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New UN Chief Backs Proposal to Ban Capital Punishment


The United Nations new secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, is on his first foreign trip since taking the post. Speaking in Brussels after meeting European Union officials, he showed support for a campaign to ban the death penalty worldwide. For VOA, Teri Schultz reports from Brussels.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday backed an initiative by Italy to push for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

The new U.N. chief appealed to the international community to "respect and comply with all ... international humanitarian laws," notably in putting an end to capital punishment.

"There is some growing tendency to see some phase out of the death penalty and I encourage that trend," he said.

Ban, a South Korean on his first trip outside North America since taking office on January first at the United Nations, created a stir on his second day in the job by saying capital punishment was up to individual nations.

The statement triggered criticism from human rights groups, prompting his spokeswoman to add later that Ban believed in the need to work to abolish the death penalty, although he was aware nations differed on the issue.

The 27-nation European Union is also likely to back Italy's call, which is to be discussed at the United Nations in the coming months.

The move is expected to face opposition from the United States and China, however, which still allow capital punishment.

Ban said he aims to work closely with the European Union in many areas, notably to resolve the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region and other African crises as well as fighting climate change.

"We have learned a great lesson from our history, from Rwandan genocide, and [the] international community must do whatever possible to prevent a recurrence of this kind of situation," he added. "There are still many areas where people are suffering from this violence and civilian killing and that is why I'm very much committed to work on these matters."

The rest of Ban's travel schedule illustrates his point. His next stop is Paris, for a Lebanon donors' conference; next week he goes to Addis Ababa for a summit of African Union leaders where he says he will press for progress on Darfur, Somalia, Chad and Ivory Coast.

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