Subscribe: Inner City Press
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade C rated
Language: English
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Inner City Press

Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- investigative reporting from local to global, from the inner city to Wall Street to the United Nations

Last Build Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 08:59:34 GMT


At UN, Salva Kiir Speaks on Sudan, Uganda and LRA's Otti Mystery

Mon, 12 Nov 2007 08:53:12 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, November 6 -- Salva Kiir, first vice president of South Sudan, began his trip to the U.S. with a UN stop on Tuesday. He met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and then spoke to the press. Aside from two mysterious answers he was generally upbeat, saying that just has he built bridges between Eritrea and the National Congress Party of Omar al-Bashir, he aims to do the same between al-Bashir and George W. Bush. ("I hope so," Sudan's Ambassador to the UN Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad said with a smile when asked later about this comment by Inner City Press.) He said, in Arabic, that he has high hopes to get the Comprehensive Peace Agreement back on track upon his return to Sudan. On Darfur, he urged the rebel movements to re-unify, adopt a common negotiation position and a single delegation to what the UN has been calling the third and final stage of the talks in Sirte, Libya. Inner City Press asked Kiir, in his trademark black cowboy hat, about the Lord's Resistance Army's talks with Ugandan president Museveni, and the International Criminal Court's indictments of Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and two other LRA leaders. Kiir said that there is almost peace in Uganda, that an LRA delegation is in Kampala, and that if a peace agreement is signed, "the local community" will ask the ICC to drop the indictments. Not addressed is whether the ICC could, should or would accept such a request, based on alternative local arrangements. Salva Kiir in U.S. in trademark black hat, Vincent Otti not shown Inner City Press asked Kiir directly if he know if Vincent Otti is alive. There are reports that Otti is dead; some of these reports say that Joseph Kony killed him. Kiir said these are rumors, that someone can be sick and them become restored. Video here. While there was some laughter at the press stakeout at this line, a source with knowledge of the LRA process, Kiir and Northern Uganda tells Inner City Press that the answer only gives more credence to the reports of Otti's demise. We'll see. The other mystery in Kiir's answers concerned non-Sudanese now in Darfur. Kiir said there are "foreigners" in Darfur, brought there by the National Congress Party. He was asked, who are they? Not necessarily from Chad, Kiir said. Mysteries, mysteries...

Behind Lockheed's No-Bid UN Contract, State Department Timing, DynCorp, Dissent

Fri, 02 Nov 2007 23:22:35 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Exclusive UNITED NATIONS, November 2 -- Documents obtained by Inner City Press reveal substantial disagreement inside the UN before a no-bid $250 million contract was given to U.S.-based military contractor Lockheed Martin, through its subsidiary Pacific Architects & Engineers, for the upcoming Darfur peacekeeping mission. Contrary to defense that have since been offered for the sole source process with Lockheed, that it was an unavoidable emergency triggered by the Security Council's July 31 resolution on the peacekeeping mission, and only Lockheed could provide the infrastructure services, numerous UN officials internally urged competitive bidding. Documents show that the decision to go sole-source with Lockheed was made as far back as April, three months before the Council resolution, based on a request by the chief of the UN's Department of Field Support, Jane Holl Lute. Click here for Ms. Lute's April 19 request and UN Controller Warren Sach's April 25 approval, which urged that any "follow on arrangements will be executed until established procurement procedures and rules" and that "DPKO develop a logistics concept no later than three months to respond to emergency situations of this nature to prevent reoccurrence of exceptions to competitive bidding." Contrary to Mr. Sach's proviso, more than five months later, a no-bid contract was given to Lockheed, outside of established procurement procedures.             The reason for the second round of rushing, it now appears, went beyond the Security Council's July 31 resolution. Lockheed's contract with the U.S. Department of State was expiring on August 31, and that day the UN's Headquarters Committee on Contracts met on "an urgency reported by Procurement Services and the Department of Field Support... involving an award of a contract for the provision of the multi-function logistics services in Darfur." See Minutes, obtained exclusively by Inner City Press and now online here.  According to the Minutes: "The Committee questioned the terms of the PAE contract with the US State Department (USDOS). In response, Procurement Services stated that they are given to understand that the contract with PAE is expiring at midnight today (31 August). They are also given to understand that a new bidding exercise is at the concluding stage with DynCorp and PAE as the two finalists vying for the new contract." (Page 4)             The U.S. State Department had been criticized, including by U.S. government auditors, for lack of competition in giving its Darfur camp services contract to Lockheed's PAE. Therefore the USDOS has put it out to bid, and had another finalist, DynCorp (which has its own contracting issues with the U.S.). But Lockheed was able, despite the GAO criticism, to keep getting paid in Darfur on a sole-source basis, by being selected by the UN without bidding for the infrastructure contract. The Minute reflect substantial questioning and criticism of the process, and even a dissenting opinion, based on a lack of "comparators to the agreed price" and "overhead charged by PAE on airfield related services." Click here.  As the controversial nature of the approval, however qualified, to eschew competitive bidding for this contract because more clear, the participants decided to in essence further immunize themselves by convincing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to issue an October 2 letter waiving the applicability of procurement and other rules to the Darfur peacekeeping mission.             Ban's letter and its reasoning have been sited by defenders of the contract, notably from the Mission to the UN of the United Kingdom and of the U.S.. As reported, the U.S. Mission's spokesman on November 1 said that if there were irregularities beyond "innuendo" concerning the no-bid awarding of the Darfur contract to Lockheed, the U.S. would be the first ones to demand more transparency. That time has come.             The August 31 Co[...]

UN Under Fire From Its Experts, on Torture, Executions and Peacekeeping Standards

Fri, 02 Nov 2007 06:24:19 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- The UN itself may be engaged or complicit in extra-judicial executions, the UN's special rapporteur on the topic has told Inner City Press. Concerns about the UN's own practices were echoed by the rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism. On Friday, law professor Philip Alston told journalists that he limits his inquiries to execution cases that are not being effectively investigated by the responsible authorities. Inner City Press asked Prof. Aston if, given that the UN system does not discipline its peacekeepers but rather allows them to return to their home countries, he has made such inquiries with the UN. Yes, he said, "the UN has a long way to go," adding that he intends to make further inquiries with the UN. It emerged that he has already written to the UN's mission in Haiti. Inner City Press raised to further example: allegations of torture and even executions by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the case of the shooting death of Kosovar protesters by Romanian peacekeepers using 13-year old rubber bullets. These peacekeepers returned to Romania, where neither they nor the officials who, with presumptive criminal negligence, supplied long-out-of-date rubber bullets, have faced any justice. The UN rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, had been quoted that "as long as the military in Nepal tortures, no (Nepalese) troops should be consulted for peacekeeping missions" of the UN. Inner City Press asked about the quote, and Nowak specified that he had made a finding of torture in Nepal, in 2005, and that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DKPO) should able stricter scrutiny to peacekeepers offered by countries engaged in torture. He said that he personally had spoken with a Nepali officer who served as a UN peacekeeper and also admitted to engaging in torture. Video here. Nowak said similar issues exist as to Jordan, in terms of torture, and cited the unresolved case of sexual abuse allegations against Moroccan peacekeepers in Cote d'Ivoire. UN headquarters in Geneva: human rights are a two-way street At Monday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Michele Montas if Nowak had spoken with, or would be listened to by, the UN's DPKO. Ms. Montas said that Nowak as a special rapporteur directs his recommendations to the Human Rights Council. But is DPKO listening? A report emerged of more Fijian peacekeepers headed to Sudan. In light of previous UN statements about not accepting more Fijian peacekeepers until Fiji is returned to democracy, Inner City Press inquired into this as well. Ms. Montas responded that seven Fijians initially slated to serve the UN in Iraq had been kept in Fiji, based on "criminal" issues. Video here, from Minute 22:21. Whether this indicates DPKO listening to the issues raised by human rights experts like Nowak remains to be seen. Finnish academic Martin Scheinin, the rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, also said that the UN could and should do more. Inner City Press asked about the UN having "cast its lot" with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, even as TFG figures began openly characterizing as "terrorists" women and children of clans which generally oppose the TFG. Scheinin said that while he is just beginning inquiry into Somalia, he is of the view that the UN Security Council, which calls on member states to respect human rights while implementing its resolution, should require the same of the UN itself. Video here. He also said that human rights should become a formal part of the work of the UN's Counter Terrorism Committee, which for now is set to sun-set by the end of 2007. Scheinin predicted, like most including Slovak Ambassador Peter Burian, the Council's liaison, that the CTC will be continued. But will it give more place to huma[...]

In Burma, UN Envoy Sees Saffron But No Revolution, No Kiev in Myanmar

Tue, 30 Oct 2007 04:32:11 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 24 -- "It's saffron, but not a revolution," the UN human rights envoy to Burma, Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, told Inner City Press on Wednesday. Mr. Pinheiro said Yangon "is not Kiev, and its not East Berlin... there will be no Orange Revolution." Triggering Pinheiro's six-minute explanation was Inner City Press' request for clarification of Pinheiro's quote to Portuguese news agency Lusa, that "I would not qualify the protests as a popular uprising and I see no possibility that they will precipitate a change of regime."

Piniero began, "Perhaps in Portuguese I was speaking too much." Other reporters reviewed Pinheiro's candor as rare at the UN; some thought it inappropriate that a UN expert would say that protesters being clubbed in the street then arrested have no chance of bringing about change. "I refuse to read the marching of the monks as a prelude to revolution," he said. He said that monks had been seeking an apology for an attack on a single monastery. The monks are inter-dependent with society, as unlike Catholic monks, they do not "produce wine or honey." But after the junta's "terrible mistake," the monks stopped soliciting or accepting donations from the military. "They refused the military a safe route to salvation," Pinheiro said, predicting that this might bring political change, but far in the future.

Pinheiro at the UN, in 2005. Plus ca change.
Pinheiro said his trip to Myanmar will follow UN envoy Gambari's, but will finish before the November 17 ASEAN meeting. He will visit, or seek to visit, detainees in jail. If he is not allowed, he said, he will leave the country. Can the same be said of Gambari? We'll see.
Inner City Press asked Pinheiro about two of his other human rights jobs, to push for a new UN office on violence and children -- the Latin America group GRULAC has agreed to it, Pinheiro confided -- and monitoring U.S. prisons for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. "Today's not about that," Pinheiro said. The world is a prison...

As UN Worker Released in Mogadishu, UN Transcript Deletes Word "Bail"

Tue, 30 Oct 2007 04:30:36 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, October 23 -- When the Somali Transitional Federal Government released the local head of the UN World Food Program, UN spokesperson Michele Montas in New York said "he is supposed to be out on bail, according to the people in charge." Video here, from Minute 14:20. The phrase "on bail" was later deleted or omitted from the UN's transcript of the briefing. Inner City Press asked if the UN had agreed to stop distributing aid through mosques, reportedly the reason for the TFG's arrest of Idris Osman. Ms. Montas answered that "the distribution through mosques has been continuing." Video here, from Minute 17:16. Soon thereafter, two corrections arrived: Subj: Info on Somalia From: WFP NY Spokesperson To: matthew.lee [at] cc: OSSG Date: 10/23/2007 12:54:49 PM Eastern Standard Time Hi Matthew, Here is the latest on Somalia about release of our WFP staffer and your questions: No bail was requested. Mr. Osman was released because of a decision by President. WFP and the Transitional Federal Government will shortly launch a joint fact-finding mission looking into the circumstances of his detention on 17 October. Food distributions will resume in Mogadishu as soon as possible with the agreement of the Transitional Federal Government. We will distribute food in the most effective way to reach the people in need. We cannot rule out it being through the mosques. This was reiterated -- and inserted into the UN's summary of the noon briefing, as if it had been said: Subj: revised if-asked on Somalia questions From: ossg [at] To: matthew.lee [at] Date: 10/23/2007 3:01:23 PM Eastern Standard Time Asked why Osman had been detained, the Spokeswoman said that he was now back at work at the UN office in Mogadishu upon a decision by the President, with no charges laid against him. WFP and the Transitional Federal Government will shortly launch a joint fact-finding mission looking into the circumstances of his detention. Asked about WFP food distribution through mosques in Mogadishu, Montas later added that food distributions had been interrupted after Somali National Security Service officers entered the UN compound in Mogadishu on 17 October. They will resume in Mogadishu as soon as possible, with the agreement of the Transitional Federal Government. Asked whether distributions will resume through mosques, Montas said that WFP had announced that they would distribute food in the most effective way to reach the people in need, including through the mosques. If the UN can re-write the summaries and transcripts of its noon briefing, why not its relations with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government? UN WFP truck in Somalia, bail not shown Inner City Press on October 18 asked UN humanitarian coordinator Eric Laroche if the issue underlying the arrest was the TFG ordering the UN to cease delivering aid through mosques, Mr. Laroche answered that no charges had been filed. He said he would not answer "political" questions; the UN office that would is still based in Nairobi, not Somalia. After some initial misunderstanding, he largely dodged Inner City Press' questions about what he'd done in meeting in Washington. A DC source tells Inner City Press that at an October 17 meeting there, Laroche made excuses for the mayor of Mogadishu, who equated non-TFG-supporting refugees as "terrorists" by saying, "Mohamed Dheere is Mohamed Dheere and he is known to speak aggressively but..." But what? Inner City Press asked if Laroche now acknowledged that the UN had gotten too close to the TFG and the organizers of the National Reconciliation Congress. Video here. Laroche called the latter a political question he would not answer. On the former, he said that "no one" -- he listed the donors, NGOs, the international community and the UN -- is against the idea of there being st[...]

At UN, France Holds Ivorian Pen Through Murky Splitting of Council Pie, Drafters Rule

Tue, 23 Oct 2007 02:18:01 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Political Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 -- As the UN Security Council put out a Presidential Statement Monday about the Ivory Coast, virtual ignored was the call by the Ivorian representative at the debate to stop France from being the drafter of such statements. There are three African nations on the Council, was the Ivorian argument. Why is France as ex-colonial power the one doing the drafting?
Inner City Press asked French deputy Permanent Representative Jean-Pierre Lacroix for his response, in the corridor outside the Council. "Yes, we are holding the pen," Amb. Lacroix said. "But the decision are up to the full Council."
Inner City Press asked for France's position on the call by Cote d'Ivoire, during the General Debate and on Monday, that sanctions be removed. "There is a delisting procedure," Amb. Lacroix noted. "There is a similar procedure to apply to if they seek the lifting of the arms embargo." He paused and then let slip his view that the Security Council is not leaning n either issue toward the position of Cote d'Ivoire, at Monday's Council meeting or as set forth by President Laurent Gbagbo in his September 26 press conference, about which Inner City Press the next day asked French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who bristled about Gbagbo's electoral duties.
While the question is broader than why does France, which colonized Cote d'Ivoire, still play such a central role in the UN's Ivorian considerations, two more Ambassadors answered or dodged this specific question from Inner City Press. China's deputy representative Li said that the African Union and ECOWAS should take the lead. Ghana's Leslie K. Christian, Council president this month, said he had "yet to digest" the Ivorian proposal.

Jean-Marie Bockel, French Secretary of... Francophone Affairs, Ivorian pen not shown
Security Council analysis: Inner City Press asked several diplomats and staffers how it is assigned which Council members take the lead on particular issues and peacekeeping missions. The deputy spokesman of a Permanent Five Council member acknowledged that the process of assignment is informal, and thus lacks transparency. Each January, he said, formal decisions are made of which new members will chair which committees; the doling out of leadership roles for drafting might take place at the same time, but without formality.
He who drafts, it is said, controls. The deputy spokesman pointed that some non-permanent members are "given" countries and missions on which to take the lead, given as the example the shift for Greece to Belgian as leader on Ethiopia - Eritrea, went Greece went off the Council.
A staffer scoffed that Ethiopia - Eritrea is always assigned to European Council members; of Cote d'Ivoire, he said that if the three current members from Africa wanted to make a stink about France's Ivorian role, they might get somewhere, but in fact no one is pushing on it. Will Burkina Faso, which will begin a two-year term in January, take the lead on Cote d'Ivoire? We'll see.

"Darfur Now" is Full of Cheadle, Director Chides UN's Paralysis by Complexity

Tue, 23 Oct 2007 02:14:23 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- "Darfur Now," a just-released documentary film, cuts from actor Don Cheadle at home to women in Darfur chanting the name of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court prosecutor who has indicted Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister Ahmad Harun for war crimes. There are scenes of Mr. Moreno-Ocampo in his home, musing that if the ICC process doesn't work, the whole world will become like Darfur. California governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, faced with legislation divesting from Sudan, signs it, six times to be exact, handing one copy to the ubiquitous Mr. Cheadle. There is Mr. Cheadle in Beijing with George Clooney, and the same duo in Cairo, meeting with the son of the president of Egypt, referred to by Cheadle without apparent irony as "next in line." There is footage of Messrs. Clooney and Cheadle at a surreal UN press conference, which Inner City Press covered at the time. There is more convincing footage of a World Food Program official in his room in Darfur, worrying about truck drivers getting killed, as happened only this week. "Darfur NOW" portrays the rebel groups, which it does not name, as being only about returning to their land. The director, Ted Braun, told the audience at the UN's screening Wednesday night that the rebels "do not want to secede," they only want help from what the film's subtitles translate as "the white man." Mr. Braun said the root of the word is "teacher... because the first people to arrive in Sudan from Europe were teachers." Well, no. The first to arrive in Sudan were colonialists. The film's Achilles heel is not only its failure to mention that there are now twenty separate rebel groups, some of which kill the African Union peacekeepers, but also its naive presentation of the Save Darfur movement in the United States. For showing so many activists, and with such upbeat music -- by Stevie Wonder and U2's Bono, no less -- it is striking that the war in Iraq is nowhere mentioned. There is bloodshed there, too, and refugees and war crimes -- all of which Americans have more responsibility over, and perhaps more ability to impact, than events in Darfur. Mr. Braun afterwards said that complexity can become an excuse for procrastination. You just have to do something, he said, giving as one example his ability to make the film, after "the best journalist" -- on information and belief, Nick Kristof, who is thanked in the credits -- predicted that it could not be done. Mr. Braun diagnosed, not unreasonably, that some in the UN system were paralyzed by complexity. Cheadle, Clooney, Loroupe and Cheeks, bad rebels and Iraq not shown An example of this is the issue of enforcing, or even genuinely trying to enforce, the ICC warrants against Ahmad Harum and Ali Kushayb. Inner City Press asked a post-film panel including Braun and five UN officials to explain why, while the name "Ocampo" is shown in the film being chanted by women in Darfur, it is not chanted in UN headquarters. Earlier this week, the prosecutor chided Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for not including justice in his reports on Darfur. At Wednesday's UN noon briefing, spokesperson Marie Okabe answered that "Mr. Ocampo is simply doing his job by bringing the world's attention to the justice side of this issue, which as you know is very complex." Inner City Press asked the UN panel at the film to article to other side to justice. The most direct answer was provided by Jack Christofides of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, who said that trying and convicting a few war criminals "will not solve Darfur's problems," and who spoke of an "over-focus on indicted war criminals." That is the view of many in the UN, but is usually not said publicly. Isabelle Balot of the UN's Department of Political Affairs introduced in [...]

