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The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution condemning sexual violence in war zones.
In the resolution passed Wednesday, the 15-member body called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special representative to lead and coordinate efforts to address the issue, and identify a team of experts to be dispatched to situations of particular concern.
Mr. Ban told the Council that despite some progress, the deliberate targeting of civilians for sexual volence continues unabated, including on a "widespread or systematic basis." He said parties to armed conflict continue to use such violence with "efficient brutality." The U.N. chief said perpetrators generally operate with impunity, and that the internatioanl community must do more to protect civilians, punish those responsible and provide redress to victims.
In Washington, President Barack Obama applauded the resolution's passage, saying it will increase the protection of women and children in conflict zones.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired Wednesday's Security Council meeting. The United States currently holds the council's rotating presidency.
The U.S. State Department says conflict-related sexual violence against women and children continues in many areas around the world, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where approximately 1,100 rapes are reported each month.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women says up to 500,000 women were raped in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, while 60,000 were raped in the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.