News in Brief 03 January 2018

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Secretary-General António Guterres speaks to journalists at a press encounter. (file) UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Loss of life in Iran protests deplored by UN chief

A wave of anti-Government protests which have taken place across Iran have left more than 20 dead, according to news reports, leading the UN chief to deplore the loss of life.

The protests began last Thursday, aimed initially at poor economic conditions and corruption.

The UN's top Human Rights official, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said on Wednesday that the Government needed to handle the protests with "great care" so as not to inflame the violence, and investigate all deaths and injuries.

He said he was "deeply disturbed" by reports that an 11-year-old boy is among the dead.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement that he was following events with concern.

More details from UN Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq.

"He urges respect for the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and that any demonstrations take place in a peaceful manner. Further violence must be avoided."

Concern mounts for rising civilian casualties in Syria

Deep concern was expressed by humanitarian workers in Syria on Wednesday, following days of fighting in north-eastern Hama and southern Idlib, which have reportedly left many dead, injured and displaced.

At least seven were reported to have been killed after an air strike hit Khan Elsobol in Idlib, which is the last province which remains outside the control of Government forces.

Around 25 were injured in a vegetable market in Jisr-Ash-Shugar city on Tuesday with further air strikes reported elsewhere.

The UN and partners are coordinating the humanitarian response in the area, through cross-border operations in Turkey.

Here's Farhan Haq again.

"The United Nations reminds all parties to the conflict of the legal obligation to take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects. We are also extremely concerned over a recent string of attacks on health-care facilities inside Syria. On 31 December, a local hospital in the Idlib Governorate was reportedly damaged by an air strike, while one day earlier a medical warehouse belonging to an international NGO was reportedly damaged by barrel bombs."

UN chief welcomes resumption of Korean communication channel

The UN chief has welcomed the reopening of a dedicated communications channel between North Korea, otherwise known as the DPRK, and the Republic of Korea.

News reports said that the hotline was disabled almost two years ago, on the orders of the North Korean leadership.

Leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un, said in his New Year message that he was open to dialogue with Seoul and sending a team to the Winter Olympics taking place next month in the south.

Secretary-General António Guterres said it was "always a positive development" to have dialogue between the two nations, adding that he remained committed to the successful implementation of Security Council resolutions.

Tough new sanctions aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear weapons programme were unanimously agreed in December.

The UN chief said he hoped that the "enhanced diplomatic initiatives" would help kickstart talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2'36"

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