematic targeting of children in conflict as a world-wide abomination. He said 90% of casualties in 30 current conflicts were civilians - mainly women and children.

He said he was exceedingly nervous about Kosovo.

Mr Otunnu is in no doubt that this worsening trend can be blamed on the feebleness of the international community, which, he said, had not done enough to follow up all its conventions and resolutions on human rights.

"The drama is: none of this is being observed on the ground. It is as if none of this project has really taken place. They are being routinely ignored by belligerents on the ground, and we've got to do more."

Olara Otunnu: problem is widespread.
The meeting, entitled Children Affected by Armed Conflict has been organised as an EU Presidency initiative.

Mr Otunnu last week appeared before the UN Security Council, which is now working on a draft resolution that would give impetus to his message that the age of impunity is over, and all parties will be accountable for their atrocities against children.

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