UN chief Ban Ki-moon to attend Sochi Olympics

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will take part in Friday’s opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and deliver a keynote address to the International Olympic Committee’s general assembly, the first by a U.N. secretary-general, officials said Monday.

Ban’s visit to Sochi comes after several world leaders decided to skip the games, including U.S. President Barack Obama, German President Joachim Gauck and French President Francois Hollande. Russia has come under criticism for its human rights record and law against gay “propaganda.”

IOC President Thomas Bach said Ban will deliver a keynote speech at the IOC assembly, which runs from Wednesday to Friday.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said one reason the secretary-general wants to go to the Sochi games and speak to the Olympic committee’s members is the “growing relationship between the IOC and the United Nations,” which he wants to build on.

The two organizations share very similar values, especially on the use of sport to promote peace and development, Nesirky said.

Besides delivering the first-ever keynote speech to the IOC assembly by a U.N. chief, Ban will be speaking publicly and holding bilateral meetings with world leaders attending the games, Nesirky said.

The secretary-general carried the Olympic torch on the final leg of its journey to the opening of the London summer games in 2012.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in November calling for a global truce during the 2014 Winter Olympics which run from Feb. 7-23 and the Paralympics from March 7-16.

The resolution cites ancient Greece’s traditional Olympic truce period that allowed free passage of athletes and spectators from often-warring city-states to the original games every four years.

The 193-member world body has passed resolutions since 1993 calling for an Olympic truce, but countries continue fighting wars whether the Olympics are on or not.

Secretary-General Ban issued a statement Friday appealing for a global observance of the Olympic truce, especially in Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic. The first talks between Syria’s government and opposition ended that day without any tangible results.

“The Olympic Truce is rooted in the hope that if people and nations can put aside their differences for one day, they can build on that to establish more lasting cease-fires,” Ban said.

Nesirky said Ban will leave Tuesday night for Sochi and return to New York on Saturday.

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