UN's Ban Vows Transparency, After Lockheed Gets $250M No-Bid Darfur Contract

Wed, 17 Oct 2007 04:56:43 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, October 16 -- A day after the UN quietly announced a $250 million sole-source contract with American defense contractor Lockheed Martin for infrastructure for its hybrid peacekeeping operation in Sudan's Darfur region, a UN briefing document emerged claiming that the UN "as a result of negotiations" with Lockheed Martin got the "price reduced from $700 to $250 million." In closed door session of the UN's Administrative Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, several members sarcastically marveled at the UN's new-found haggling skills. Others questioned the credibility of a contractor which would inflate its initial bid by nearly 200 percent. Still others pointed out that the UN's October 15 press release mentioned that the $250 million is for six months, with the option to review for two three-month periods, making the contract potentially worth $500 million. This would make the negotiated savings less than presented to ACABQ, in what would in this scenario become a functionally misleading document.             Inner City Press asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about why the UN dispensed with competitive bidding, and if future Darfur and UN Peacekeeping contracts would also be sole-source. "I assure you full transparency and accountability in carrying out" this Darfur infrastructure contract, Mr. Ban responded. Video available through here. "There is only one company with all the equipment and readily available to construct the camps" for the hybrid peacekeeping force, Ban said, adding that "I am going to make it very accountable and very transparent."             But at Tuesday's noon press briefing, basic questions such as who signed the contract and whether it allows for subcontracting were asked but not answered. The UN spokesperson spoke in general terms that "there has been a transparent process" about the contract, that a rule (FR 105.16) was "evoked... in this emergency case." Inner City Press asked how it was an emergency, if the Darfur hybrid force had been discussed all the way back when Kofi Annan was Secretary-General, and there have been fifty people working on planning. "There is always a gap," the spokesperson said.      "Will the contract be made public?" Inner City Press asked.             "Sure... yes, yes," the spokesperson said. Video here, from Minute 16:40. That statement, combined with Mr. Ban's later vow of transparency, would seem to militate for the contract to be made public forthwith.             The General Assembly president's spokesman also took questions. Inner City Press asked about the eight-page briefing paper, whether it had been presented to the GA's Fifth Committee as well as to the ACABQ. The spokesman answered that there is a Fifth Committee consultation scheduled for November 8, at which it will be considered. Video here, from Minute 34:05. The Secretariat spokesperson asked that questions about the contract be pursued later, directly with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. "Did DPKO sign the contract?" Inner City Press asked.             "DPKO is in charge of the mission" in Darfur, the spokesperson answered.             Inner City Press has been told that the contact was signed by the Under Secretary General for Management, Alicia Barcena, with the "blessing" of UN Controller Warren Sach, who must approve waivers of bidding and procurement rules. Sources say that Jane Holl Lute, the acting head of the Department of Field Support, spun off this year from DPKO, was most involved in dealings with Lockheed Martin. African Union peacekeeper in Darfur, Lockheed Martin not shown The eight-page UN memo rationalizing the sole-source contract states that Lockheed Martin's Pacific Architect Engineers, Inc. [...]

For Darfur, Lockheed Martin Gets UN Sole Source Contract, Questions Raised

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 21:01:48 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, October 15 -- Two weeks after notifying the UN General Assembly that he had "exceptionally authorized" himself for "entering into non-competitive single-source contracts" for the Darfur hybrid force, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced, through his spokesman, at $250 million contact with Pacific Architect Engineers, Inc. (PAE). Not included in the press release was the name of PAE's corporate parent, U.S. military contractor Lockheed Martin, nor that until now half of PAE's revenue has come from the U.S. State Department, nor how Lockheed's PAE was selected. Inner City Press asked, at the UN's noon briefing, if the process had been competitive. "It was competitive," the spokesperson said.             Later in the briefing, an aide brought in a note, which the spokesperson read and said, no, it was sole-source. [Video here, from Minute 15:17, and see below.]             Inner City Press asked Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad for his country's view of the contact award. "We are very concerned about the UN going outside its own rules," he said. "Who knows, maybe a Sudanese company would have been qualified to do this work. We will be raising it in the General Assembly."             While some in the Ban Administration express skepticism at the Sudanese Ambassador's skepticism, the question remains: why didn't the UN follow the normal procedures and take bids for this contract? Or at least, wait for the General Assembly or its budgetary Fifth Committee to have a chance to give assent to the waiving of procurement rules?             Inner  City Press asked the spokesman for the General Assembly president about Ban Ki-moon October 2 waiver letter. This spokesman, Janos Tisovszky, responded that "the President of the GA received [the letter A/62/379 and] Member States within the Fifth Committee when they review the UNAMID budget proposal will have a chance to also consider this aspects and voice their views on it."             As Inner City Press reported last week, the Fifth Committee is not slated to have a chance to speak on the UNAMID (Darfur Mission) budget and, now, Ban Ki-moon's assertion of waiver authority for another week or more. UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions is holding closed-door consultations, and has yet to accede to anything. After Monday's noon briefing, the UN Spokesperson's Office clarified: Subj: your question on contract in support of UNAMID From: To: matthew.lee [at] Date: 10/15/2007 12:50:24 PM Eastern Standard Time The contract awarded to PAE is a sole source contract in accordance with the Financial regulation 105.16, which provides for an exception to the formal methods of solicitation when the United Nations is faced with an exigent requirement. The nature and the complexity of the requirement, coupled with the challenging timeline mandated by the Security Council, have made so that the PAE was the only contractor which could be selected. However, the negotiations on the contract were completed by the Procurement Service, and the Contract was subsequently reviewed by the Headquarters Committee on Contracts.  As an intermediary measure, PAE was awarded a contract for 6 months to allow for a more complete solicitation exercise, which has started with the Expressions of Interest. News analysis: Diplomats consulted by Inner City Press questioned whether this contact could legitimately be described as "exigent," given that the Secretary-General has been speaking for months about the Darfur hybrid force and its requirements. Some more conspiracy-minded UN insiders, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliati[...]

UN Lacks Aircraft for Darfur But Won't Say Why, Troop Numbers Murky, Dictators Not So Bad

Tue, 09 Oct 2007 05:23:47 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 8 -- To highlight the need for military aircraft for the upcoming peacekeeping force in Darfur, the UN's Jean-Marie Guehenno on Monday gave the press a list of 16 troop contributing countries and three "shortfalls in critical areas," two involving helicopters and one "medium heavy transportation company." Through questioning it became clear that a problem in gaining a commitment for these aircraft is that Sudan has been given implicit veto power over the identity and nationality of the pilots. But what country is going to give its helicopters for someone else to fly them?
            Inner City Press asked Guehenno about the Sudanese Ambassador's claim that his Department turned down Egypt's office of 3000 troops. Egypt will be a "very significant participant" in the force, Guehenno answered. But at the level of 3000 troops? "Less than three thousand," Guehenno said. "But still a significant number." But how many? Why play hide the ball?
            Similarly, Inner City Press asked Guehenno how it was that the UN reviewed allegations of human rights violations by Rwandan general Karenzi Karake. Once the allegations were made, the UN said it invited human rights groups and other to submit information. "No member state came up and substantiated such allegations," Guehenno said. But did the UN consider information only from member states? "Of course we listened," Guehenno said. "But we can only act on the basis of evidence."
            Guehenno was asked about the International Criminal Court indictments, including of Sudanese humanitarian minister Harun. Guehenno answered that there should be "no impunity," but that the "peacekeeping mission is distinct."
            Some observers conclude that, in order to get the al Bashir government's support for the hybrid force, the UN is going too far with its accommodations. On Monday, Guehenno declined to confirm reports of the al Bashir government burning the town of Haskanita in response to last week's attack on African Union peacekeepers there. Other sources have put the death toll in the town at 105. The UN, despite reportedly being now in control of the town, has not come out with any figure.

Airplane over Darfur - but not the needed helicopters
News analysis: The UN's accommodation of Sudan's al Bashir government is mirrored by its seeming covering-up for the Than Shwe regime in Myanmar. Over the weekend, the Times of London reported that Burmese authorities went in search of the UN's computer hard-drives, to identify activists to arrest. But UNDP's Charles Petrie said they were only asked for satellite phone licenses, and Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson on Monday said that even those weren't asked for. As for the Times of London's report that UN staff in Burma were deleting files in fear of the government seizing them, when Inner City Press asked, the spokesperson said, "I cannot confirm that information this morning." Everything's fine, the UN says in its way, in Burma and in The Sudan. There's diplomacy and then there's.... cover-up. When is the line crossed? The Darfur mission will be a test.

At the UN, Job Favors Asked and Given between Management and Chief Investigator, E-mails Show

Tue, 09 Oct 2007 05:22:47 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, on UN Reform: Exclusive Flash Report UNITED NATIONS, October 4 -- Only months after the UN's investigative body drafted a report critical the UN's Department of Management (DM), lead investigator Inga-Britt Ahlenius contacted DM chief Alicia Barcena in an apparent attempt to influence the awarding of a senior Management post. In a September 17 e-mail obtained by Inner City Press, Ms. Ahlenius urged Ms. Barcena that Ms. Danielle Coolen "be interviewed and seriously considered," adding pointedly that, "I guess you would probably be yourself on an interview panel." Two hours later, Barcena wrote to her chief of staff Simona Petrova, in capital letters, "I want to make sure that I am in all panels of my Department to select D-2s," the senior rank Ahlenius sought for Ms. Coolen. Barcena also asked Ms. Petrova to forward to UN Controller Warren Sach the Coolen information, including the message from investigator Alhenius. Click here for the e-mails. Ms. Barcena's response late October 4, that she would be "happy to come to a press briefing anytime next week," is set forth below in context. On October 5, while still no comment had been provided, interrogation of staff began, about how the whistle-blowing took place. Inner City Press still waited until noon. Then this article went to press. Rather than questioning if it was appropriate for an investigator, particularly one with a contested inquiry into an agency, to appear to seek to influence the awarding of a high position in that agency, the problem raised by Mr. Sach was that "this is a Belgian D-2 applicant in an office currently headed by a D-1 Belgian; steps may need to be taken to ensure the applicant is retained on the long list." Click here for the e-mail. The "D-1 Belgian" would be Paul Buades, the Chief of the UN's Procurement Services (PS). A well-place source to whom Inner City Press showed the emails for comment quipped that the only problem seen with the pushing of this candidate was that of having two Belgian in one office, and that if that country splits in two, this obstacle would be removed. The Office of Internal Oversight Services review of the DM was mentioned in report A/61/264 (part 1), page 19, referring to a "comprehensive audit of the Department of Management, in particularly to examine how responsibility is assigned within the Department and how accountability for actions is realized. The audit will also examine whether the Department's structure and internal processes allow it to operation transparently, efficiently and effectively." Inner City Press, having been told by well-placed sources both that DM's Barcena has fought back against the OIOS audit, and the OIOS' Ahlenius asked Barcana for job favors, at Thursday's noon briefing posed this question: Inner City Press: And I just wanted to ask one other thing, something I'm working on today. We've heard that there was an OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report on the Department of Management that was being prepared and that has been scuttled ... I feel it's my duty to ask you -- can you check that out? Spokesperson: I'm not aware of this, Matthew. I can find out, but I'm not aware of it. Inner City Press: Please do. Spokesperson: Okay. [After holding this story for 24 hours until noon on October 5, when Inner City Press asked if there were any answers to its October 4 questions, the spokesperson's response was that "no one seemed to know, no one that we asked." ] Inner City Press has obtained a copy of a memo headed "Internal Audit Division, OIOS - Exit Conference Briefing," in which some of the criticisms by Ms. Ahlenius' OIOS are set forth, including about the hiring and promotion of Ms. Petrova herself. Of what has become Ms. P[...]

As UN General Debate Ends, Tale of the Tape, Broken Microphones and Promises -- and World Peace?

Wed, 03 Oct 2007 14:52:32 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- As the UN General Assembly winds up in General Debate, we're left with stacks of speeches and somewhat random statistics. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held, as of Monday night, an unprecedented 129 bilateral meetings with visiting dignitaries. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, as of Tuesday at noon, had held 50 such meetings. On an informal basis, Inner City Press' questions about the size of two sample delegations were answered. Somalia, a country still in turmoil, sent 11 people; France sent over 60. Could that explain France's decision to exclude all non-French journalists from President Sarkozy's press conference? The longest speech was that of Iran's president, which the GA clocked in at 55 minutes. The first walk-out was that of Cuba, during the speech by U.S. President Bush. Copies of his speech were erroneously distributed by the names and cell phone numbers of the speechwriters on them. Lower profile, we can report that the Mongolian foreign minister's speech, heavy on references to the Millennium Development Goals, was in fact written by his mission's second secretary Nemuun Gal, who because he speaks Russian used that languages' feminization, as in "Mongolia is intimately monitoring her progress on the path towards achieving the MDGs." Some other countries used their speeches to raise complaints that might otherwise be overlooked -- and that still might be overlooked. At the noon briefings during the General Debate, Inner City Press sought and surprisingly received answers on this: Inner City Press: Last week in the speech by Palau, they said that there’d been a commitment by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to open eight offices in the Pacific Islands of sort of the UN system, various humanitarian agencies and that those had still not opened. The speech expressed displeasure at that. I'm wondering what’s the mechanism to respond to specific things, critiques of the UN? Is there any follow-up? Is the UNDP supposed to hear that? Does the GA President's office follow up? Spokesperson: What I can say about that is that the General Assembly President and his Office is listening very attentively to all the speeches of the Member States... and that includes of course very specific comments. So in that sense, yes, this is noted. I don't know what kind of follow-up we are supposed to be expecting, but it is definitely noted and the President's Office is aware of all of the things that have been said by Member States... He's looking at each and every speech, he's following the issue and will, of course, follow-up on those issues. We too will follow-up. General Assembly, broken microphones not shown An incongruous issue that arose late on September 28 was the break-down of microphones while Iran and the United Arab Emirates, and Norht Korean and Japan, faced off. Audio insiders tell Inner City Press that some of the amplifiers "got kicked," and through a "Christmas tree" electrical effect, a whole line of microphones went out. The representative of Iran was left wandering around holding his name plate, until someone said, "Mexico works," meaning the microphone. Inner City Press asked about this: Inner City Press: Did they fix the microphones before the general debate? Were they turned off at a certain time? Why did that happen? Spokesperson: I don't know why that technical glitch happened, but I think if you watched what happened in the end basically none of the Member States wanting to exercise the right of reply felt terribly annoyed by this incident. They just worked with Assembly Affairs and with the President to work this out and do it. Obviously it[...]

UN's Delayed Response to Darfur Attack Flashes Back to Spanish Subway, Ghana's Coming Month

Wed, 03 Oct 2007 14:51:34 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Council Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- The Security Council was deadlocked for two days in responding, even with a mere statement, to the over-running over the weekend of the African Union peacekeepers' camp in Haskanita in Darfur. Finally on Tuesday, a compromise was reached: the statement says the attack was "reportedly committed by a rebel group." Sudan's Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad told Inner City Press that "they are quick to criticize my government, but when it is the rebels, they do not want to say anything." When asked who he meant by "they," he said mostly the United States, but also the UK and France.

When it was argued that the on-the-ground perspective has not yet provided clarify as to those behind the attack, the Sudanese Ambassador countered that on-the-ground information is accepted, and quickly, in order to denounce misdeeds by the central government. He ask, when this sudden or selective caution?
Stepping back, there are historical reasons that the Council might want to be more cautious than it is, across the board and in an even-handed way. Just after the subway bombings in Madrid, with Spain serving on the Council, a resolution was rushed through adopting Jose Maria Aznar's government's position that the Basque group ETA was behind the bombing. UNSC Resolution 1530 "condemns in the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA on 11 March 2004, in which many lives were claimed and people injured, and regards such act, like any act of terrorism, as a threat to peace and security."
When it quickly became clear that ETA had nothing to do with it, the Council looked foolish (as did Aznar, who lost the election). So the U.S. could have made a public argument for the positions it was adopting behind closed doors. But the U.S. did not make such an argument; those who came out and spoke on the topic were the Ambassadors of Sudan and of Russia.

Ghana's Leslie Christian at the Council, ETA not shown
Later, Ghana's Ambassador Leslie K. Christian, president of the Council for October, said he was happy with the result of the two day deliberation. Inner City Press asked Amb. Christian three questions about those coming month's work. There will be meetings on Cote d'Ivoire, including on the sanctions which President Gbagbo recently called for lifting. Amb. Christian indicated that he did not know when the new Special Representative of the Secretary General for Cote d'Ivoire will be unveiled, nor who the person will be (although Gbagbo answered Inner City Press' question last week by saying that he and Ban Ki-moon have already made the decision). The Lords Resistance Army conflict, and UN mediator Joaquim Chissano, are "out there," but not on the Council's agenda (they have not been since March). And on making sure that the UN's long overdue report on human rights in Iraq is actually released, Amb. Christian threw up his hands. "I know you are a friend," he said. But information is information.

North Korea Does Not Need UN Mediation or Money, Auditors Kept Out, Minister Choe Says

Wed, 03 Oct 2007 14:50:35 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- North Korea does not need the UN's mediation help, and does not need the UN Development Program's money, nor its auditors, the country's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Choe Su Hon told reporters on Tuesday. "We do not need any mediation from the UN," Minister Choe said, adding that "there is no need for the UN to send new auditors" to Pyongyang.

A day earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had "telephone talks with the President of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Roh Moo-hyun and I conveyed the same message to him [that] as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I'll spare no efforts to facilitate such a peace negotiation between South and North Korea." (This offer was presaged in an internal UN memo which Inner City Press first reported on, here.) Earlier still, Mr. Ban ordered a full scope audit of UNDP's spending in North Korea, and urged the Kim Jong-il government to grant visa to the UN's auditors. Minister Choe brought into the open North Korea's direct denial of Mr. Ban's plea, saying that auditors are unnecessary and won't be allowed to enter. "We don't care about such a small amount of money," Minister Choe said. One of the reporters waiting on Second Avenue outside the North Korean mission mused, Sure they don't care anymore about UNDP's money, now that South Korea is offering in the billions.
Minister Choe spoke to only three media outlets: the state wire services of China and Russia, and the president of the UN Correspondents Association. This last collegially transmitted quotes and his tape to other reporters, including Inner City Press. The majority of those interested work for Japanese media, which North Korean representatives have referred to as "reptile media." This gave rise to several jokes while waiting for the pooled report, in which Minister Choe said that Japan must apologize "like Germany" for what it did in World War Two, and must provide full compensation. In his speech to the General Assembly, Minister Choe said that peace "depends particularly on how practical measures the US and Japan will take to remove their hostile policies on the DPRK."
In his subsequently by-invitation-only press conference, Minister Choe said that Ban Ki-moon had offended North Koreans' "dignity and integrity" by ordering the audit. He claimed that the first round of work of the UN Board of Auditors vindicated North Korea, while in fact the report made clear that the money spent could not be traced, and that on-site auditing would be needed. Now that will apparently not happen.

North Korea's Choe Su Hon, previously at the UN
At Tuesday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's spokesperson if the issues of the auditors and granting them visas had come up in Ban's meeting Monday with North Korean Ambassador Pak Gil Yon. No, she said, promising to provide an update on the issue. Given North Korean Minister Choe's statements four hours later, it appears that the update is that Ban has been disobeyed, that the visas won't be granted and the ordered audit will not be carried out. Can such issues simply disappear like political opponents? We'll see.

On Myanmar, 'Saffron Revolution' Triggers UN Gambari's Night Flight, Soft Talk in the Council

Wed, 03 Oct 2007 14:49:11 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 26 -- Following the death of protesting monks in Myanmar, the UN Security Council held an unscheduled meeting on the topic on Wednesday afternoon, after which UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari went to the airport and flew "to the region." He had not yet gained approval from Burmese authorities to visit the country. Security Council diplomats tell Inner City Press that inside the chamber, there was no talk of sanctions, other than a reference by Mr. Gambari to a sanctions call made elsewhere by French president Sarkozy, but not followed-up on by the French representatives at Wednesday's closed-door meeting. "Let's hope Gambari gets in," the Ambassador from a Permanent Five Council member told Inner City Press. "Then we'll see what he has to say when he comes back."

At UN's noon briefing on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked if the UN could confirm how many dissenters have been killed in recent days in Burma:
Inner City Press: Does the UN have any information to confirm the death of protesters? There are some reports saying five people have been killed. Is that your understanding?
Spokesperson: I don't have a direct report from our office in Myanmar confirming the violence and, as you note, the Secretary-General's statement also referred to 'reports' of the use of force and arrests and beatings. Our presence -- I just wanted to let you know -- on the ground, at the moment we do have a Resident Coordinator who is also the Humanitarian Coordinator, and most of our activities are in various humanitarian and other agency work on the ground.
The referenced Coordinator is Charles Petrie. Why not have him come to New York to brief the Council on events in Myanmar, rather than waiting to see if Gambari can get in? Or, as some cynics see it, is Gambari's trip of interest to both the back-off and the red-meat sides, to the former because it buys time, and to the latter because of the possibility that Myanmar might not let him in?
In Washington, a new phrase surfaced, disturbingly perfect: "the Saffron Revolution." This is "straight out of a P.R. or lobbying firm," one source opined. A Council diplomat asked Inner City Press, "Did you guys coin the phrase?" The word is copyright.

