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New UN Appeal For Freeing Russian School Hostages

New UN Appeal For Freeing Russian School Hostages

As the school hostage drama in southern Russia dragged on towards its third day, the top United Nations official dealing with the fate of children in war joined the chorus of appeals from the world body for the immediate release of all the hostages.

"I am very shocked and distressed by this act of terror against school children," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara A. Otunnu, said. "It is unacceptable that any children anywhere should be subjected to these practices of brutalisation."

He called on the international community to focus on and make the protection of children a common cause. "We must mobilize all levels of international pressure to end these practices and ensure the 'era of application' for the protection of children," he said.

Mr. Annan yesterday called the hostage taking "this criminal act directed against the most vulnerable members of society" and called for the immediate release of the victims estimated to number in the hundreds, many of them children.

The Security Council issued a similar demand, calling the incident a "heinous terrorist act." And UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy added: "If we don't respect the sanctity of childhood, then we have nothing."

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