N.Korea seeks to defuse UN rights criticism

North Korea on Tuesday sought to defuse criticism of its human rights record, as the European Union and Japan prepared a UN resolution harshly condemning Pyongyang`s brutality. North Korean officials told a rare UN briefing that there were no prison camps in their country, but rather reform-through-labor "detention centers." "There are detention centers whereby people improve their mentality and look upon their wrongdoings and they reform through labor," said official Choe Myong Nam. He said economic problems were bringing hardship to North Koreans who lacked "places to rest and enjoy a bath or something like that" and that, with development, "the enjoyment of the people will be further expanded." Japan and the European Union are due to present a resolution to the UN General Assembly in the coming weeks that is expected to harshly condemn rights abuses in North Korea, based on the findings of a recent UN report. The report, released in February, was compiled from testimony from North Korean exiles and listed "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence" in the nuclear-armed totalitarian state. UN diplomats said the joint resolution, which the European Union and Japan have presented every year since 2003, could take the additional step of calling for prosecutions for crimes against humanity after the report found that the rights abuses were state policy.

Bamako: A peacekeeper was killed Tuesday as a UN camp in northern Mali came under rocket fire in an attack said to have been carried out by a jihadist leader driven from the country by French troops.

Iyad Ag Ghaly, who led a Tuareg rebellion in the Sahara before setting up the armed group Ansar Dine, disappeared in January 2013 soon after France intervened to drive Islamist insurgents back from the capital Bamako.

He resurfaced last month to issue a video message signalling a return to combat, saying his group was "ready to unite with our brothers on the ground to face up to the crusaders and infidels who have united to fight Islam in our land".

"The Malian Islamist Iyad Ag Ghaly has carried out his threat by attacking the camp of the UN mission in Kidal," a source within the UN`s MINUSMA force in Mali told AFP.

The source said at least four rockets were fired and added that the "provisional death toll" was one peacekeeper, without revealing the soldier`s nationality.

A resident of Kidal contacted by AFP by telephone confirmed the information.

"The camp was attacked, we heard loud noises. It`s rockets. It`s dark here now and we don`t know what is happening," he said.

The attack comes just days after nine UN soldiers, all from Niger, were killed in the north-eastern desert when they were targeted by armed men on motorbikes in an attack claimed by a jihadist with links to Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).

Friday`s ambush brought to 30 the number of deaths in the UN mission since its deployment in July last year.

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