Monks march in Burma, as UN's Gambari heads to airport
Other questions were left unanswered, in the transcript:
Inner City Press: I noticed the Secretary-General's meeting with the Foreign Minister of Myanmar at 5:20 this afternoon. Is it expected that he will raise this issue of letting Mr. Gambari in and the...
Spokesperson: Well, obviously he raises it publicly already; he calls on the senior leadership in this statement to welcome his visit. Let's get a readout of that meeting as soon as it happens.
Hours later at a reception at the Chinese Mission to the UN, Myanmar's representative sat engaged in conversation in a corner, before he quickly left. Reporters stood back, waiting for a change that never came. There was roast duck and moon cakes, spring rolls and watermelon. "Wait for the ASEAN meetings," a number of attendees opined. And, "Where did all the watermelon go?" Developing.

UN's Ivorian Envoy Chosen Monday by Ban and Gbagbo, "Non-African Troops Should Leave"

Wed, 03 Oct 2007 14:47:50 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, September 26 -- In Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo's meeting Monday with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the two agreed on the identity of Ban's next envoy to Cote d'Ivoire, Gbagbo told Inner City Press on Wednesday in New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In response to this correspondent's questions about previous envoys Pierre Schori and Gerard Stoudmann, Gbagbo said that neither wanted peace, and that he could have declared them persona non grata, but preferred to have the UN simply voluntarily remove them, which happened. Regarding the UN's investigation into the Moroccan peacekeeping contingent in Bouake, Gbago told Inner City Press that he twice met with Moroccan soldiers and they were "fine," that the investigation was not requested by Cote d'Ivoire. Contrary to what Security Council diplomats have told Inner City Press, Gbagbo tried to say that no request had been made for him to address the Council. "We are not Council members," Gbagbo said. "I don't like to take a chair that is not offered to me." He spoke before the General Assembly, and asked for a partial removal of the UN's arms embargo, and removal of UN sanctions in place against three individuals, one of whom Gbagbo described as very engaged in the peace process, having "invited the youth continent of his opponents to visit him in his village." "Sanctions do not help us," Gbagbo said. "The UN was too quick to send in peacekeepers. The problems in Cote d'Ivoire are small problems, smaller than those of our neighbors Liberia and Sierra Leone, to say nothing of what happened in Biafra in Nigeria." Asked if he wants to close down French bases in Cote d'Ivoire, Gbagbo answered in the affirmative, but indirectly. He said he entirely agrees with statements by the African Union's Alpha Omar Konare, that all non-African forces should leave the Continent. Laurent Gbagbo: from The Baker to The Cleaner The press conference began nearly an hour late, and the first questions were taken by a Reuters commodities reporter, Marcy Nicholson, who perhaps not surprisingly focused on cocoa production and investment in cocoa processing factories ("usines," in French). The high-ceilinged room, decorated in vaguely surreal Versailles style, was filled by the Ivorian delegation, many of whom groaned at the commodities focus of these initial questions. A man from Washington-based Whitaker Group, is owned by Rosa Whitaker, the US's former Assistant Trade Representative for Africa, made the introductions, and controlled the wireless microphone. A man who identified himself as from "West Africa Radio" reminded Gbagbo of his old nickname, Le Boulanger (the baker), and his new one, The Cleaner (of opponents). "Anyone who is anybody in politics has nicknames," Gbagbo replied, joking in French that he should be called "le patissier" (the pastry chef) because he makes good "gateau" (cake). Asked if he had met French president Nicolas Sarkozy while in New York, Gbagbo said that reporters shouldn't "over-personalize" the news. He spoke briefly with Sarkozy inside the Security Council chamber. There was no drama, Gbagbo said, contrasting this with what he called his negative relationship with previous French president, Jacques Chiraq. A longtime Radio France reporter, Jean-Karim Fall, asked about reports that Gbagbo has been invited to and will be in Paris in October. Gbagbo said no, he has not been invited. Fall followed up, "Not even by UNESCO?" There was a smile of recognition. Before the press conference bega[...]

At UN, Sarkozy Excludes Reporters Without French Passports, Tries African Photo-Op

Wed, 03 Oct 2007 14:46:23 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, September 25 -- French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday gave a speech in which he praised the UN as "the only place in the world where all people can speak to one another." Then he held a closed-door press conference in the UN's briefing room, from which journalists without French passports were excluded. A French-speaking reporter who writes, in French, for a newspaper in Lebanon was asked if she holds a French passport. When she said no, she too was excluded. This unprecedented approach was echoed, diplomats tell Inner City Press, in M. Sarkozy's attempt to ensure that during the Tuesday afternoon Security Council session over which he will preside, the Council's resolution to send peacekeepers and police to Chad and the Central African Republic be voted on. African heads of states rebelled, saying they would not be extras in Sarkozy's photo-op, raising their hands to vote for a resolution he would claim shows his commitment to Darfur, Chad and the CAR. After their protest, France agreed to pass the resolution more quietly in a morning session, after which France's Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert declined to come to the stakeout microphone and answer any questions. Amb. Ripert was reportedly deferring to the wishes of Sarkozy, not to be upstaged. Then Sarkozy spoke only to media with French passports. Outside the briefing room, before Sarkozy began, Inner City Press suggested to the French mission's spokesman that if the small size -- less than 100 seats -- of the UN's Briefing Room 226 was the issue, the event could easily be shifted to the much larger Conference Room 4, where the presidents of Iran and Venezuela have scheduled briefings. In the alternative, if Sarkozy was intent on speaking only to French journalists, he could hold it in the French mission to the UN, or the bilateral meeting rooms that France and the other Permanent Five members of the Security Council are given. While the protest by heads of state managed to switch Sarkozy's Security Council schedule, the complaints of journalists outside his press conference were ignored. The Spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came down and spoke to the French mission's spokesman, heatedly. Afterwards, the French spokesman said, She does not control the briefing room. Inner City Press telephoned a senior official of the UN's Department of Public Information (DPI) and was told that member states can do what they want. A story was recounted, in which a particular member state, a Permanent Five member of the Security Council, prevailed on then Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali to exclude a dissident from entering the UN, even to speak in the third floor venue of the UN Correspondent's Association. At that time, DPI pushed back, saying that UNCA has been open to all journalists and all speakers since the time of Dag Hammarskjold. Sarkozy's speech said "it is up to us to remain true to the values in whose name we are gathered here today." In his speech to the General Assembly, Sarkozy had said that "France remains loyal to its friends." Inside the briefing, according to an attendee, even French journalists based at the UN but not known as friends of Sarkozy were not called on. Afterwards there was dark talk of the Sarkozy administration cracking down on journalists, at Paris Match and elsewhere, who did not provide positive coverage. Sarkozy's speech said that "against egotism... it is our duty to renew that appeal.. to open our minds," and that "the UN must[...]

At the UN's Climate Change Event, "False Dichotomy" on Coal, Bush Presented as Supportive

Tue, 25 Sep 2007 05:18:18 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, September 24 -- The obvious questions at the UN's High Level Event on Climate Change on Monday were, will the U.S. support emissions caps or try to undermine them, and will new coal-fired power plants continue to be built, undermining most other mitigation measures? Attempts to ask the first question to President George W. Bush himself proved fruitless: Bush attended a dinner with Ban and others, but then rushed past the press afterwards. Inner City Press managed later to ask Mr. Ban about Bush: Inner City Press: Did you get any sense, Mr. Secretary-General, from President Bush, of how he viewed the outcome of today, or what will take place in his meeting in D.C. with the major emitting countries? Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:  He also mentioned that, while he explained how technological innovation can help in addressing these issues, and he explained what he wants to discuss and wants to achieve.  In forthcoming meetings, he has invited all these industrialized countries.  He made it quite clear that what he is going to do was to help the United Nations influence, and the United Nations so that the United Nations can work to address these global warming issues, and I appreciate it for his firm commitment and support for that. Inner City Press: Was there any discussion of just capping emissions... The Secretary-General:  Of course, emissions, how to cap emissions was an important issue.  There were some ideas that industrialized countries should set the target and lead this process, but I understood that that is something which we will have to discuss in a negotiating forum. Thank you.             Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada also told Inner City Press that "President Bush made clear publicly and privately that he view [his meeting in DC] as assisting the UN process by trying to bring the parties together." We'll see. Ban Ki-moon watches Yvo de Boer answer Inner City Press' question on coal             On coal, Inner City Press asked Ban and Yvo de Boer: Inner City Press: There is an analysis that says that the continued construction and use of coal-fired plants negates a lot of the impact of other efforts by companies to reduce their emissions or to reduce the emissions of cars. So earlier today, Al Gore called for a moratorium on the construction of new coal plants until the technology exists to do capture and store. Mr. De Boer, on [Saturday] you said that China and India need to keep using coal and that they have abundant coal. So I am wondering how you respond to what Al Gore called for today?       And Mr. Secretary-General, how do you choose either between the two approaches or balance combating climate change with poverty alleviation in countries like China and India and their use of coal? Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: Maybe I will first answer before Mr. De Boer answers in greater detail and in a more professional manner. I will try to answer you in a more general way.       As I clearly stated during my summary, we are not asking developing countries to choose between development and addressing this issue. Both issues should be taken care of. This is our goal. According to countries, there may be differences of technological level; developing countries have a lower level of technologies. But the important thing is that we need to have some research and development to find renewable resources, alternate sources of energy. There may be coal-based energies, nuclear power, and other bio-fuels or wind-power-generated energ[...]

UN's Iraq Meeting Ends with Whimper, Wiesel Breathes Fire, Work and Japanese, Junkets Abound

Tue, 25 Sep 2007 05:17:16 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Muse
UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- Unlike some car rides across these days' Baghdad, Saturday the UN's "high-level" meeting on Iraq ended with a whimper and not with a bang. Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki came with Ban Ki-moon into a quarter-filled UN conference room. Together they dodged questions as if they were bullets until, with far fewer than half of the 30 pre-registered questioners being called on, they left the conference room. One of the questions, despite being three times repeated, was nonetheless not answered. It involved news analysis that the U.S.'s current strategy of arming Sunni tribes to fight al Qaeda might make Iraq even less secure than it is now. "I haven't heard those press reports," Mr. Ban said.
Inner City Press had questions it was not called on to ask, concerning details of widespread corruption in Iraq government departments, and the UN's delaying release of its quarterly report on human rights in Iraq at the request of the United States. Might that report mention the activities of Blackwater USA? If not, why not?  Questions that have yet to be answered.
Surprise was expressed at the low turnout, and low energy, of the UN's Iraq meeting and subsequent briefing. This General Assembly, the buzz is mostly about Iran, Holocaust denial, denial of visit to Ground Zero. On that, UN "Messenger of Peace" Elie Wiesel on Friday said that such a visit would be akin to "a murderer visiting his victim's grave." Video here. Inner City Press ran to the briefing room to ask Mr. Wiesel if he has evidence of an Iranian role in the take-down of the World Trade Towers, and about the meaning of Messenger of Peace. But Wiesel left the press conference early, accompanied by security guards. Michael Douglas, on the rostrum with Wiesel, nodded and said nothing.

Ban Ki-moon and Iraq's prime minister, Blackwater and corruption not shown
Thirty-four hours later, at 9 p.m. on Saturday night, Japan's Assistant Press Secretary Kazuyuki Yamazaki briefed a half-dozen reporters on the bilateral meetings held by Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, including one with Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Machimura raised the issue of Japan's under-representation in the senior staff of the UN Secretariat. When Inner City Press asked for details, Mr. Yamazaki specified that Japan has only 110 staff, including only "one USG, no ASGs, only two D-2's and only four D-1's." Go get 'em!
For the elites of many countries, the annual UN General Debate is a chance for a junket to New York. Sri Lanka, it is reported, has brought fully 85 people, many of whom will never set foot in the UN. There are doctor's visits and tourism. Some heads of state are being offered a $5000 honorarium merely to attend an outside meeting (we aim to have more on the this).
Still, the General Debate allows from some strange rapprochements. One involving Inner City Press took place on Friday outside the Darfur meeting. Mark Malloch Brown, who after Inner City Press reported on the UN Development Program and its spending $700,000 to produce a self-laudatory book said "You are a jerk," now a mere twenty feet away took a question from Inner City Press, about Darfur, and ended up pointing and saying, "It's good to be back among friends." Video here, at Minute 8:30. Only at the UN...

At UN on Darfur, War Crimes Go Virtually Unmentioned, Rebel Noor May Face Sanctions

Tue, 25 Sep 2007 05:15:57 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- Darfur was the subject Friday of the first "high level meeting" of this UN General Assembly. Along with the African Union, the UN issued a five paragraph press communique, which notably did not mention the International Criminal Court's warrants for war crimes pending against two Sudanese, including Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb and the al-Bashir government's minister of humanitarian affairs, Ahmed Muhammed Harun. The first attendee to emerge to take questions was former UN Deputy Secretary General and UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, now handling the UN, Africa and Asia for the United Kingdom. Malloch Brown among other things said that while he did not raise the issue of the ICC indictees in his recent meeting with president al Bashir, he did include it in his remarks in the UN's Darfur meeting. You'll have to ask others if they raised it, or why they didn't, he said. Inner City Press asked U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte if the U.S. had raised the issue of the ICC indictees in the meeting. "We didn't raise it in this meeting, although it is certainly an issue of concern to us," he answered. Behind him stood Assistant Secretary of State Frazer, who exactly one year ago accused al-Bashir of sabotaging African Union materiel coming in through Port Sudan.            Negroponte was asked, what about the rebel leader Abdel Wahid Noor, who still indicates he will not be attending the October 27 talks in Libya between the al Bashir government and the range of rebels from Darfur. Negroponte said that the decision not to attend "should not be cost-free," which he subsequently clarified meant the threat of U.S. sanctions. Friday on the UN's 38th floor: 3 Americans, 2 South Koreans, and... Ban Ki-moon, when asked Friday about Noor, gave a shorter version of his September 10 response to Inner City Press' question about bringing Noor into the process, that "giving any prominent attention to any particular person is not desirable." On September 10 he said: "there are many leaders of movements. There is some tendency of mushrooming of these factions. I urge that all the leaders of the movements should participate in the forthcoming political negotiation. It is necessary to participate and [express] their views, rather than complaining or protesting outside of the dialogue forum. It is the same with case of Mr. Abdel Wahid Noor. I know that he is staying in France, but he should participate in this, if he really thinks about the future of Sudan and if he thinks he is one of the leaders. At the same time, I would like to point out, that, as a matter of principle, everybody should be given equal opportunity and equal attention." The foreign minister of Noor's home-in-exile, Bernard Kouchner, expressed frustration about questions concerning Noor. "What do you want me to do about it?" he demanded, calling a reporter "mon petit gars," my little guy. Also frustrated with the press was AU chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare. To a straight-forward question about the AU's position on whether the "hybrid" force should be entirely, or only mostly, made up of African troops, Mr. Konare said, "That is a non-innocent question," accusing the broadcaster of trying to play up differences in position between the AU and the UN. Here then is another question lacking innocence: what is the African Union's position on the enforcement of the ICC's warrants? The answer to this wi[...]

In Afghanistan, UN Discourages Blackwater and Proselytizing, Had "No Role" in Hostages' Release

Tue, 25 Sep 2007 05:14:40 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- In Afghanistan the UN discourages proselytizing, while working with the parliament to pass a law requiring "international security companies" like Blackwater USA to register with the government, Tom Koenigs, Special Representative for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told Inner City Press on Friday. In light of Iraq's apparently-stalled effort to oust Blackwater for shooting civilians, Inner City Press asked about the company's reported presence in Afghanistan, and for any UN policy or guidance on the issue.
"As UNAMA [the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan], we are protected by police, but this has an in-built problem," Koenigs said. Once these police are trained, they are not satisfied with policemen's salaries, and want to work for "one of the international companies." Of Blackwater, Koenigs said he wasn't sure they are in Afghanistan -- they are, including providing training to police -- but he added that "they certainly don't work for us."  Video here, from Minute 57:32.
Speaking of a "big group of U.S. and South Korean citizens" who traveled to Afghanistan in 2006 for "a peace march, they said," Koenig noted that UNAMA successfully "persuaded them to leave" Afghanistan based on "concrete threats." He added that proselytizers create a "peril for the whole international community."
In response to Inner City Press' request that he describe the UN's role in the release of the South Korean hostages last month, Koenigs said "we were in constant contact with the Korean embassy in case there would have been a necessity for us to get involved. This hasn't happened, and this make me happy." Koenigs credited the Red Cross, saying that "we have not had a role in the release of the hostages."

Tom Koenigs at the UN
On August 28, asked by a South Korean television station about the release of the hostages, Ban Ki-moon said:
"I have to take this opportunity to comment the efforts of the Republic of Korea, the Government of Afghanistan, our United Nations office in Afghanistan, UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan], and all other related parties who have contributed to the release of these hostages... as Secretary-General, I've exerted all the possible efforts even though I've not been able to explain publicly for the purpose of security and for facilitating smooth dialogue to release these hostages, I've spoken with the President of Afghanistan and many other leaders around the region who could have influenced and mobilized necessary influence."
Just whom Mr. Koenigs meant as the "we" that played no role in the hostages release should be made clear.

ICC's Ocampo On Darfur but not Uganda, Asserts Jurisdiction over U.S. But For Its Veto

Tue, 25 Sep 2007 05:13:17 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, September 20 -- Sudan should arrest its two citizens who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, even though Sudan has not signed on to the Court's Statute of Rome and is not a member of the ICC, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters on Thursday at the UN. While most questions concerned how Mr. Ocampo's call for Sudanese arrests jibes with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's "quiet diplomacy" of one-on-one meetings with president al-Bashir, Inner City Press raised two incongruities: the ICC's recent silence as UN agencies have engaged with the ICC's first set of indictees, the leaders of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (video here, from Minute 12:19), and the specifics of Sudan's -- and the United States' -- legal duty to execute warrants issued against their own citizens by the ICC. On the latter, Mr. Ocampo set forth a theory under which the U.S. could be responsible to arrest and turn over an American soldier, but only if the case was referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council. Since the U.S. is a member of the Security Council, Ocampo told Inner City Press, this is not a problem for the U.S.. Inner City Press asked Ocampo about his repeated statement that Sudan is obligated to turn over its humanitarian affairs minister, Ahmed Muhammed Harun, and Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed leader, given that Sudan never joined the International Criminal Court. Sudan is "part of the United Nations," Ocampo answered, and Sudan has a duty identical to the duty of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to turn suspects over to the country-specific Tribunals the Security Council established. This logic would apply to any non-ICC member country, like the United States. Inner City Press asked if, in Mr. Ocampo's statement of the law, the U.S. would be legally required even now to turn over any American, including a soldier (or, say, a Blackwater USA military contractor) indicted by the ICC. But the United States is a member of the Security Council, Mr. Ocampo answered.  He used the example of Iraq, saying that neither the U.S. nor Iraq are members of the ICC, so he and the ICC could only open an investigation if the Security Council made a referral of the case. There is the solution, Ocampo said. The U.S. having a veto on the Security Council is the ultimate -- and in some's view, only -- protection. Mr. Ocampo, U.S. flag at edge, Uganda's LRA not shown Since Mr. Ocampo spoke of the al-Bashir government sensing a "weakening of resolve," Inner City Press asked if this might not also flow from the failure to executive the arrest warrants for Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and several other leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, now known to be in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That's different, Ocampo said. The president of Congo is in favor of executing the warrants, but does "not fully control Northern Congo." Inner City Press pointed out that the UN has processed funds to build an airstrip for the LRA, and that the UN's envoy Joaquim Chissano has met with the LRA leadership. Has Ocampo said anything to Chissano, or anywhere near as much about the LRA as about Sudan in recent months? Ocampo's answer was oblique, that "comprehensive solutions" are needed in Uganda as in Sudan, but that he is in part of justice, and enforcing the law. But what's the difference between Harun and Joseph K[...]

