UN chief appeals for gay rights

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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon speaks during a session of the International Olympic Committee session in Sochi on the sidelines of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Thursday. AFP PHOTO

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon speaks during a session of the International Olympic Committee session in Sochi on the sidelines of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Thursday. AFP PHOTO

SOCHI, Russia: United Nations (UN) chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for an end to attacks and discrimination against gays on the eve of official opening of the Sochi Olympics, as the United States (US) warned of toothpaste bombs on flights to Russia.

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The build-up to the 22nd Winter Olympics has been overshadowed by fears over security and human rights—with a law passed last year banning the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to minors criticized by activists as vehe–mently homophobic.

Speaking as sporting action got under way at the Games on Thursday, Ban told a session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Sochi that everyone should join together to battle against discrimination.

“We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrest, imprisonment and discriminatory restrictions they face,” he said.

“I know principle six of the Olympic Charter enshrines the IOC’s opposition to any form of discrimination.

“Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century,” said Ban, who did not specifically address the situation in Russia.

Ban’s comments came as more than 200 leading international authors including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen criticized Russia’s anti-gay and blasphemy laws as a “choke–hold” on creativity in an open letter published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

And Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot defied President Vladimir Putin by calling for a “Russia that is free” at a star-studded New York concert where they were feted by Madonna and cheered by thousands.

Toothpaste bomb warning
As well as rights concerns, the Games have been stalked by fears of terror attacks.

The United States on Wed–nesday warned American and foreign airlines that militants could try to hide explosives in toothpaste tubes on Russia-bound flights.

An official said it has infor–mation “specifically targeting flights to Russia.”

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said that “out of an abundance of caution” it regularly shares relevant information with partners both at home and abroad.

“While we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time, this routine commun–ication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority,” it said.

AFP

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