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Horror At Hostage Death Toll At Russian School

Annan Voices Horror At Large Death Toll In Russian School Hostage Drama

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed his horror at the large number of children and others killed or injured in school hostage crisis in southern Russia.

"The Secretary-General has been following closely the tragic developments regarding the situation of the hostages in Beslan, Russian Federation," a statement issued by his spokesman in New York said. "He was horrified to learn that a large number of children and others have lost their lives or were injured during the last few hours.

"The Secretary-General reiterates his condemnation of all terrorist acts," the statement concluded.

Ever since the crisis began Mr. Annan and other top UN officials voiced their strong condemnation and called for the immediate release the hostages, who included scores of children. On Wednesday he demanded an end to "this criminal act directed against the most vulnerable members of society" and the Security Council called it a "heinous terrorist act."

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said schools must never be degraded to places of violence, adding: "If we don't respect the sanctity of childhood, then we have nothing." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour added her voice to calls for the release of the victims. UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said he was "appalled that a school and its pupils are being used for political ends."

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