For Iraqi Refugees, UN's Ban Says There's Moral Obligation, But Not By Whom

Tue, 25 Sep 2007 05:07:51 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: UNITED NATIONS, September 18 -- On the opening day of his first General Assembly session, Ban Ki-moon displayed his brand of "soft ear" diplomacy, even when compared to the officials he has appointed. On Iraq, Ban's humanitarian coordinator John Holmes on Friday told BBC that the United States "has a moral obligation" to take more Iraqi refugees, that the U.S. isn't "doing enough." Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban if this is his view, and if it will be conveyed to President George W. Bush. Ban responded without once mentioning the U.S. or Bush, saying that "the parties concerned" do have "some moral obligation to do more for refugees," and that he will "try to see what would be an opportune time... to discuss these matters with the leaders of the countries concerned." While Mr. Ban did not answer the second part of the question, regarding his plans to expand UN presence in Iraq and his assessment of the security situation there, he did mention two non-U.S. countries, Syria and Jordan. Ban said that both are experiencing difficulties accommodating the refugees at a rate of "fifteen thousand per week," and calling this a "huge humanitarian concern." John Holmes in his BBC "Hard Talk" interview on Friday went further, saying that events in "Iraq have poisoned the well for everyone," allowing countries like Sudan to oppose at least some humanitarians as having "an interventionist agenda," while discouraging developed countries from contributing peacekeepers "because of the taint of Iraq." One cannot imagine Ban using this language. When asked what was Sudanese President al-Bashir's response to demands he turn over to the International Criminal Court two indicted Sudanese, including government minister Ahmed Haroun, Mr. Ban demurred. Ban said that those were "private conversations," and that while justice and peace are important, "justice is a part of peace" and "for a certain period, some issues" should be "kept confidential to promote peace." Ban and his envoy for Iraq (and Myanmar) Ibrahim Gambari Not mentioned in the 20-question press conference was the situation in Myanmar, where the UN's silence has drawn negative editorials and calls from Congress and elsewhere. Also not mentioned was Somalia, one of the hot wars on the planet, but one on which no high level meeting has been scheduled. The week's focus on heat will be on global warming, with an all-day event on September 24 involving, Ban said, 80 heads of state and government. How will the relative success of that day be measured? Why put off until Bali in December a discussion of the reduction of emissions? Some say that heads of state are too high up to negotiate such things. They ask, then what's the point? Nineteen days into his tenure, Ban Ki-moon faced his first UN corruption scandal, involving the UN Development Program in North Korea, paying the Kim Jong-il government in hard currency for workers the government selected. Ban ordered a comprehensive audit. But in the first round of audit, North Korea gave no visas. On Tuesday, Ban said that he hopes that UNDP's new "independent, recognized" auditors named "a few days ago" will get cooperation. But it is the same UN Board of Auditors which has been charged with gaining access to North Korea, not the new panel nominated by UNDP's Administrator Kemal Dervis, which some see as a mere attempt to substitute for and circumvent[...]

At the UN, Belated Focus on Under-Investment in Africa, UNDP's Redlining

Fri, 14 Sep 2007 21:19:22 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, September 14 -- With poverty remaining prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday held a meeting of its new Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group, and afterwards took questions from reporters. Inner City Press asked a question it had asked earlier in the week, without answer: Inner City Press: This week, at the UN Development Program Executive Board meeting, a number was put forward in which the UN, its main development program, last year put $1.3 billion into Latin America and $526 million into Africa. So, some people were saying - what can be done to make sure that the UN system, for a variety of reasons, puts most of its resources where it is most needed and where the MDGs are running behind. And also, for the Deputy Secretary-General, in the Working Group, another that came up in this meeting which I have been covering, was - somebody had said that maybe there’s a competition for resources between UNDP and the World Bank – this was one of the Member States that said it, threw it out there. What can the UN do in your Working Group to make sure that there’s not a turf war, and that everyone actually works together. Thanks a lot. In fact, these very questions were asked of UNDP's putative MDG expert Guido Schmidt-Traub on Wednesday. On the first question he said he didn't have the numbers. On the second, he said to ask the member state. And so the questions had to be asked again on Friday. Thank, Guido. UNDP's Administrator Kemal Dervis attended the Steering Group meeting, and was listed as attending the press stakeout. But he did not come, perhaps concerned of more questions about UNDP's retaliation against whistleblowers. This left Ban Ki-moon to try to explain UNDP's under-funding of Africa:  Ban Ki-moon: The UN system is fully behind, and working very closely together, led by this UNDG chair. We have many specialized agencies, funds and programs. Their priority is focused on this, realizing MDG goals. But what about Africa? In fact, one of the UNDP whistleblowers, Mathieu Koumoin, states that he was let go by UNDP in Senegal for having opposed a UNDP official's quiet instruction to siphon $8 million of $30 million meant for Africa to entities based in France and in Canada. So even the money that's said to be spent in Africa is directed, at least by UNDP, elsewhere. Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro gave a longer answer: DSG: As you have heard, I will be chairing the Working Group. The Working Group will constitute officials, at the working level, from the institutions that have been represented in the Steering Group of the Secretary-General. The intention there is, first of all, to look at the actual actions that will have to be taken in order to give further push to the MDGs. And, as the Secretary-General has said, this will identify  the areas, resource mobilization, the sectors that need to be focused and so on. But one of the intentions of having this meeting so inclusive is to ensure that each one of us plays a role, with the United Nations taking the lead, at the initiative of the Secretary-General. So what we will do, will not only look at actions that need to be done, but also actions that can be scaled up by those who are going to participate in this. But it is not only this side, but al[...]

At the UN, Declaration of Rights for Indigenous First Nations Passes Despite First World Opposition

Fri, 14 Sep 2007 21:16:39 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- Overriding the negative votes of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, the UN General Assembly today adopted the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Afterwards a series of speakers representing, among others, Inuit, Taino, Saami and other First Nations, spoke of the twenty five years of work leading to the vote -- or an Inuit speaker put it, of the work since the time of Columbus, or since 1492, as said by a Taino.

Western Canadian leader Edward John said that Canada should step down from the UN Human Rights Council, now that it had cast this negative vote. Canadian Ambassador John McNee, speaking in the Assembly chamber but not outside it with reporters, said flatly that the Declaration will have no effect in Canada "and is not customary international law." Inner City Press asked longtime Declaration proponent Willie Littlechild about Amb. McNee's comment. "That's up to courts to decide," he said, not the Canadian Ambassador.
The momentum turned in favor of the Declaration when the African group dropped its objections, after nine amendment were made, including a tipping-of-the-hat to territorial integrity and political unity not being undermined by the Declaration. Namibia's Permanent Representative said that, in his view, indigenous peoples in African are not necessarily "distinct groups," and that there should be an ability for governments to deploy their militaries, even on indigenous lands, in the public interest.
The representative of Benin said that his country had never been opposed to the Declaration, but had shown "solidarity" with the rest of the African Group until the compromise was brokered. The main negotiators, Inner City Press is informed, were Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. Ban Ki-moon had little involvement, the proponents have said, but his spokesperson did read out a statement of support, after Inner City Press asked, and after the vote's results were announced.
Most UN correspondents stayed in the main briefing room to hear about the upcoming General Debate. At the stakeout in front of the General Assembly, there were only two question-asking reporters, and then only one: Inner City Press. The speakers went on for more than an hour, including an extensive speech by a representative from Easter Island. UN Television filmed it, but did not put it online. Several people who wanted to cover it, weren't allowed to. But where then was the diplomatic press?
Earlier in the week, a report was released comparing nations' votes in the Human Rights Council on resolutions regarding North Korean, Belarus, Uzbekistan and others. In this scoring, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States all came out at the top of the human rights rankings. But with their negative votes on a major human rights instruments, those tables will have to be re-tabulated. Sadly, rogue regimes will be able to point to these votes to get themselves off the hook. And who's to blame for that?
Feedback: Editorial [at]
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

In Burundi, FNL Rebels Decry Lack of Resources While UN Speaks of Political Will

Fri, 14 Sep 2007 21:14:35 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- Burundi, one of two countries among with Sierra Leone targeted by the UN Peace-building Commission, is growing ever-more insecure, Norwegian Ambassador Johan Lovald told a handful of reporters at the UN on Thursday. During Amb. Lovald's recent visit to Bujumbura, the Forces Nationales de Liberation fought again with the government. Inner City Press asked Amb. Lovald what the UN is going to do about the FNL's claim that the international community has not come through with promised economic support, and the FNL's distrust of the appointed mediator, South African security minister Charles Nqakula.

Amb. Lovald said he was not aware of any promises of financial assistance to the FNL; he mentioned a recent demand for what he called "a considerable amount of money, $54,000" to attend peace talks. "These issues have not been a problem in the past," he said, saying that the real problem is "political will" to continue in the talks.
But what if the problem is money? Should the Peace-building Commission be willing and able to spend money, even in unconventional ways, to keep a peace process going, if without peace, rebuilding cannot occur? By contrast to Burundi, in dealing with Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs funneled money to help build an airstrip for the LRA. While the UN says that the decision to spend the money was made by the mediators, including the vice president of South Sudan, the fact remains that in case of the LRA, money was spent to keep indicted war criminals involved in peace talks, while in Burundi, a much-hyped process may be falling apart for lack of what may not, in context, be that "considerable" an amount of money.
"We have informed the international community that our movement is no longer accepting Charles Nqakula as mediator because he showed that he is on the government side", FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana has been quoted as saying. Amb. Lovald did not respond to questions about the independence and objectivity of Charles Nqakula, saying only that the international community should support the regional process - i.e., Nqakula. Perhaps the strategy is to count on splits in the FNL, which certainly do exist. But to hinge the future of the UN Peace-building Commission's work in Burundi on someone else entirely solving the FNL problem may be unwise.
Feedback: Editorial [at]
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

On Myanmar, UN's Gambari Defends Ban's (Very) Soft Ear, Believes in Oil Company Morals

Fri, 14 Sep 2007 21:11:23 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 5 -- In the wake of the arrest of protest leaders in Myanmar, and the blocking of even the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting the prisoners, UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari on Wednesday praised Myanmar's government for reaching an agreement with the ILO about forced labor. Inner City Press asked, but what about Myanmar's use of civilians as mine sweepers? Video here. Gambari indicated that is something he hopes to raise to the government. We'll see.

The defensiveness of Gambari, and by implication Ban Ki-moon behind him, was clear at the UN on Wednesday. Gambari recited from his equally-defensive letter to the Washington Post, about how Myanmar's neighbors are being mobilized to push in the same direction. What about the neighbors which sell weapons to Myanmar?
Gambari spoke of engaging the private sector, naming specifically Chevron. One of his aides after the briefing named a U.S. - Asean business group, though which other corporations are being risk. "The business of business is to stay in business," Gambari said. But it is not clear that message does not promote getting along with repressive regimes.
Gambari had mentioned the UN Development Program, whose Charles Petrie is also the UN's resident representative in Myanmar. Inner City Press asked Gambari about UNDP's admission that it let go five staffers earlier this year for corruption -- which UNDP has still failed to fully disclose -- and about reports that UNDP now refuses to share copies of audits of its Myanmar operations. What safeguards are in place to make sure the UN and UNDP money is not being spent in the service of human rights violations?
UNDP will have to speak for itself, Gambari in essence said. We're still waiting.
Gambari said the briefing had to end, he had to meet with September's Security Council president, France's Jean-Maurice Ripert. A half an hour later, Inner City Press asked Amb. Ripert if Myanmar will rise from the footnotes of his month plan of work and actually be considered, as a resolution, in the Council. Ripert was non-committal.
Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Gambari for an update on his letter to Nigeria vice president earlier this year, offering the UN's help, especially with regard to the Niger Delta. Gambari noted that Nigeria's president will be at the UN for the General Debate later this month, and that will be the next step to make the UN's offer specific, even real.
Ban Ki-moon now repeats as a mantra that he is a man of results and not of words. How will results be measured, in Nigeria and even more in Myanmar? The question was not answered on Wednesday, but it should be answered soon.
Feedback: Editorial [at]
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

While Vague on Viennese Climate Change Results, UN Will Offset Emissions in September, Donor Undefined

Thu, 06 Sep 2007 05:27:57 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- Ban Ki-moon's climate change event on September 24 will be offset, for carbon emissions, UN official Richard Kinley told Inner City Press on Tuesday. Mr. Kinley stated that the UN "has a methodology" to "trace all emissions," including those from the UN building, and that the UN "has an understanding with a donor... to finance the costs of offsetting." Video here, from Minute 38:49. Asked to name the donor, Mr. Kinley declined, saying "Give us a week." Mr. Kinley said he was prepared to address questions about the just-concluded Vienna event, so Inner City Press asked if the UN agrees that the evasion of the 25 to 40 percent emissions reduction target by 2020 made the Vienna meeting a set-back. Mr. Kinley said, quite the contrary, the meeting "went further than could have been expected," and at least mentioned the 25 to 40 percent figure. Video here, from Minute 28:35. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked a well-placed UN staffer what would be considered a success from the upcoming September 24 event, or from Bali in December. "It's all incremental," the staffer said, pushing off the date by which Mr. Ban's process could be judged into 2008. Ban says he is all about results. But on this, a signature issue of his, there appear to be no ways to measure results. At least the production of hot air will be offset. UNEP's Achim Steiner plants a tree, May 21, 2007 - offsetting? Last month, Inner City Press asked the UN Environment Program "a question about carbon offsetting (for travel and buildings' emission) and the UN system - does UNEP favor such offsetting? What UN agencies or divisions are you aware of which seek to offset their emissions?" UNDP spokesman Eric Falt responded: UNEP aims to practice what it preaches and is keen to “green” its own operations. Modest progress has already been recorded at our Headquarters in Nairobi, with efforts to institute water-saving schemes, better recycle waste, eliminate the use of plastic bags, offer glass recycling facilities, collect paper and cardboard for recycling, introduce energy-efficient lighting --including sensors, or encourage tree planting for staff members. We are also currently conducting a detailed environmental review of the compound which will result in many more changes. It will include proposals on carbon offsetting. Our Executive Director, Achim Steiner, has also been asked to provide advice in relation to the Capital Master Plan. In New York, these efforts are lead by the Deputy-Secretary-General and Ms. Alicia Barcena and I would therefore have to refer you to them for more specific information. All in all, UNEP aims to influence the lives and decisions of others in a positive fashion. We try to encourage and prod, but not castigate. As I am sure you are aware, carbon offsetting is still a new proposition for Governments, companies and for the United Nations family alike, and neither UNEP nor others in the UN family have a policy on "offsetting" today. The UN Environment Management Group (EMG), hosted by UNEP, is however spearheading overall efforts of the UN System in this regard. In essence, the EMG is helping the whole UN family to achieve a "greener UN" by moving toward sustainable management of its operations, including reducing emissions, green p[...]

On Myanmar, UN's Gambari Defends Ban's (Very) Soft Ear, Believes in Oil Company Morals

Thu, 06 Sep 2007 05:25:56 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, September 5 -- In the wake of the arrest of protest leaders in Myanmar, and the blocking of even the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting the prisoners, UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari on Wednesday praised Myanmar's government for reaching an agreement with the ILO about forced labor.  Inner City Press asked, but what about Myanmar's use of civilians as mine sweepers? Gambari indicated that is something he hopes to raise to the government. We'll see.

            The defensiveness of Gambari, and by implication Ban Ki-moon behind him, was clear at the UN on Wednesday. Gambari recited from his equally-defensive letter to the Washington Post, about how Myanmar's neighbors are being mobilized to push in the same direction. What about the neighbors which sell weapons to Myanmar?

            Gambari spoke of engaging the private sector, naming specifically Chevron. One of his aides after the briefing named a U.S. - Asean business group, though which other corporations are being risk. "The business of business is to stay in business," Gambari said. But it is not clear that message does not promote getting along with repressive regimes.

            Gambari had mentioned the UN Development Program, whose Charles Petrie is also the UN's resident representative in Myanmar. Inner City Press asked Gambari about UNDP's admission that it let go five staffers earlier this year for corruption -- which UNDP has still failed to fully disclose -- and about reports that UNDP now refuses to share copies of audits of its Myanmar operations. What safeguards are in place to make sure the UN and UNDP money is not being spent in the service of human rights violations?

            UNDP will have to speak for itself, Gambari in essence said. We're still waiting.

            Gambari said the briefing had to end, he had to meet with September's Security Council president, France's Jean-Maurice Ripert. A half an hour later, Inner City Press asked Amb. Ripert if Myanmar will rise from the footnotes of his month plan of work and actually be considered, as a resolution, in the Council. Ripert was non-committal.

            Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Gambari for an update on his letter to Nigeria vice president earlier this year, offering the UN's help, especially with regard to the Niger Delta. Gambari noted that Nigeria's president will be at the UN for the General Debate later this month, and that will be the next step to make the UN's offer specific, even real.
            Ban Ki-moon now repeats as a mantra that he is a man of results and not of words. How will results be measured, in Nigeria and even more in Myanmar? The question was not answered on Wednesday, but it should be answered soon.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

Unnerved at the UN, Poison Phosgene Discovered, Portending Calls for Inspections by Safety Agents

Sat, 01 Sep 2007 04:25:58 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- The nerve agent phosgene was found Thursday in a UN office on 48th Street. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has been called, but the discovery of chemical weapons in midtown Manhattan, in a facility of the UN which routinely opposes health and safety inspection by local authorities, seems sure increase demands for accountability and transparency by the UN. Meanwhile Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is out of New York in Turin, Italy, and there is no indication that he intends to return to deal with the issue. When Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe if the UN would consent to inspection by local, state or federal authorities, she called it a legal question that she declined to answer. "The Secretary-General is in the picture," she said, expanding the definition of picture to include Italy, and "the chef de cabinet," Vijay Nambiar, is on the scene and in charge. We'll see. The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, UNMOVIC, was in charge of searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In the course of its work, UNMOVIC brought various of its find back to New York.  At a hastily scheduled news conference Thursday at UN headquarters, Inner City Press asked UNMOVIC's Ewen Buchanan if the material, including the phosgene, had ever been inspected by, or even declared to, U.S. authorities. No, appears to be the answer. Subsequently he added that "especially before 9/11/01," nothing was inspected. But it appears that even since, the UN's immunity, even from normal Fire Department inspections of its headquarters, has played a role in the curious find of nerve agent in the New York office building at 866 East 48th Street. Mr. Buchanan, when Inner City Press asked about inspections by city, state or federal authorities, said that the UN has its own experts. He pointed on the rostrum at UNMOVIC Inspector Svetlana Utkina, who offhandedly that even in phosgene suspended "in a Coke can" could sicken five people and kill two of them. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked the UNMOVIC troika to guess the New York Post's headline. "Weapons found," said UNMOVIC's Brian Mullady, who Buchanan described as "the boss" and is listed in UN publications as a Director at the "D-1" level. [Inner City Press' guesses include "Some Nerve" or "UN-nerved."] Asked by Inner City Press how much material remains in UNMOVIC, Mr. Mullady mentioned 125 five-drawer cabinets. How soon will they be asked to be inspected? One hour after the UN press conference, Inner City Press called Mayor Bloomberg's press office and asked for comment and next steps, which will be reported on this site. Three weeks ago Inner City Press ran an article about the Scud missile engine and gyroscopes left over in the UNMOVIC office, click here to view. In the course of the reporting, Ban's Associate Spokesperson told Inner City Press that "UNMOVIC's mandate has ended." There remains only the "wrapping up of work" and the "dispensation of items." Inner City Press asked who will decide what to do with all the hardware? Another reporter asked if a stoop or yard sale was on the cards. "I don't think so," the spokesman said[...]

At UN, Russia's Claim to North Pole Seabed Is Set Forth, Murky Allegiances of Commission Members

Sat, 01 Sep 2007 04:23:50 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Russia's claim to the North Pole is among the topics being debated this week at the United Nations in closed meetings of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. A Russian on the Commission, Yuri Kazmin, told correspondents on Thursday that contrary to some accounts, Russia is not claiming the whole Lomonosov Ridge, only the portion reaching the North Pole. Elsewhere, Mr. Kazmin has been listed as "senior geologist, Severneftegaz," a company described as "the licensed operator of the Yuzhno-Russkoye gas deposit." Inner City Press asked if Russia's widely-reported flag-planting was planned, before the submarine went down, or was a product of exuberance. "I do not know," Yazmin replied. He noted that the success of Russia's claim before the Commission, which was first filed in 2001, "does not depend on express proclamation" such as a flag planting. It doesn't hurt, though, one correspondent muttered. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is, as even Mr. Kazmin describes it, made up of 21 experts serving in their personal, and not national, capacity -- with "due regard for geographical distribution." What does that mean? Inner City Press asked Mr. Kazmin is he was speaking for Russia. "You asked for a briefing about Russia's position, and I've given it," he answered. Here, I am speaking for Russia. Presumably in the UN's basement at the Commission, it is different. The lines between personal and national capacity appear to be fluid. Back in 1998, during the fourth session of the International Seabed Authority, Mr. Kazmin put in an appearance for Russia, "formally invoking a procedure under the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (in Article 162, paragraph 2 (o) (ii)), calling for the Authority to adopt rules on exploration for such mineral resources other than polymetallic nodules." So before one of the UN's undersea bodies, Kazmin represents Russia, while on another, he serves putatively in his personal capacity. This is true of other member states as well -- this is an issue of UN lack of clarity, not of Mr. Kazmin. If anything, Mr. Kazmin provided a torrent of information. He explained how in 1958, a country's Continental Shelf was defined only to a depth of 200 meters, based on the technology of the time only allowing drilling that far down. In 1982 countries' reach offshore was extended down the slope to the Shelf's next rise. Even past that, if the topography rises up, a country can stake a claim. Asked for clarification by Inner City Press, he spelled out the name of the science: bathymetry, essentially, underwater topography. One problem, Kazmin said, is that in Russia, bathymetry information is confidential. That is because knowing the contours of the sea floor can help with the navigation of military submarines. Therefore Russia is recreating the research in a form that can be shared. It is using eco-sounders. There is talk of multi-beam. There is the science, there is the sloppiness about the difference between personal and national representation. And then there are the headlines, [...]

