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UK calls for conflict zone ceasefires to roll out vaccines

LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Britain will on Wednesday callfor a United Nations resolution to help negotiate ceasefires sothat people in conflict zones can be vaccinated againstCOVID-19, saying member states have a moral duty to protect thevulnerable.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will chair a virtual meetingof the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to discuss the threatfacing the more than 160 million people living in areas ofinstability and conflict, such as Yemen, South Sudan, Somaliaand Ethiopia.

“We have a moral duty to act, and a strategic necessity tocome together to defeat this virus,” Raab said in a statement.

He will also urge U.N. members to come together to supportequitable access to vaccines, warning that new virus variantswill take hold in places where people have not been vaccinated,potentially threatening the rest of the world with new waves.

Mexico is also expected to raise concerns about unequalaccess to vaccines globally. Britain says it has provided 548million pounds ($762 million) to help developing countriesthrough the sharing initiative COVAX.

The British push for vaccination ceasefires could be a firstkey test of cooperation at the United Nations between China andthe new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

Long-simmering tensions between China and former U.S.President Donald Trump’s administration hit boiling point at theUnited Nations over the pandemic, highlighting Beijing’s bid forgreater multilateral influence in a challenge to Washington’straditional leadership.

Wracked by bickering between China and the United States,the 15-member U.N. Security Council took more than three monthslast year to endorse a call by Secretary-General AntonioGuterres for a global pandemic ceasefire.

The Trump administration accused Beijing of a lack oftransparency that it says worsened the COVID-19 outbreak. Chinadenied those assertions.($1 = 0.7189 pounds)(Reporting by Kate Holton in London and Michelle Nichols in NewYorkEditing by Mark Heinrich)

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