The United Nations is warning of a growing crisis in Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region. In Europe, Italy is blocking 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines heading to Australia. China is set to overhaul Hong Kong's electoral system. Meanwhile, Pope Francis arrives in Iraq. CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta joins "CBSN AM" from Johannesburg with those stories.
ANNE-MARIE GREEN: All right, let's get you to some headlines from around the world. Humanitarian officials are sounding the alarm on a worsening situation in Ethiopia. Debora Patta is joining us now with that story as well as others from Johannesburg. This situation in Ethiopia is threatening to pull in other nations as well.
DEBORA PATTA: Indeed. Good morning, Anne-Marie. The crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region is certainly deteriorating even further. And this comes as the United Nations warns that a campaign of destruction is underway. These remarks made at a UN Security Council that was a closed session have been obtained by CBS News. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned that 4.5 million people needed assistance and that there were multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray of widespread atrocities involving mass killings, rapes, and abduction of civilians. He singled out neighboring Eritrean forces as fighting on the side of the Ethiopian government and demanded they leave Ethiopia.
Over to Italy and a very different war being waged, the global tug of war over desperately needed coronavirus vaccines. Italy has blocked 250,000 doses of the vaccine from being flown to Australia under new European Union rules passed after AstraZeneca cut projected deliveries. Australia, however, has asked for a review of the decision. The EU regulations allow any member country to stop exports of vaccines to nations outside the bloc. The decision to stop the shipment comes as infections are on a steep ascent in Italy and highlights the intensification of the global competition for shots.
China has announced at its biggest political meeting that it will overhaul Hong Kong's electoral system to ensure what it calls patriots are in charge. It's being seen as a sign that the government will no longer tolerate dissent in the city. The reform comes after a crackdown and tightened control of Hong Kong. The draft decision will be discussed at the National People's Congress, which has gathered in Beijing and runs for a week.
And finally to Iraq, where Pope Francis has arrived for a three-day visit amid both pandemic and escalating security concerns. The Pope has made it clear he does not want to disappoint the Iraqi people, especially the country's Christian population.
Pope Francis will also meet with Shiite leaders, hoping to establish a groundwork for peace that protects people of all religions in Iraq. There is also criticism that the trip could become a super spreader event, amid fears that the Pope could draw large crowds at a time when the coronavirus infections appear to be surging in the country. Now, the Vatican insists that the visit will be safe, socially distanced, and devoid of the usual fanfare. The Pope and his entourage have all been vaccinated. Anne-Marie?
ANNE-MARIE GREEN: All right, Debora. Thank you very much.