UN's Ban Claims Credit for Korean Hostages' Release, While Careful on Sovereignty and Sudan, Which Questions to Take

Tue, 28 Aug 2007 20:45:02 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, August 28 -- Surrounded by questions about whether and why he has reduced the visibility and relevance of the UN during his nine months at the helm, while undercutting a main ethics reform instituted before he began, Ban Ki-moon appeared before UN correspondents on Tuesday and tried to choose what could be asked. After imposing a limitation to issues about Ban's trip to Sudan, Chad and Libya, Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas selected as the third questioner a representative of South Korean television, to give Ban a staged opportunity to claim credit for the release of the South Korean hostages in Afghanistan.  In what a range of correspondents concluded was Ban's most scripted and longest response, Ban said he had "exerted all possible efforts" and that he has "not been able to explain them publicly." It had nothing to do with his trip, but that limitation, most concluded, was only a pretext to avoid difficult questions.             In his last press conference, Ban's most energetic statement was a defense of his hiring of South Koreans, including his main advisor Kim Won-soo, who as deputy chief of staff is called by many "the real Secretary-General," making a mockery of Vijay Nambiar's title as chief of staff. Mr. Ban's defense is called into question, however, by his decision to place the issue of 19 South Korean hostages at the center of his next press conference, one month later, contrary to the limitations he imposed on all other journalists and issues. "Why didn't he just film that on the side, in Korean," muttered one journalist, not this one.             Ban's communications chief, Michael Myer, came to watch his handiwork; it is unclear if Myer is responsible for the amateurish attempt to limit what issues could be raised, and who would be allowed to raise them. (Mr. Myer did, however, pen claims about Ban's role in the freeing of the British sailors by Iran, and of Alan Johnston, click here for that.) Despite statements after Ban's last press conference that those not allowed questions then would get a chance this time, Ms. Montas openly went out of her way to avoid calling on particular journalists -- full disclosure not necessary, presumably, but inserted here. Despite a staff member having asked reporters to sign up in advance to ask questions, Ms. Montas called on reporters not on the list, including one from a publication which has openly suspended publication for the next two weeks. Previously commitments to fairness, said at a noon briefing and in front of the camera, were jettisoned.             And now Ban Ki-moon heads for a jet, to take his apparently not-ready-for-prime-time show on the road. The first stop is Turin, where he will meet with UN executives including the head of the UN Ethics Office, Robert Benson, whose plea to allow protection of a whistleblower from the UN Development Program "for the good of the UN" Ban ignored or did not act on. Beyond what this shows about good government instincts, it seem destined to further undermine the "One UN," system-wide coherence plan that Ban says he believes in. At Tuesday press briefing supp[...]

In Chad, Leaked Memos Show UN Worries about Funding, Which Camps to Protect, Keeping Up with EU

Mon, 27 Aug 2007 04:33:27 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, August 26 -- As the UN prepares to send a force into Chad and the Central African Republic, deploying for the first time in a mission the UN's new Standing Police Capacity, a number of doubts and difficulties remain, internal documents obtained by Inner City Press show.             While the Security Council authorized an advance mission to Chad, an internal memo to Assistant Secretary General Jane Holl Lute that "faced with difficulty to deploy the advance mission, it was decided to establish a core presence of UN in Chad, consisting of 28 staff members." The so-called Tiger Team had, as of mid-August, only two of its 12 members, and there were disagreements about how and even if it would be funded. The memo to Ms. Lute states, under "funding of Tiger Team," that "OPPBA [the Office of Program Planning, Budget and Accounts] declined to approve request for GTA [General Temporary Assistance] to fund 12-member Tiger Team." Click here for the first page of the memo, in JPG format. Longer term, the memos acknowledge "concern that the UN will not be able to keep pace with the European Union deployment... The EU will provide around 4000 troops to secure an in-tandem UN deployment by the end of the year but starting as early as mid October 2007. An important consideration is the expectation to match the EU deployment (whose principal reason for deploying is to support the UN mission.)"             Four thousand EU troops would be supporting 1500 UN personnel. In an August 17 e-mail to UN officials Rakesh Malik, Lino Puertas and Harinder Sood, among others, Craig Goodwin writes of "some additional points Hany [Abdel-Aziz] is likely to bring up in his [meeting with Jane Holl Lute]... Much of the confusion between UNPOL and the SPC may have now dissolved as the Acting Police Advisor and the head of the SPC are one and the same individual (Walter Wolf). Points that Hany has been briefed on since the OO Chad coordination meeting yesterday are... Need for OO to exchange letters with the Gov of Chad prior to the Security Council resolution... Please see attached note that was sent to ASG front office." Click here for the e-mail, in JPG format.         There is also disagreement or inconsistency about which internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Chad the forces would be protected. The memos admit, under the heading "Envisaged EU Military and Police Concepts are in conflict," that "EU plan to concentrate in the IDP areas south of the Abeche - Farhana road while the UN Police plan to deploy to all UNHCR refugee camps including the six northern camps centered on Guerda, Iriba and Bahai. While the latest SG report indicates that three sector multi-dimensional offices will be established in Goz Beida, Farthana in the South and Central Eastern Region and Iriba in the North, police stations are also planned for Iriba and Bahai in the North."             The "latest SG report" referred to the memo was reported as " UN Secretary-General unveils plans for UN presence in Chad." S-G Ban Ki-moon and his advisors trumpet every incremental preparatory step in the re[...]

As Mogadishu Mayor Says to Let Displaced Children Starve, UN Prepares Mild Reminder

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 02:27:12 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- When the Mayor of Mogadishu, part of the UN-supported Transitional Federal Government as well as a former US-funded warlord, calls a group of displaced women and children "terrorists" who would not received food or other aid, what does the United Nations do? Initially, nothing. Mayor Mohamed Dheere's comments were reported more than a week ago in the Somali press. At UN Headquarters in New York, Inner City Press began to ask for reaction. When the displaced people were reported to call for UN help, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson for a response. From the transcript: Inner City Press: In Somalia, a current round of internally displaced persons leaving Mogadishu who claim that the mayor of Mogadishu has made statements that they are terrorists and that humanitarian aid should not reach them. They are reported by the Somalia media to be asking for the help of the UN, both to say something about what the mayor said about them being terrorists, but also to serve them. So, I guess I am wondering, this seems to be a request to the UN... Spokesperson: Who has this request been made to? Inner City Press: Well, they talk about what Eric Laroche said and criticize him for not criticizing the mayor of Mogadishu for calling them terrorists. And the report said they held a demonstration, and the media say: "The demonstrators called on the United Nations to assist them." So, I am wondering if this is a legitimate... Do they have to send a letter to the Secretary-General? Spokesperson: Not to the Secretary-General. As you know, we have in Nairobi our Special Representative to Somalia, and we have an office that deals specifically with Somalia. But what if they don't have stamps? After a series of e-mails to other UN spokespeople went unanswered, Inner City Press asked Deputy Humanitarian Relief chief Margareta Wahlstrom, during a briefing about the UN's response to natural disasters in North Korea, Peru and the Caribbean. Ms. Wahlstrom said that people should access to food. Afterwards, Inner City Press told her of one Somali press account which criticizes the UN's resident humanitarian coordinator Eric Laroche for not responding to Mayor Deere's comments. Inner City Press sent the article -- and photo -- to Ms. Wahlstrom and another Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs staffer. UN's Eric Laroche posing for photo with the children in the camps near Afgoye, Mohamed Dheere's words not shown Friday at 6 p.m., Inner City Press was told by OCHA's desk officer for Somalia, Federica D'Andreagiovanni, that Eric Laroche is finally preparing a letter to send to the Transitional Federal Government's prime minister Gedi. The letter, which she said has yet to be sent, will "remind the government" that the UN helps people pursuant to its "core principles... without political consideration." But this is the same Eric Laroche who said that the UN and the international community should fall 100% in step with the TFG. That gave Gedi and Deere carte blanc[...]

In Missile-Gate, Russia Tells Its Side of the Story, Saying Georgia Made It Up, and Kodori Too

Sat, 25 Aug 2007 05:12:09 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Tuesday ridiculed Georgia's contention that a Russian military aircraft dropped a missile in Georgia on August 6. He asked rhetorically, Where is the rest of the missile? Why would Russia have flown it 75 kilometers into Georgia, if the missile has a range of 250 kilometers? Why didn't the missile explode? There are all questions that will be asked of the Georgian mission to the UN, which scheduled its own press conference for Wednesday morning.
After a lengthy presentation by Amb. Churkin, Inner City Press asked him, "Are you in essence saying that Georgia made it up?"
"Yes," Churkin answered deadpan.
"And are you saying the same of the Kodori incident in March?"
"Yes," Churkin said again, after a brief pause. The latter incident, the UN has been involved in investigating. These are explosive charges. Video here, from Minute 24:46.
Inner City Press asked Amb. Churkin about a scenario in which Russia military operations in the Astrakhan region may have led to an erroneous over-flight of Georgia and dropping of the missile.
"Astrakhan is quite a bit away," Churkin answered. "It is not something supported by our military."
Amb. Vitaly Churkin, Aug. 21, 2007
The scenario Inner City Press asked about is described in the publication Defense and Security, translating Mikhail Vignansky's piece in Vremya Novostei of August 17, 2007--
Official Tbilisi believes there must be a connection between the missile incident and the exercise the Russian army is running on Ashuluk in the Astrakhan region. The government doesn't rule out the possibility that Russian pilots "got lost" and nods at the report posted on the web site of the Russian Defense Ministry concerning SU-24 flights in the course of the exercise. Bezhuashvili mentioned that the Russian expert group includes "the general" who denied that Russia was running military exercises (the matter concerns Lieutenant General Igor Khvorov, Russian Air Force Chief-of-Staff). "All these statements were a bunch of lies because the Defense Ministry of Russia itself published information on the exercise and types of aircraft and weapons used in it," Bezhuashvili said.
A Russian official asked about this on Tuesday was dismissive, and urged believe in Amb. Churkin. Churkin, at a Security Council stakeout interview last week and in Tuesday's news conference, placed weight on the visit to Tblisi by General Khvorov. But did he deny the military operations in Astrakhan? If Georgia does not cancel its press conference on Wednesday -- having already cancelled two of three press conferences it announced in this topic -- their reply will be reported and analyzed on this site. Developing.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

In UN's Mission in Congo, National Staff Threatens Work Stoppage, Day Laborers Abused, Staff Say

Sat, 25 Aug 2007 05:10:17 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- Within the UN Mission to the Congo, national staff members have threatened to go on strike on August 23. The build-up of pressure in this largest of UN missions, known by its French acronym MONUC, is detailed in Staff Council mission report noting that in MONUC
"sixty percent of the local staff are casual day workers (CDWs) who are paid $8 a day... Most of them have been working as CDWs since 1999 when the mission opened...By preponderantly recruiting national staff as CDWs and Independent Contractors, MONUC is exploiting poor people, especially from the eastern part of the country, whose fortunes were decimated by the wars."
Even the national staff's efforts to communicate with each others are under attack within MONUC. The president of the Association du Personnel National de la MONUC (NASA) union, Guershom Nondo, tried to send a notice to other staff members. A supervisory e-mail involving Mr. Ghislain Maertens of Belgium said that mere national staff should only be able to use MONUC's Lotus Notes program with prior approval. Plus ca change....
In a communique dated August 20, Guershom Nondo discusses the impending work stoppage on August 23 "if the Administration does nothing concrete" on such issues as the treatment and "integration" of casual day workers.
The "administration" referred to is headed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by William Lacy Swing, of whom the Staff Council report states
"the SRSG, Mr. William Swing, decided that MONUC should make proposals which would then be sent to New York for decision. Nothing happened thereafter... the local staff almost went on strike to demand that grade levels be matched with the functions they perform."
MONUC's William Lacy Swing, U.S. nominee to IOM, with Ban, striking casual day workers not shown (or heard)
In New York, the top of the new Department of Field Support pyramid is Jane Holl Lute, who in recent press conference has promised aggressive and transparent inquiries into irregularities in UN peacekeeping including in the Congo. But when the charges of involvement in gold trading by peacekeepers was expose as being wider than had previously been said, nothing was said by DFS.
Jane Holl Lute moved on to talk about Darfur, the next "largest peacekeeping mission ever." And will there be strikes there? Other problems are brewing in the peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire. And for now, simple questions posed to DFS / DPKO have not been answered. Watch this site.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

At the UN, Belated Focus on Darfur Leaves NW Central African Republic Unprotected

Sat, 25 Aug 2007 05:08:38 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- In a report on Chad and the Central African Republic, considered by the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Ban Ki-moon and his staff write that "The north-eastern Central African Republic, where there are currently 30,000 internally displaced persons, has also been destabilized by events originating in Darfur... The security situation in north-western Central African Republic, where 180,000 people are internally displaced... was underscored by the tragic killing on 11 June 2007 of a staff member of [MSF]." Just doing the math, of 30,000 IDPs in NE CAR, and six times that many in NW CAR, one would assume that the UN would be proposing a force to operate in the entire North, with emphasis on the northwest. But Ban's proposal is limited to "eastern Chad and the north-eastern CAR." Why? Tuesday, Inner City Press asked new French ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert to explain this limitation. Amb. Ripert said it is focused on 12 camps in Chad and only the north-eastern part of CAR "for the time being." But why? "The operation has to be coherent," Amb. Ripert said. "We are not dealing with the situation in Central African Republic per se." Exactly. Video here, from Minute 8:24 Northwest Central African Republic: on fire Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson: Inner City Press: The Secretary-General's report that they are discussing today on Chad and the Central African Republic? It says that in the Central African Republic in the north-east, next to Darfur, there are 30,000 internally displaced persons, and in the north-west, not touching Darfur but Cameroon, there are 180,000 internally displaced persons. It seems to only propose UN engagement in the north-east. Is that the correct reading of it? His suggestions to the Security Council is focused on the north-east in the Central African Republic, which is not to say it is not a bad problem, but just by his own report, the north-west has six times as many internally displaced persons. I am just trying to find out what the logic is of... Spokesperson: The logic is linked to the security problem. Where the security problem lies -- that is what the Security Council is discussing right now -- and the report was to the Security Council and it is addressing issues of security for the internally displaced persons. But in terms of care of the internally displaced persons, of course the large number of internally displaced persons that you mentioned is certainly being taken care of. Question: So, although it is not in this proposal, the UN funds, programs and agencies are present there? Spokesperson: Yes, they are. That's debatable. Earlier this month, NGOs including MSF said that the UN agencies were not fast enough in providing aid to NW CAR. Here, Team Ban wrote, and the Council members read, of the 180,000 IDPs in NW CAR. And even now, the opportunity is lost, in the name of coherence, in the belated focus on Darfur... [...]

At UN, Ban Is Entangled in Scandals of UN Development Program, As Staff Union Complains

Tue, 21 Aug 2007 05:04:56 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- The scandals surrounding the UN Development Program drew ever-closer to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday. As Inner City Press was first to report, the UN's Ethics Office issued a memo finding that UNDP retaliated against Tony Shkurtaj, previously the head of UN security in North Korea. The memo urges UNDP's Administrator Kemal Dervis, as well as Mr. Ban, to allow the inquiry to continue, under the UN's "protection against retaliation" rule.             UNDP's Dervis has said no. Ban, at least Monday through his spokesperson, claims there is nothing he can do. Meanwhile, UNDP now refuses to provide even to its funders copies of audits of its operations in Myanmar, and other complaints against UNDP have been filed with the Secretariat. The UNDP Staff Union, having no confidence in UNDP's internal audit function, filed external complaint about the outsourcing of key UNDP finance functions to "temporary" workers from a firm called Professional Financial Temporaries, Inc.. Click here for Inner City Press' report on this PRO-FIT, after which Ban's Spokesperson's Office provided the following opaque explanation: Subject: Your questions on OIOS From: Spokesperson's Office at To: matthew.lee [at] Date: 7/16/2007 2:49:12 PM Eastern Standard Time I have the following information for you, concerning your questions about OIOS and UNDP-- "The Office for Internal Oversight Services does not have a specific mandate to investigate UNDP, but it has the ability, under a memorandum of agreement with UNDP, to undertake services for UNDP at its request. "In this particular case, OIOS is trying to obtain information from a complainant to see whether the complainant's reasons for not reporting information to UNDP are justified. Until OIOS receives that information and can determine whether the complainant's reasons are valid, it is not proceeding to deal with the particulars of the case."             At the time, it seemed that the "complainant" was the whistleblower, Tony Shkurtaj. But it has emerged that the complainants are collective -- the full UNDP Staff Union. When an agency's staff union so loses confidence in the agency's leadership, it's time for a change. And the fact that most of the UN Secretariat, and now Secretary-General, respond to pleas for investigation and for protection against retaliation by looking for ways to disclaim jurisdiction over UNDP is troubling.    Monday, after publishing the memo, Inner City Press asked Ban's Spokesperson about it: Inner City Press: There is a memo from the Ethics Office Director Robert Benson to Kemal Dervis at UNDP, saying that the whistle-blower at UNDP has been made a case of retaliation, and saying that UNDP has not accepted jurisdiction.  It is cc-ed to Ban Ki-moon and asks Dervis to accept jurisdiction for the good of the UN.  Number one:  has he received his copy of the memo, and what does he intend to do about having [...]

UN's Secrecy About Past Iraq Security Bodes Badly for Future Expansion, Sources Say

Tue, 21 Aug 2007 05:03:20 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- If the UN is withholding three- and four-year old security reports about Iraq, will the current threat assessment before more UN staff are deployed there be transparent?             Alongside a memorial service held Monday for the 22 UN staff members killed in Baghdad's Canal Hotel on August 19, 2003, questions continued to be raised about the lead-up to that bombing, and the current move to expand UN presence in Iraq.             In a March 2004 report by the UN's Security in Iraq Accountability Panel, the still-withheld threat assessment report by Bruno Henn and Leo Powell is referenced: 130. A UNSSS assessment mission, led by the Deputy Chief UNSSS, visited Baghdad in late June-early July to ascertain whether the CPT, as then constituted and equipped, was able to assist the SRSG in the discharge of his mission... The Panel felt that there had been no determined or focused effort to address the principal recommendations, especially as some envisaged actions fell to people outside UNSSS. Failure in following up these recommendations is not surprising, as the report remained an internal one and was not shared, including with UNSECOORD, until after the attack on 19 August, at which time an unsigned and undated copy was passed to UNSECOORD by UNSSS.             That the threat assessment was reportedly turned in only after the bombing, and then only "unsigned and undated," makes it release all the more important. On August 17, Inner City Press directly asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson for the report: Inner City Press: There was the threat assessment report that was done before the bombing took place.  But I think it has never been re[leased], and I'm not sure why, given that it's been outdated.  Even some Member States complained that they haven't seen it.  So I guess I'm requesting if that document can be released.  It was called the threat assessment.  It was done in 2003 prior to the bombing. Spokesperson:  Well, I think if it contains information that can jeopardize the lives of our own people right now in Iraq -- no, it will not be released. Inner City Press: But I think it was all about -- Spokesperson:  If it was about what happened at the building, I would be surprised if it hasn't been released.  I know a number of things were released in 2004.  I can check for you what was released but a threat assessment, I don't think will be released as such. Inner City Press: But it was an assessment done before the bombing, you see what I mean?  It's all about the building.  Some people have said that the problem was that it had assessed the threat as low.  I don’t know if that's true or not.  That's why I'm asking.  That's why I would like to see the report. Spokesperson:  I'll try to find out for you.             But nothing has been provided. As it turns out, there is another buried report, a post-bombing audit carried out by Francois Pascal, then [...]

UN to Open in Turkmenistan, Takes Long View on Nepal, Mentions Soo Kyi, But Not Too Much

Tue, 21 Aug 2007 05:02:04 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- The UN plans to open a regional office for Central Asia in Turkmenistan by the end of the year, Ban Ki-moon's head political envoy Lynn Pascoe told a press conference on Monday. While not yet formally announced, Pascoe said, the new office was discussed last week at the meeting in Kyrgyzstan of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Inner City Press asked, given the human rights issues under Saparmurat Niyazov, the so-called Father of All Turkmen or Turkmenbashi, and also his successor, who has taken to locking up ex-government officials without due process, why Turkmenistan? "They are providing facilities," Mr. Pascoe answered, "so it seemed a logical process. I would not have thought the process so logical under the earlier regime." Asked afterwards if the new long-named Turkmen president, Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov, has provided any assurances for example that members of the press could travel unhindered to Ashgabat to cover at least the UN's work -- journalists have routinely been denied visas in the past -- Mr. Pascoe said things have not gotten that far yet. We'll see. In terms of the issues a UN Central Asia office would deal with, Mr. Pascoe mentioned that the region's water come from only two smaller states, and that while Kazakhstan produces oil and Turkmenistan natural gas, the other nations are just consumers. Well-placed UN diplomats call Uzbekistan the most problematic of the Central Asian nations, with its demands to repatriate dissidents despite reports that those returned are tortured. Mr. Pascoe did not address this, at least not on the record. Following his upbeat presentation of the process in Nepal, Inner City Press asked about concerns that the proposed Nepali Truth and Reconciliation process would offer amnesty for war criminals and recruiters of child soldiers. Mr. Pascoe said that the UN's "human rights people there have thick papers" on the topic, and that it is still early in the process. Mr. Pascoe did not mention Myanmar in his summary of issues discussed with China -- he listed these as Darfur, Kosovo, Taiwan and Somalia -- but when asked by Inner City Press if the continued confinement of Aun San Soo Kyi came up. "Of course it came up, I mentioned it," Pascoe said. He then praised the work of Ban Ki-moon's envoy on Myanmar, Iraq and Nigeria, Ibrahim Gambari. Inner City Press has been told to expect a briefing by Radhika Coomarswamy, the UN's special envoy on children and armed conflict, specifically on Myanmar. While Gambari is certainly getting positive feedback about Myanmar's military regime from other martial governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross recently issued a rare public rebuke, saying that Myanmar is using civilians as mine sweepers. Some human rights violations are harder to diplomat away. On Somalia, while the Security Council passed a roll-over resolution on Monday, South African Ambassador Kumalo said he had v[...]

Retaliation Is Found In UN Development Program, For Ban Ki-moon, an Inconvenient Test

Tue, 21 Aug 2007 04:59:33 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- Retaliation against whistleblower Tony Shkurtaj occurred within the UN Development Program, the UN's Ethics Office has found, but UNDP refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the Ethics Office. In an August 17 memorandum, which Inner City Press is placing online here, Ethics Office director Robert Benson urges UNDP to reconsider its technical legal defense "for the good of the UN," and implicitly calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to enforce UN whistleblower protections -- also "for the good of the UN." What Mr. Ban will do should be known in coming days. Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson on August 17 and was told an answer will be forthcoming. Shkurtaj exposed UNDP's use in North Korea of staffers selected by the Kim Jong-il government, and the payment of their salaries in hard currency, Euros, directly to the government. Then Shkurtaj's contract was not renewed, and UNDP went so far as to cause his inclusion in a photo array of those barred from UN premises as, among other things, unstable or armed and dangerous. In a follow-up interview with Inner City Press -- for Shkurtaj's extended July 20 interview, click here -- Tony Shkurtaj praised Benson for considering the evidence he presented, and upholding a prima facie case of retaliation by UNDP. There just too much evidence, he said. But now what will Ban Ki-moon do? This presents, Shkurtaj said, "an important test of a key UN reform." The UN's whistleblower protection rules were adopted with much fanfare, but have yet to be fully enforced. On June 5, Shkurtaj filed a formal complaint with the Ethics Office, seeking protection against retaliation. While the complaint was to have been ruled on in 45 days, when that period expired, Benson extended the time. Ban's spokesperson's office, despite repeated questions about the basis of the extension, said only that Mr. Benson was traveling. Finally, at the August 17 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked: Inner City Press: And also, at today's event, I think that -- this is unrelated, but it's connected in this way -- that the head of the Ethics Office, Mr. [Robert] Benson, was there and is back in town. There have been various questions. Jonathan of Fox, and I, had asked you, for example, on the whistle-blower. It was supposed to be done in 45 days, now it's like 80 days. There were a couple questions that weren't answered, maybe because he was traveling. Spokesperson: He was traveling, so we'll try to get him now for you. Inner City Press: And also it's on Ban Ki-moon's schedule that he met with Kemal Dervis of UNDP at 11. Is there a readout? Do you know what the topic of that meeting was? Spokesperson: I don't have the readout, but, you know, there are so many issues to discuss about UNDP's work. Inner City Press: I guess there are two things I would like to know, you could either find out if they were on it o[...]

UN's Ban Extends Barbados Visit into Vacation, Plans to Visit Darfur, Sources Say

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 20:31:48 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, August 2 -- The reason for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit to Barbados is now clear. Ban's going on vacation there. China's Xinhua news service reported that Ban "will travel to Barbados' capital Bridgetown on Aug. 2. During the 24-hour visit, he will meet with the country's Prime Minister Owen Arthur and other officials." But the visit is not 24-hours. It's more like a week.

            It is also being said that Mr. Ban will visit Darfur in the next month, and wants this to be covered by as many media outlets as possible. But after Tuesday's Security Council vote on the Darfur resolution, Mr. Ban ran right by reporters. The longest quotes came from Sudan's Ambassador, click here for Inner City Press' story.

            Eight South Korean congressman have traveled to the U.S. to discuss the Taliban's continued holding of hostages with U.S. officials and, they said, Mr. Ban. Thursday at the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for confirmation that this meeting would take place. Apparently not -- Inner City Press has learned that Ban will remain in Barbados after the "24-hour visit."

            From within Team Ban comes the line that Mr. Ban is a work-a-holic, but was convinced to go on vacation in order to not make other UN officials look bad.  There also comes criticism of the Korean congressman, as being used by the Taliban and as making Mr. Ban look bad. Some wonder if this might be a first step toward loosening the bonds.

            Recently, Inner City Press asked UNICEF, "in the seven-plus months he has been Secretary-General, has Ban Ki-moon to UNICEF's knowledge congratulated any other UNICEF national groups like If so, if you could point to them...

            This response came in --

Subj: Questions 25 July 
From: [  at]  To: Inner City Press
Date: 7/25/2007 5:49:29 PM Eastern Standard Time 
 Dear Matthew, please see responses to most of your questions below. We have checked with several colleagues, and as far as we know, so far this is the only message Secretary General Ban Ki-moon  has sent to a UNICEF National Committees. However, we know that the SG is a strong supporter of UNICEF's work for children -- this may simply be the first such message.

            Next stop, Barbados...
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

On Darfur, China Bristles at Misquote, Sudan Blames the West for Rebels' Self-Importance

Fri, 27 Jul 2007 12:21:55 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- Since the UN is the House of Words, a perceived misquotation or partial quotation can create an international incident, and slow or stop the diplomatic process.

On the pending Security Council resolution to authorize the so-called hybrid force to be send into Darfur, it was reported that "China's U.N. ambassador Wang Guangya said the new draft was a 'good resolution.'"

            Thursday at the Security Council stakeout, Amb. Wang told the half-dozen reporters there that "the other day I got a misquotation," adding that on the draft "China... and the African were not happy."

One wire service reporter at the stakeout was quick to gesture, "it wasn't me." (Previously, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had dressed down this wire, or a translation of it into Russian.)

            On Thursday, the Chinese mission's spokeswoman nodded -- it was the other wire. After answering Inner City Press' question about the Council's back-room process of the Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia issues, Amb. Wang said it again: "there is always misquoting of me." Video here. 
One correspondent noted said that Amb. Wang speaks in code, one has to understand it. Another opined that Khartoum must have complained to China about the quote. A third muttered, Watch, now he's going to cut us all off.

            After the stakeout, Inner City Press asked Sudan's Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad if, to the August 3 meeting in Arusha to unify the Darfur rebels, Abdel Wahid Nour will be attending. "He says he is not going," was the response. "The reason is the mixed signals from the international community." How? "They receive them in their capitals as if they are heads of state, they are very lenient with them -- now they take their time."  And then he was gone, off to speak with Arabic television.

            A topic there was the stalled Presidential Statement on "the humanitarian situation on the Occupied Palestinian Territories." A Council diplomat told Inner City Press that one of the hold-up is the inclusion of the word "Israel" rather than "the parties." Only at the UN.  Amb. Wang told reporters, if they are ready, I am ready. As of Thursday night, there are no Council consultations scheduled for Friday. Developing.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

At UNDP, Cover-up in Finance, Screw-up in Nepal, Waste in Glen Cove - and No Answers

Fri, 27 Jul 2007 12:20:33 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- As one aspect of the UN Development Program scandals, North Korea and the whistleblower, continues to reverberate from Dutch television to The Economist, back in UNDP headquarters, the mismanagement, waste and cover-ups continue.             As emerged from Inner City Press' reporting on Nepal, UNDP in that country blithely put the peace process in jeopardy by handing out manuals about disarmament in Sudan to Maoists who have not agreed to disarm, only to "weapons separation and monitoring." The UN's envoy to Nepal Ian Martin on Thursday said that the Maoists are "allergic" to the word disarmament, and that "a UNDP official" passed the disarmament survey to a Maoist commander.             The result of UNDP's blithe spreading of inapposite "best practices" was a protest by Maoist commander Prachanda that the UN is trying to weaken the Maoists in advance of the election now scheduled for November 22.             And what has UNDP had to say about its foul-up? We don't know, as UNDP does not answer any questions.             On the outsourcing controversy in UNDP's finance units, it emerges from documents obtained late Thursday by Inner City Press that UNDP Controller Darshak Shah is overseeing the "re-profiling" of finance staff's jobs, such that anyone who speaks out can conveniently be said not to fit their own re-defined job. In a series of e-mails, Shah and his special assistant Nuno Quieros tell staff of the re-profiling, which takes place while the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services is looking into UNDP. Re-profiling has been refined into the pre-taliation tool of choice under Kemal Dervis and his apparatchik Ad Melkert.             On the waste front, Inner City Press is told that UNDP's Global Environment Facility is again whooping it up, this time on Glen Cove, Long Island, complete with swimming and tennis and all the finest things. Last year, they went to Goa, home base of then GEF official Frank Pinto. Afterwards, Pinto said he was retiring. But now, sources say, UNDP is bringing him back as a consultant. Like bad nickels, one observe mused, they all come back at UNDP. All except the whistleblowers. The Government Accountability Project's Beatrice Edwards is following several cases at the United Nations, including of a UNDP whistleblower, designated as such by the U.N. ethics office, whom Ms. Edwards declined to identify to the UN's Sunny correspondent. Six months later, she told the Sun, GAP received a letter from the director of the UNDP's office of legal and procurement support, James Provanzano, stating that the U.N. designation was "not applicable to separately administered funds," such as UNDP.     How will current Ethics Office chief Robert Benson rule on this already delayed case? Mr. Provanzano was himself involved in trying to shepherd whi[...]

At the UN, Russia and Georgia Tussle on Abkhazia, So Close to Sochi But So Far

Thu, 26 Jul 2007 20:05:02 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- Russia and Georgia engaged in a diplomatic tangle this week in the UN Security Council, an echo of the helicopter gunship attack in Abkhazia's upper Kodori gorge on March 11 of this year. Abkhazia, like South Ossetia, is a breakaway region of Georgia, one with a UN Observer Mission that the Security Council periodically reviews, most recently in April.             For this week's review, the Georgia's Ambassador Irakli Alasania asked for a chance to participate and speak. For a non-Security Council member like Georgia to participate, the meeting could not be in the (closed) consultation room, but must be out in the Council chamber.             Since an item be to be discussed involved the March 11 gunship bombing, widely attributed to Russia, the Russian delegation began by opposing Georgia's participation. But several Council members support Georgia. Russia reportedly then countered that an Abkhaz representative should also then be allowed to participate. Since Abkhazia is not a UN General Assembly member, this would mean that the meeting could not be held anywhere in the Council, even in a side room. It would require an "Aria-style" meeting. (One recent such meet involved George Clooney briefing Council members in a room in the UN's basement, with a phalanx of paparazzi outside, about Darfur.)             The meeting has been scheduled for Monday, but because of this behind the scene controversy about the meeting's format, it was postpone to Thursday. The Georgian mission scheduled a press conference in the UN's briefing room for 12:30 on Thursday.  Then a compromise was reached, in which the meeting was held in the Security Council chamber, but remained closed so that no one could see it. Inner City Press' sources say that while in the consultation room, several members spoke, out in the Chamber prepared statements were read out by Georgia and Russia. Georgia then cancelled its press conference, and instead held a briefing "stakeout" at the microphone in hall outside the Council.             Inner City Press was there, and as well as inquiring about the helicopter attack and its history, also asked Amb. Alasania for his take on why the meeting had been postponed from Monday to Thursday. He ascribed this to the Secretary-General's report only become available "three days late." Video here. Later, however, also on-camera, Council President (and Chinese Ambassador) Wang Guangya acknowledged in response to Inner City Press' question that a request had been made for Abkhaz participation.              Amb. Wang said that there had been a "procedural discussion" and that "finally" it had been agreed to have a "private debate, a closed meeting." He said that there is an intention for "some other informal meeting might be held, at which representative Abk[...]

UN's Ban Blandly Calls Critics Unfair, While Avoiding Critical Questions and Ignoring Somalia War

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 16:47:50 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 16 -- Today's rare sit-down press conference of Ban Ki-moon was used by Team Ban as an opportunity to calls his critics "unfair," and to inveigh against journalists actually speaking to UN staff as basis for their stories. Unlike press conference in the Kofi Annan era, questions replying to claims about the Secretariat's transparency and even-handedness, including from critics, were not even allowed. One reporter -- not this one -- said loudly, "This press conference is a joke," and walked out of the room. He was far from alone in the sentiment expressed.             In another glaring omission, there was nary a mention of Somalia, a country which an already-postponed Reconciliation Congress was adjourned amid mortar fire on Sunday. Ban mentioned Darfur and North Korea, Kosovo, Israel, Syria and Cyprus -- but not a word on Somalia. Early on Monday, Inner City Press had e-mailed three UN spokespeople, two of them Ban's, detailed questions about Somalia. Barely one was answered in writing before Ban's press conference (see below); Inner City Press, which was granted a question in each of Kofi Annan's press conferences in 2006, was not allowed any questions.             Another issue that thus didn't come up was Ban Ki-moon's commitment to transparency and, specifically, whistle-blowing. Ban mentioned he has met with the UN Development Program's top two officials, Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert; Ban said that the "first phase" of the UNDP audit of North Korea programs showed that "not much money was misused." No follow-up to that statement was allowed, nor any questions about whistle-blowers. Inner City Press has been told that the UN Staff Union directly raised the issue of the specific UNDP whistle-blower to Mr. Ban, personally. Thereafter, the whistleblower's photograph was placed in a UN Security photo array to not be allowed on UN premises.             On his move to close or consolidate the Office of Special Advisor on Africa, Ban referred to -- hid behind, some afterwards said -- long time Kofi Annan advisor Ibrahim Gambari, and his choice of Asha-Rose Migiro as Deputy S-G. He implicitly criticized Botswanan Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the former holder of the Office, saying that the consolidation is response to how the Office was managed in the past few years. A correspondent told Ban directly that African diplomats are less than pleased. We'll see. On Somalia, Inner City Press e-mailed to the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General three questions early Monday morning: "there's a report that the UN cancelled a flight into Mogadishu... to the National Reconciliation Congress... why was the UN flight cancelled?  When is it being resumed? And beyond the $200,000, how much money passes through units of the UN system (incl. UN[...]

At the UN, a Ban Ki-moon for the Misbegotten, Amid Bad Reviews, Ban Meets the Press

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 14:12:49 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 16 -- If Ban Ki-moon were a Broadway play, it might be closing time.             This statement is not a review, but a meta review-of-reviews. Consider the scathing "six months of Ban" stories in the Times of London ("weak and too pro-American"), the Guardian ("his record so far is underwhelming"), even from a supporter ("Ban Ki Whom?"). While like other UN correspondents, Inner City Press has country-specific questions, for example about Africa, the Team Ban issues raised in the reviews should be addressed head-on, including at this morning's long overdue press conference.             Team Ban has taken to summoning journalists up to the 38th floor, in part to demand who is telling them that South Korean staffers are insulating the S-G. A number of scribes have been told that in the "morning meetings," only two participants are from the Republic of Korea: Ban and Kim Won-soo, who for the first time on July 13 was acknowledged to have been given Assistant Secretary General rank, for his ostensible post as deputy chief of staff.             It is said in the UN's hallways, on many floors beyond 38, that the technical chief of staff Vijay Nambiar is considering leaving the job. Others scoff that India would never give up its highest posting. Others retort that Nambiar wasn't really India's choice. He was an Annan man from way back. Passport is not destiny, they say.             Also rumored to be mulling pulling the rip cord (the reference, if needs be said, is to parachutes) is Under Secretary General for Management Alicia Barcena. Inner City Press has reported, after asking Ms. Barcena directly without answer, that she declined to agree to Mr. Ban's stated goal of having all top staffers waive their right to "reversion," to returning to being UN staff after service as political appointees. Ms. Barcena, some close to her say, wants to return to ECLAC in Santiago. She was present last week at the UN Pension Board meetings. But how long will she be here?             Then there's the matter of the S-G's Spokesperson's Office. Due to conflict of interest -- we deal with them on a daily basis -- Inner City Press cannot report all that it knows. But while frustration grows among the press corps, the Spokesperson's defenders say the problems run higher up. If information is not provided, from floor 38 to eight and three, the resulting tensions are inevitable. At the top of the Department of Public Information, the job is described as "protecting Ban Ki-moon." What of facilitating truth? We hope to have more on this in the week to come. These questions should be allowed -- and they should be answered. We'll see. We also hope to live-blog Mr. Ban's July 16 press conference, on[...]

In Somalia, Despite Mortars the Show Must Go On, For Funding

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 00:40:49 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 -- After having been two times postponed, the Somali National Reconciliation Congress was slated to begin on July 15. It was put off again, for now until July 19. "Even if a nuclear bomb explodes in Mogadishu, the conference will happen as scheduled," the president of the Transitional Federal Government, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, had been quoted. One man's hubris is another's strong leadership. This "the show must go on" attitude can be viewed in light of the TFG conference organizers' previous request at the United Nations for $32,680,000 for the reconciliation process, resulting in commitments to date of at least $8,200,000. At the last postponement, on June 13, the chairman of Somalia's national reconciliation committee, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, put the funds-on-hand at $4,500,000. If the conference were postponed for a fourth time, not only the TFG's credibility but also its funding might dry up. And so, defying bombs nuclear or otherwise, President Yusuf says the conference will proceed. Even some TFG ministers and parliamentarians have yet to visit Mogadishu, and will not be attending the conference. More generally, some question whether the congress organizers have been inclusive enough. Disproportionately excluded are the Hawiye clan which is demographically dominant in Mogadishu and Somali nationalists who previously sided with the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), whose chairman Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed has not been invited. The ICU controlled south and central Somalia until being chased out by Ethiopian troops in December. Enmity between the two countries began long before the ICU's rise, rivaling or exceeding, for example, anti-American sentiment in Iraq. TFG leaders' reliance on and praise of the Ethiopian military inevitably makes them a target. Following the recent visit to Mogadishu of a delegation from the International Contact Group, including the UN's Deputy Special Representative Per Lindgarde, Hariwe interlocutors report that the Contact Group representatives had already determined to support the starting of the National Reconciliation conference no matter what, and were only meeting with opponents in order to say that this had taken place. To bring about belated buy-in to the conference, a new amnesty was recently offered to those who will stop opposing the TFG. Skeptics point out that despite previously amnesty offers -- after the TFG and Ethiopian troops took Mogadishu, and in the previous run-ups to ultimately postponed reconciliation meetings -- people have continued to be detained, and sometimes ransom extracted from their extended families, even outside of Somalia. Since the influx of conference attendees will make Mogadishu what one source called a "rich target[...]

Migiro Says UN "Will Not Tolerate" Somali Executions, Confirms Africa Office Consolidation

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 00:39:55 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 -- Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro, asked Wednesday about the Somali Transitional Federal Government's recent public executions, said "if that happens it will have to be made to account, the UN will not tolerate it." Video here. Whether and how Secretary General Ban Ki-moon conveys this message to the TFG is yet to be seen.

Wednesday Inner City Press also asked Mr. Ban's deputy spokesperson for his view on the International Maritime Organization's request that the UN urge the TFG to allow for the policing of the Somali coastline against piracy. The spokesperson gave a "preliminary readout" of the topics of Ban's meeting with the head of the IMO, but no answer on what Ban is going to do. The Somali National Reconciliation Congress is slated to begin July 16.
Ms. Migiro in her press conference confirmed Inner City Press' exclusive report of Tuesday that Ban is "consolidating" the UN's Office of the Special Advisor on Africa into the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries (LDC), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Also confirmed at the press conference was the dissatisfaction emanating from a number of African delegations. We'll see.
To her credit, Ms. Migiro spoke passionately about her visit to Guinea-Bissau (although for the UN's own News Service to report that this was the theme of her remarks was surprising.)
DSG Migiro at the UN earlier this year (SRSGs for Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire not shown)
Asked about concerns raised recently by members of the European Parliament that the African Union peacekeepers in Darfur are not being paid, Ms. Migiro that "it is important that there is accountability," and that the proposed UN - AU hybrid force would "have oversight."
Asked about criticism of Ban's delay in naming replacement Special Representatives for the UN Peacekeeping mission in Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire, Ms. Migiro said that Mr. Ban "is working with the AU to address these issues," that "a representative is a question of need," on which Ban will decide "what type of strengthening" to provide.
Afterwards, some correspondents wondered at this answer. The decision that an SRSG for Sudan is needed was made by the Security Council. And the structure of the UN's mission in Cote d'Ivoire is set to be reiterated in a resolution to be considered by the Council on July 16. The interim grade for Team Ban - Migiro on these issues remains incomplete.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

Guinea-Bissau is Broke If Not Broken, UN Responds With Press Release

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 00:39:08 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 10 -- What can be done about Guinea-Bissau? The UN Security Council on Tuesday issued a press statement which "expressed concern at the alarming increase in organized crime, drug trafficking and the proliferation of illicit small arms in Guinea-Bissau, and calls on the international community to continue to provide the necessary assistance to strengthen the security institutions." To "continue to provide the necessary assistance" implies that the basic are currently in place. But in fact there are no jail cells in all of Guinea-Bissau, so that even if drug traffickers are caught, there is no place to hold them. Recently, the Guinea-Bissau police left traffickers get away, because they had no gas in their police cars to pursue them. Also not mentioned in or addressed by the Security Council's six-paragraph press statement is the fact that Guinea-Bissau's own interior minister alleges government complicity on the drug-running. Half of the cocaine that is seized ends up disappearing. A UN source on Tuesday contested Inner City Press' characterization of Guinea-Bissau as a "broken" state. "They're just broke," he said. "They have no money." The mainstay of the legal economy consists of cashew nuts. According to the UN's most recent quarterly report, issued on July 3, "civil servants are owed four months of salary arrears. The outlook for the rest of 2007 is grim... Guinea-Bissau is still under sanctions imposed by the African Development Bank due to its failure to meet scheduled debt servicing payments in January 2007." Guinea-Bissau classroom, resources not shown On the sidelines of Tuesday's Council meeting, an African diplomat told Inner City Press that although not in the press statement, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime intends to try to do more in Guinea-Bissau. But as Inner City Press has previously questioned UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa about, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services has found weaknesses and lack of back-up for UNODC's current programs, without even considering new programs in places like Guinea-Bissau. The OIOS report diagnosed that "UNODC's most immediate concern was an expanding mandate and the apparent insufficient Regular Budget (RB) resources provided to it for its implementation - 11% of UNODC total budget for 2006-2007 is RB funded...OIOS attempted to obtain clarity on the amount and complexity of the new mandates given to UNODC and some resource estimates to cover the needs for those mandated activities including core functions which are claimed to be implemented with XB resources. However, UNODC did not have such information and analysis available and it was unclear what core functions [...]

At UN in July, China's Changed Position on Myanmar and Faith in Somali "Brothers" Among Tests

Wed, 04 Jul 2007 03:54:26 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 3 -- China's Ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya on Tuesday explained this country's foreign policy, and relatedly his seeming flip-flop this year on the right approach to Myanmar. In January, China along with Russia cast vetoes opposing a resolution to put the situation in Myanmar on the agenda of the Security Council. In his explanation of vote, still available online on the Chinese government's website, Amb. Wang said that "the tenth ASEAN summit will be held soon. China will, as always, support ASEAN to play a leading role in addressing the issue of Myanmar." But after the May summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations called on Myanmar's military-based government to release detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Chinese did not "support ASEAN to play a leading role in addressing the issue of Myanmar." A day after the ASEAN summit ended, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a contrary statement, that "the Aung San Suu Kyi matter is Myanmar's internal affair." Tuesday at Amb. Wang's press conference to open China's month at the head of the Security Council, Inner City Press asked "what changed between January and May?" Amb. Wang did not directly address the change, but rather noted that "Myanmar is China's neighbor" and that "any efforts by the Myanmar authorities to improve their situation should be appreciated." Video here, from Minute 10:59 to 13:06. Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross strongly criticized Myanmar's army's use of detainees as porters and, essentially, as involuntary human mine sweepers. The ICRC nearly always refrains from such criticism, in order to maintain humanitarian access -- making its rebuke of Myanmar all the more striking. One might have asked, and still might this month ask, Amb. Wang what exactly are the "efforts by the Myanmar authorities to improve their situation" which "should be appreciated"? Whose situation is being improved? On the other hand, in another now-signature Chinese diplomatic move, the Chinese government last week arranged for meetings between Myanmar and the United States, in Beijing. Inner City Press Tuesday asked questions about this, first to Chinese mission staff then to Amb. Wang, who said this was consistent with China's "work to bring dialogue between main parties" in the effort to bring "peace and stability." It is analogous, then, to China's role in the Six Party Talks with North Korea. In fact, China's foreign minister Yang Jiechi met Tuesday in Pyongyang with Kim Jong-il. At his press conference on Tuesday, to his credit, Amb. Wang took more than a half an hour of questi[...]

In UN Justice News, Cambodia Timing and Costs But No Audit, Rwanda Run-Around, Rubber Bullet Silence

Wed, 04 Jul 2007 03:53:24 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, July 2 -- In a briefing at the UN about the upcoming Khmer Rouge trials in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the UN's Michelle Lee predicted that the prosecution's first submission will be made "in a week or two." Ms. Lee also made a pitch for funds for both the Cambodian and UN units supporting the trials. Both are already $4 million short of "subscription." In total, to operate through the end of 2009, the national (Cambodian) component requires an additional $8 million to reach $13.3 million, while the international (UN) component needs $25 million to reach $43 million total. The UN's Office of Legal Affairs, often opaque, on Monday provided at least the above-summarized information about the upcoming Khmer Rouge trials. While the straight-forwardness of the presentation may be attributed to the expectation that the press would not be present, it's results that count, and the flow of information. But still to be released is the UN Development Program's audit of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, including of charges that "Cambodian judges pay kickbacks to high-ranking officials in order to sit on the courts." (Click here for that.) There is a history of UNDP not releasing audits, including of its operations in North Korea, click here for that. At Monday's briefing, the chief of the UN's Office of Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel whispered to his associates, and then announced that the second half of the meeting was for "interested delegations" only. It does not appear that any audits were released, even after the press was, in essence, ordered out of the room. Still, in the decidedly relative world of UN transparency, at least provided were specific numbers of the type still not proffered, at least not to the press, for the tribunal recently established by the UN Security Council for murders in Lebanon. Speaking of genocide and opacity and tribunals with UN involvement, consider this follow-up question about the Rwanda tribunal, asked at Monday's noon briefing: Inner City Press: There was a question last week about these Rwanda requests. There were two separate requests. One was from an association of genocide survivors, asking that the archives of the Rwanda Court be returned to the Rwandan Government when it is finished. And there was also a request by the guy profiled in 'Hotel Rwanda,' saying that he has spoken with Ban Ki-moon. There is a big dispute in Rwanda right now about whether he did or not. Can you...  have either of those communications, were they received by the Secretariat, and what is the Secretariat's response? Deputy Spokesperson: On the latter, I b[...]

At the UN, Somalia's Gedi Asks for $32 Million, Denies Restricting Opponents' Travel

Wed, 04 Jul 2007 03:52:27 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- Somali citizens, even members of the parliament, "cannot just overnight go to the airport" and leave the country, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said Thursday at the UN. Inner City Press twice asked Gedi about some of those blocked from traveling. The first time, Gedi said "your question is truthless." The second time, confronted with the names of Osman Ali Hassan Atto and Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, Gedi said, "They didn't have permission from parliament." Asked if they would now be given permission, Gedi said "that is between the MPs and the Speaker." Video here. Former defense minister Col. Barre "Hirale" Adan Shire, who was targeted with a car bomb earlier this week, has accused Gedi and President Yusuf of being behind it. Inner City Press asked Gedi about the charge. "Normal banditry," he said in response. Currently in Somalia there are 1500 Ugandan troops, Gedi said. There have been pledges of troops for an African Union force, from Burundi, Ghana, Malawi, Benin and Nigeria. One correspondent asked if during Gedi's talks with the UN Security Council, any other country had expressed a willingness to contribute troops to a UN force. Gedi answered that the time to contribute would be if and when the Security Council passes a resolution authorizing a UN force for Somalia. Given the UN's experience in Somalia in the early 1990s, and the continued violence there, such a move by the Security Council appears unlikely. Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, the UK's Permanent Representative to the UN Emyr Jones Parry said, "we will support" a UN peacekeeping force for Somalia if Gedi "goes out and promotes national reconciliation." Gedi later confirmed that the budget for the twice-postponed National Reconciliation Congress is $32 million, of which $8 million has now been pledged by the European Commission and the United States. (The question of who has been paying the TFG's police was not able to be asked, but the question is pending.) Gedi said that the meeting will begin on July 15 in Mogadishu. We'll see. Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN For now, the proposed budget of the National Reconciliation Congress, as provided to Inner City Press by Mogadishu sources, who say that the numbers are inflated -- NATIONAL RECONCILIATION CONGRESS BUDGET In US dollars USS I. PREPARATORY ACTIVITIES: 250.000.00 1. Preparation, publication and Distribution of NRC documents 2. Appointment of Key Sub-committees 3. Recruitment of Key Personnel 4. Identif[...]

In Somalia, ICRC Demands Hospitals Serve All Wounded, While Working With "Local Authorities"

Sun, 17 Jun 2007 05:46:17 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- As the residents of Mogadishu have fled the shelling of their neighborhoods, the International Committee of the Red Cross has "had better access than other" humanitarian groups, ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger told reporters at the UN on Tuesday. The access is explained, he said, by both commitment and neutrality. "We have never left Somalia since the beginning of the Nineties," he said. "And we are not taking political sides." Earlier this year, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Eric Laroche argued openly for taking sides with the Transitional Federal Government, which came from Baidoa and took control of Mogadishu in the wake of Ethiopia's tanks. At the time, non-governmental organizations such as Action Contre La Faim questioned Laroche's call to support the TFG's police. [These police are reportedly paid with UN system money.] "If I am wrong, you can judge me later," Laroche said at the time. Months later, the fighting in and flight of displaced people from Mogadishu only grew worse. Even UN agencies, notably the World Food Program, found their access to deliver aid curtailed, including by the TFG. As Mr. Kellenberger diplomatically put it on Tuesday after meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, "There were obstacles for some humanitarian actors." ICRC's "neutrality is a tool," he said, "the best change to get access to those in need of protection." Outside a briefing of the UN Security Council by Ethiopia's foreign minister on April 27 of this year, a representative of the Somali TFG told Inner City Press that the World Food Program had been paying militias that, he said, were opposed to the TFG. On Tuesday, Inner City Press asked Mr. Kellenberger if ICRC pays for protection, and how that might implicate neutrality. Mr. Kellenberger, after saying "I cannot answer," recounted that recently the new TFG health minister visited him in Geneva. "I said to her, we want to be sure that in hospitals that ICRC supports, all wounded with be cared for and helped." And that, Mr. Kellenberger said, is neutrality. "It does not mean that we are without feeling," but rather that "we are not taking political sides," he said. Video here, from Minute 15:06 to 20:58. Mr. Kellenberger propounded a "principle of ICRC -- we don't accept military or police protection in the context of armed conflict." There is one exception, he said. "If the security risk is not link to the armed conflict," as in the case of banditry. Since the TFG in Somalia calls its opponents not only terrorists, but also bandits, it m[...]

At the UN, China Favored Over Taiwan by Guatemala's Vinicio Cerezo, "Arias Was Right"

Sun, 17 Jun 2007 05:45:14 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- "We admire Taiwan in many ways," Guatemala's former and perhaps future president Vinicio Cerezo  told reporters at the UN on Wednesday. "But the interest of Central America is to have the relationship with China, in benefit of the community, the people." Inner City Press had asked him and former and current president of Costa Rica Arias to comment on their countries' foreign policy with respect to China and Taiwan. Last week, Costa Rica decided to formally recognize China. Taiwan immediately announced it would end its aid to Costa Rica. Guatemala's foreign minister Gert Rosenthal said at the time, "We're maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan but we're worried that other countries will go along with Costa Rica." If Mr. Vinicio Cerezo's answer Wednesday is to be believed, Guatemala's position is also in motion. Inner City Press asked about recognizing China, and Mr. Vinicio Cerezo said, "We should. Without a doubt. In Guatemala we were prepared to do it, for different reasons we stopped the decision... but [President] Arias' decision is right." He added, "We left the East - West conflict long ago... we don't have to be involved, against the common interest." The two were at the UN for a conference marking the twentieth anniversary of the Esquipulas II peace agreement. Speaking at the conference, and running the press conference, was Alvaro de Soto, a just-retired career UN official, a UN envoy to Central America during the Esquipulas process. Mr. de Soto's most recent and last UN posting, which ended earlier this year, resulted in an "End of Mission" memo which was leaked and available on Wednesday. UN Spokesperson Michele Montas said, " "It is deeply regrettable that this report has been leaked. The whole point of an end-of-mission report is for our envoys and special representatives to be as candid as possible ... the views in the report should not be considered official UN policy." Inner City Press asked Mr. de Soto to comment on his memo and how it should be read, if only for a sentence or so, given that the memo is now in the open and is being covered. Mr. de Soto pointedly did not respond to the question. Video here, at Minute 25:45. News Analysis: Other correspondents afterward opined that Mr. de Soto also appeared unpleasantly surprised by the question about Taiwan which, these correspondents say, is something of a taboo at the UN. But, as simply one example, the most recent extension of the UN's peacekeeping mission in Haiti was impacted by that country's wavering position on Taiwan[...]

On Darfur, Mr. Ban Dislikes "Skeptical Reporting" While Questions Go Unanswered

Sun, 17 Jun 2007 05:44:01 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 -- "I was a little bit concerned by skeptical reporting and understandings." So said Ban Ki-moon on June 13 in response to press questions about his repeated claims to have won paradigm-changing concessions from Sudanese president al-Bashir about the protection of civilians in Darfur. On June 14 in New York, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's spokesperson at the noon briefing about a letter just released in Geneva from 37 non-governmental organizations, warning that Ban's on stance on Darfur has "dissipated pressure rather than building it." The Spokesperson said she hadn't heard of the letter; later, her Office requested the identity of the NGOs. Later still, having received no response, Inner City Press went to inquire. Yes the letter was received, Inner City Press was told. And the Secretary-General's response was and is what he said on June 13 at the Security Council stakeout. What, one wag wondered,  his concern at skepticism? While Ban issues statements about floods and the death of Kurt Waldheim, major developments in the country in which the UN has spent most in recent years, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, go unnoticed and unremarked. On June 14, Inner City Press asked for the Secretariat's position and action on the week's reports on Congolese opposition figure Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is also under investigation for war crimes: Inner City Press: You mentioned MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the DRC. Has MONUC or the Secretariat had any comment on this controversy around Mr. (Jean-Pierre) Bemba saying he can't return to the country because it's unsafe and asking for protection, either by the Government or by MONUC? Spokesperson: No, we don't have anything on that. No, we don't.... I mentioned MONUC in the context of the killing of that journalist. Inner City Press: Okay. Also there is a coalition of human rights NGOs in Geneva saying that they have written to Mr. Ban urging him to do more on Darfur and that so far, he is "dissipating pressure rather than building it"... Has he received the letter and what's his response to that analysis? Spokesperson: Okay. I'll check on that for you. [The correspondent was later informed that the letter had been received.] But in terms of Ban's response to the analysis, there was only a referral-back to statements at the stakeout prior to Ban's receipt of the letter. Also at the Security Council stakeout on June 14, the head of Ban's Department of Politi[...]

At the UN, Ban Envoy Lagos' Climate Change Record Questioned, Palm Oil Promoted

Tue, 08 May 2007 22:06:00 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- Whether called global warming or climate change, the UN has got religion... or has it? Among Ban Ki-moon's three new envoys on the issue is the former president of Chile, Ricardo Lagos Escobar. Environmental groups in Chile protested that Lagos' record while in power, from 2000 to 2006, is indicative of pollution and corporate control. They point for example to Lagos' role in approving, and accepting funding from, the Angellini Group for its Celso wood pulp plant, which fouled the Cruces River.             Tuesday at the UN, Inner City Press asked Lagos to address these concerns. In a four-minute answer, Lagos began by noting that he had, after all, been elected. "At the end of the day, it is up to citizens to say what is the record of the government," he said. So would any person who's been elected qualify as a UN environmental envoy?             Lagos went on to emphasize how he had "handled dams" while taking care of the people displaced from the now "irrigated" lands. "I am not here because I was very good [on the] environment," he said.  Video here, from Minute 19 to 23:10.             Many UN observers remember Lagos not for anything to do with the environment, but as a skeptic of the Security Council's Iraq resolutions. Lagos emphasized his diplomatic, not environmental, credentials. The Secretary-General wanted a political leader to address a "political problem, not a technical problem," Lagos said.             The credentials of other two envoys were not questioned during the press briefing. The former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, is sometimes described as a founder, or at least coiner, of sustainable development, and as an early follower of Buckminster Fuller. Even a support, however, interviewed by Inner City Press on condition of anonymity, wondered whether there has been backsliding.             Doctor Han Seung-soo's appointment is viewed through the prism of his role as former Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Korea, and thus as Bank Ki-moon's ex-boss. He did, however, serve as president of the Korea Water Forum, and in the hall outside the briefing room he told Inner City Press that he will have a role on "water and sanitation," and he nodded at a mention of Monday's UNICEF-sponsored conference on 2008 as the "Year of Sanitation."  Whether these envoys can take the UN Secretariat's role in combating climate change beyond buzzwords remains to be seen.             Also at the[...]

In Run-Up to Human Rights Council Vote, Freedom House Chides the US, UN Watch Disappointed with Arbour

Mon, 07 May 2007 22:01:34 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 7 -- Ten days before an election in Geneva which might put Belarus on the UN Human Rights Council, a luncheon was held in New York at which alternatives were proposed, including write-in candidates and none-of-the-above votes. UN Watch's Hillel Neuer, whose much YouTubed exposes of HRC procedures Inner City Press covered on March 30, reported that moves are afoot to recruit countries with better human rights records, Bosnia in his example, to run against Belarus. Both UN Watch and the U.S-based (and Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Wilkie-founded) Freedom House, the co-sponsors of the lunch and of a report about the HRC elections, have said that the U.S. should have run for a seat, should have gotten engaged to try to make the HRC work. "But what evidence is there that such effort would make it work?" one investigative reporter, not this one, asked.             Inner City Press asked both organizations for their position on the U.S.'s recent decision to deny the UN's expert on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamente, access to a detention center in Texas, the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.             Freedom House's Tom Melia responded that "We think the U.S. should cooperate with special rapporteurs," even those whom "many Americans reasonably think are embarked on silly missions." Mr. Melia said he didn't think that is the case with Mr. Bustamente, and added that the U.S. "can live with the scrutiny," that it is "a mistake to try  shut out reasonably international inquiries." UN Watch's Hillel Neuer "seconded" Melia's comments.             A representative of the U.S. Mission who was in attendance listened but did not respond. A similar question could have been asked about the U.S.'s increasing support to Ethiopia, which Freedom House's director of research Arch Puddington told Inner City Press has one of the fastest declining human rights records in the world, a trend also identified by the Committee to Project Journalists in a report released last week. Inner City Press asked the UN Development Program's democracy representative Pippa Norris to explain UNDP's support for a Robert Mugabe-sponsored Human Rights Commission which Zimbabwean NGOs only last month denounced. No answer was forthcoming, just as it has not been in the past.             Inner City Press asked Hillel Neuer what he thought of Louise Arbour's siding on March 30 with the HRC president admonishing UN Watch's "lack of decorum," click [...]

UN's "If Asked" List Changes For Lebanon, BNP Rally, Ruperez' Reputed Quitting as Anti-Terror Chief

Sat, 05 May 2007 05:00:03 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- As the week ended at UN headquarters, there was a buzz on more than one floor about the usually-obscure Counter-Terrorism Secretariat. By Friday's end, the word sent out that the unit's executive director Javier Ruperez Rubio had resigned, reportedly under pressure from the UK and U.S. for being too soft on terror. It's ironic, because Mr. Ruperez was a hostage of the ETA, albeit in the late 1970s. Apparently some feels he now suffers, if only belatedly, from the Stockholm syndrome...             While sometimes stories break in the afternoon, after the UN's daily news briefing, at other times the UN tries to avoid their breaking, at least for a day, or to change the message on the following day. Case in point is a "clarification" made at the May 3 noon briefing: "in response to some press queries about a meeting that the Secretary-General held on Lebanon two days ago. The Secretary-General and Ambassador Mohamed Chatah, Senior Adviser to the Lebanese Prime Minister, discussed the proposed establishment of a tribunal of an international character for Lebanon. Contrary to some reports, at no time did Ambassador Chatah ask if he could attend a meeting of the Security Council.  Accordingly, there was no rejection of such a request."             But informed sources tell Inner City Press that the previous day, the Spokesperson's Office had an "If Asked" documents -- meaning, a statement to be read out only if the question was asked -- that acknowledged that Mr. Chatah did ask to attend the Security Council meeting, which was not then allowed. Angry at a report of this snub, sources say, the Lebanese mission's Caroline Ziade told the UN to issue a (false) denial of the report. We'll have more to say about these "If Asked" documents.             Outside the building in the real world, west of First Avenue if only by a few feet, several dozen Bangladeshis protested Friday afternoon, calling on Ban Ki-moon to among other things stop accepting UN peacekeepers from their country, until democracy is restored. A letter the Bangladesh Nationalist Party delivered, or tried to deliver, to Ban Ki-moon accused the military of killing 100 people in custody since the beginning of the year, and of "trying constantly to blackmail former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia." Inner City Press interviewed the letter's signer, the International Coordinator of the BNP, Abdul Latif Shamrat, as he ate a tinfoil plate full of ric[...]

UN Tour Guide Becomes Albania's PR Minister While Paid by UN, Quits Only After Questions

Sat, 05 May 2007 01:18:08 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- A UN tour guide, while paid by the UN, sought to become and was even sworn in on April 30 as Albania's minister of public relations, all with the knowledge of the UN's Department of Public Information, UN-DPI.               While the guide, Mr. Grid Rroji, had previously been known with in the UN headquarters as the one who escorted ambush comedian Ali G through the building, his Horatio Alger leap from guide to Minister of Information is both impressive and indicative of a lack of safeguards and of candor in the UN system.             On May 3, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Marie Okabe if a Grid Rroji was currently being paid by the UN. "Yes he is," Ms. Okabe answered by email at 11 a.m. on May 4.             After Inner City Press an hour later at the UN's noon briefing mentioned Rroji's name, and the Albanian government web page showing Rroji with Prime Minister Sali Berisha on April 30, UN-DPI hastily contacted Mr. Rroji. Click here for the April 30 photo; the caption presents as the director of the department of information and public relations for the Government of Albania and the Council of Ministers Mr. Grid Rroji.             By six p.m. on May 4, after asking Inner City Press to hold off on the story, UN-DPI obtained a letter of resignation, back-dated to May 1. Inner City Press has requested a description of what the UN knew and when, but this have not been received. Sources say that the UN knew for months about Mr. Rroji's job search with the Albanian government, raising questions about the failure to end the UN job and UN payments before or at least simultaneous with taking Albanian government job.             UN-DPI's first reaction to questions had been to tell Inner City Press it might have "the wrong Grid Rroji," even while acknowledging they knew that "their" Grid Rroji, the tour guide who took ambush comedian Ali G through the headquarters building -- click here for YouTube of the visit -- had traveled to Albania while paid by the UN to seek a job with the government. Inner City Press was also chided for publicizing the name of a relatively lower level UN employee -- even if he had leaped to become the Minister of Information of Albania (while paid by the UN). Inner City Press has reported on moonlighting at both high and lower levels of the UN. Click here for yesterday's story, in which the UN declines to pro[...]

U.S. Highlights Bloggers at the UN, While Keeping Them from Amb. Khalilzad, and Waffling on Ethiopia

Thu, 03 May 2007 21:51:51 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 3, updated 5:45 p.m. -- While the U.S. Mission to the UN holds a forum celebrating the "citizen journalists," the UN has no policy for granting bloggers and other online media access to it meetings and briefings. Then again, the U.S. Mission on World Press Freedom Day itself held a by-invitation-only briefing by new Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and did not invite or even alert any bloggers. Rather, Inner City Press received from the U.S. Mission an invitation to the "Citizen Journalist: The Internet as a Tool for Freedom of Speech" panel, along with an invitation to "blog live" from the event. Fine. We're here. But to respect bloggers and freedom of speech is not to create a second tier, where as on the invitation other countries' press crack-downs can be panned. It is to treat fact-collecting bloggers as reporters, and grant them access.             Wednesday at the UN, the Committee to Protect Journalists listed 10 press freedom backsliders, including a number of countries currently supported by the U.S.. In the top three backsliders is Ethiopia, to which the U.S. provided military support in its drive on Mogadishu. Then, the U.S. allowed Ethiopia to import tank parts from North Korea. Ah, freedom of speech.             But on to the panel. The introduction was by a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Jeffrey Krilla, who thanked the UN for "accommodating this event." Some wondered why, on the other hand, the U.S. had made Amb. Khalilzad available at its Mission, and not in the UN's press briefing room.  Bridget Johnson a/k/a GOP Vixen then cited the CPJ finding that one-third of imprisoned reporters are online journalists. She turned it back to Krilla, who as it turns out beyond Democracy, Human Rights and Labor also has corporate social responsibility in his portfolio at the State Department. Has he raised press freedom to Yahoo, which turned over to China information about cyber-dissidents, subsequently arrested? Was Ethiopia's press freedom record considered in connection with the U.S. support, in connection with the crack-down on Somalia and otherwise? We'll see, if and when a Q&A session is allowed.             Reporters without Borders spoke of new Predators of Press Freedom report, naming Mexico, Cuba and hostage-takers in Iraq. RwB cites 65 imprisoned cyber-dissidents, 50 of them in China. (Another panelist, with PointPoint presentation, [...]

On Kosovo, Amb. Churkin Foreshadows a Veto, Scrutiny Somalia Lacked

Thu, 03 May 2007 21:38:45 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- After the Soviet Union disintegrated, ethnic Russians fled the newly independent states, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Wednesday, analogizing that to what the remaining Serbs in Kosovo would do if independence were granted. Less than five percent of the Serbs who left Kosovo have returned, Amb. Churkin said. In a five minute response to questions from Inner City Press, Churkin focused on what he calls the non-compliance with the Security Council's previous resolution 1244, and the lack of a "normal life" in Kosovo at present. This is not the time, Amb. Churkin said, for the Council to impose a solution, i.e. independence. "The international community should respect itself," he said, and should make sure that its previous resolution is complied with before considering enacting a new resolution. News analysis: While Kosovo comparisons, when made, are generally to Georgia's flanks Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to Transdniester and even Nagorno-Karabakh and Western Sahara, Amb. Churkin's call to assess and ensure compliance with previous resolutions brought to mind to this report the Council's blithe approach to Somalia. The Council imposed an arms embargo, then scoffed at its own experts reports that all sides were violating the embargo. In December 2006, when Ethiopian troops crossed the border and drove on Mogadishu, the Council did nothing. Even now, when those troops and the UN-supported Transitional Federal Government are shelling civilian neighborhoods and blocking UN humanitarian shipments, the Council does nothing. Kosovo, however, is in Europe, if not in the EU. In Russia, the Serbs have a veto wielding ally on the Security Council. The U.S. deploys vetoes for Israel -- why not Russian for the Serbs? Russia's acceptance of language in the most recent Abkhazia resolution bowing down to the territorial integrity of Georgia was a clue: Russia will demand no less than the support of Serbia's integrity. Wednesday Amb. Churkin deployed the word pogrom, as in "the anti-Serb pogroms of 2004." He spoke of Serbs' fear, and of the international presence doing nothing as these pogroms occurred. This is strong language and would seem to foreshadow a veto. Another correspondent, slated to leave the UN press corps at the end of the month, told Amb. Churkin, "you do not like using Chapter V[...]

Online and other Journalists Under Attack by Governments and even the UN, on Press Freedom Day

Thu, 03 May 2007 04:02:07 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- One third of the reporters currently imprisoned by governments worldwide are online journalists, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists. In a briefing to the UN press corps on Wednesday, CPJ deputy director Robert Mohoney said his organization is calling high-tech companies to task, specifically in light of Yahoo's decision to give the Chinese government email records of a subsequently-arrested cyber-dissident.             Since CPJ was speaking at the United Nations, Inner City Press asked Mr. Mahoney if the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which has for years had a 20,000 person presence in the press-benighted Democratic Republic of the Congo, could be doing more to promote the principles of press freedom. Inner City Press asked, What should the UN system be doing?             "The UN should abide by its own principles," CPJ's Maloney said, praising the press releases and expressions of concern issued by UN affiliate UNESCO. Inner City Press pointed out that, for example, UNESCO might criticize Uzbekistan for blocking access to news sites, but the UN Development Program is working with that country's Karimov government on an "open source software" program that does not address -- and, some surmise, allow for -- the censorship.             Mr. Mahoney did not directly answer this question. Rather he pointed out that he had met on Friday with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who "expressed support for the work we do and solidarity with journalists in conflict zones." Mr. Mahoney advised Inner City Press to "ask his spokesperson's department." Perhaps on Thursday, which is World Press Freedom Day and on which a rally will be held across from UN Headquarters for the BBC's Alan Johnston, kidnapped since March 12, some new press release is slated for issuance. Mr. Ban is in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, a country which has recently for the first time imprisoned a blogger, according to Joel Campagna, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa coordinator.             In the openly nationalistic UN press corps, Mr. Campagna was called on to justify the inclusion in the list of Morocco in CPJ's list of press freedom backsliders. Video here, from minute 27:08. Mr. Campagna rattled off the names of three imprisoned Moroccan journalists. The Moroccan correspondent challenged him, "Onl[...]

At the UN, New Ethics Head and Pension Double Talk, Syrian Snubs and UNMOVIC

Wed, 02 May 2007 20:04:55 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- First, a slice of what they call hard news. while it was not announced at Wednesday's noon briefing, a new director of the UN's Ethics Office has been selected: Robert Benson of Canada. This will be announced at tomorrow's noon briefing. At the UN, information flows but in no organized fashion. It squirts around edges and over obstacles. As it is withheld in one place, it is poured out in another. Wednesday morning the president of the Security Council for May, Zalmay Khalilzad, did a brief stakeout interview, answering primarily about the proposed Lebanon tribunal. No overall questions were possible. As simply one example, is the U.S. planning in May to schedule anything in the Council about Northern Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army? A plan of work was passed out, decidedly light on Council meetings, with the footnotes (issues that might arise) listed as "Sudan, Timor-Leste, Res. 1244" -- that's Kosovo -- "SC mission, 1747 IAEA report, Chad, Lebanon (1559), Small arms, UNMOVIC." On this last, the acronym for the search for weapons in Iraq, UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told a half-dozen reporters that the time may well have come to finally kill off UNMOVIK. Asked if the UK would support the use of UN Charter Chapter VII to create the Lebanon tribunal, to prosecute the killers of Harari and others, Amb. Jones Parry said "If you let me decide what the UK supports....". Reporters laughed, and Amb. Jones Parry said there wasn't much more that can be done other than invoke Chapter VII, and create the Tribunal by force of the Council, without formal Lebanese approval. Head UN lawyer Nicolas Michel preempted the UN's noon briefing, taking half an hour of questions about, it seems, answering any of them. After Mr. Michel finished, Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe closed the proceedings, not having taken questions. She explained to Inner City Press than no one else wanted to ask questions -- what, on this day the entire world and UN docket was nothing more than the Hariri tribunal? -- and she took a few questions, followed up in writing: "Hi. At (or after) the noon briefing (on which no questions other than on the proposed Hariri tribunal were taken), Marie told me that my question responding to what she read about the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund -- what is the status of the proposal to outsou[...]

UN Refugee Czar Guteres Praises Sudan and Mozambique, Questions U.S.-Australia Asylum Swap

Tue, 01 May 2007 23:37:51 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, on Tuesday praised the policies of Sudan and Mozambique, while expressing reservations about the reported plan to swap asylum-seekers between Australia and the United States. That plan would only pass legal muster if the people switched from central Australia -- or Nauru -- to Guantanamo Bay wanted to make that move. "It depends on the will of the people," Mr. Guterres told Inner City Press in the hallway of the UN.             Fielding questions from reporter, Mr. Guterres described his recent visit to Eastern Sudan, where over 100,000 Eritrean refugees live in "arid and difficult conditions." Inner City Press asked about reports that several thousand have not be accorded refugee status. Mr. Guterres indicated that Sudan has been generous, and that even those whose claims are rejected receive assistance from the Sudanese government. This is not a message heard in many other places.             Mr. Guterres seemed to go out of his way to praise member states. Asked about reports that Mozambique refuses to afford refugee status to those fleeing Zimbabwe, Guterres responded that legal status may not matter, as long as people are not sent back. At the same time, he spoke of the difficulties for those who have fled Iraq, only to find that the type of passport they have had is no longer valid. So legal status does matter.             Inner City Press asked about North Korean refugees, both those recently hunger-striking in Thailand, and those who arrive in China. Mr. Guterres said that the hunger strike has been resolved, and the "flow" to South Korea restored. Regarding China, Guterres went out of his way to say that he agrees that many who leave North Korea do so "because they are hungry," and for "economic reasons." Nevertheless, he acknowledged, once they leave, they would be persecuted if returned. Under North Korea law, it is a crime to leave or attempt to leave the country without permission. Therefore, Mr. Guterres said, the moment China moves to return them to North Korea, they become refugees. It was an interesting answer, but pointedly did not criticize China for its actual policy of refoulement -- sending asylum seekers[...]

At the UN, Plug Is Pulled On Polisario, Access Cut by Khalilzad, Press Freedom's Day's To Come

Tue, 01 May 2007 23:37:13 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- In the ongoing politics of the UN, and those of the Western Sahara, Monday at the Security Council stakeout a representative of the Polisario Front stood in front of the camera and took questions. Inner City Press asked him about a statement just made by French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, that the Moroccan autonomy (but not independence) proposal was consistent with the UN-recognized right to self-determination. The response made reference to France's history as a colonial power. And then the recording of the stakeout breaks up.             Tuesday at the noon briefing, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said that this had all been an error. But it remained and remains unclear exactly what happened. Sources tell Inner City Press that during the Polisario's brief on-camera stakeout, an order went out, "Cut this off... cut it." While the order was received by UNTV is the basement, where Ban Ki-moon happened to be filming messages for broadcast overseas, and while the order was eventually transmitted to the crew on the second floor by the Security Council, the order did not originate within UNTV. Now no one wants to say from where the order came. Fingers have been pointed, motive and opportunity have been weighed. The Polisario representative had been present at and around the stakeout throughout Monday morning, speaking to reporters, in full view of UN security and staff. That is how it should be. The Polisario's proposal for talks and a referendum, with independence as a choice, is mentioned in the Security Council's own resolution. Western Sahara, behind the fence, no camera, "pull the plug"             But even if by some still-not-articulated rule, the Polisario representative was not to have been filmed in front of the Security Council's banner, once the taping started, to cut it off and then mystify how it was done is bush league. It is reminiscent, in its way, to the UN's ham-handed three-week postponement of its exhibition to commemorate the Rwandan genocide, click here for that story.             Another step backwards this week at the UN is the refusal of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to brief the press about the Security Council's plan of work for May, when the United States holds the presidency. All r[...]

UN's Migiro Says UNDP's Centrality Not Yet Decided, Condi Rice Theory Circulates

Tue, 01 May 2007 23:36:24 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- In her first press conference since becoming Deputy Secretary General three months ago, Asha-Rose Migiro on Tuesday at the UN described her recent trip to the UN Chief Executives Board meeting in Geneva, to the DR Congo and Congo Brazzaville, where she met with each of the African country resident representatives of the UN Development Program. Inner City Press asked DSG Migiro whether she and / or Ban Ki-moon had told in Geneva told the heads of UN funds and programs, including UNDP, to finally nail down with their executive boards such issues as making internal audits available to member states. Yes, Ms. Migiro indicated, adding that there is an interest in transparency. But if UNDP has yet to bring its policies in line with the Secretariat, not only on audits but also whistleblowers and Financial Disclosure, why should UNDP become the central UN agency in the field, as is proposed in the current System-Wide Coherence plan? That is only a plan, Ms. Migiro pointed out, UNDP's role has not been confirmed or accepted. She noted that there are countries where the UN's Resident Coordinator is not from UNDP. Inner City Press inquired into the 90-day urgent audit of UNDP in North Korea that Ban Ki-moon ordered 102 days ago. "That is up to the external board of auditor," Ms. Migiro answered. "We have to wait." The vision thing: DSG Migiro at left, S-G Ban in center Inner City Press requested and obtained from the Spokesperson's office a statement as to whether these UN auditors have even gotten access to North Korea yet, on day 102 of the 90 day audit. The following was provided: Subject: DPRK From: [Associate spokesperson at] To: Matthew Russell Lee Sent: Tue, 1 May 2007 1:52 PM The auditors are not presently working in the DPRK. They had begun their work looking at UNDP operations, and, as you are aware, UNDP has suspended its DPRK operations. They will work on obtaining the information they need on UNDP operations in DPRK. So 102 days into a 90 day audit, they still have no access. Some expected Ms Migiro to speak out on this, but that is not apparently her style. In response to insistent questions about UNDP's meek replacement of its resident representative thrown out of The Gambi[...]

UN's Rwanda Genocide Exhibit Switches "Turkey" to "Ottoman Empire" and "Murders" to "Mass Killings"

Mon, 30 Apr 2007 21:18:45 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, April 30 -- On Monday, the UN opened the exhibition commemorating the Rwandan genocide, which it postponed three weeks ago by the UN after complaints about its reference to "one million Armenians murdered in Turkey."              Now the one of the four panels of the exhibition, on view Monday afternoon, refers instead to "mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I and other events in history." Another of the panels shows a picture of Romeo Dallaire, who led the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.             On April 20 Mr. Dallaire, in response to questions from Inner City Press, called the UN's postponement of a commemorating exhibition "absolutely scandalous."             "I cannot believe the UN backed down on that," he said. "If you want to demonstrate no spine, you've started in that fashion." As Dallaire recounted it, the exhibition was initially postponed due to an objection from Turkey to the inclusion of the phrase "one million Armenians murdered in Turkey" in the text of the exhibit.             Inner City Press asked Mr. Dallaire about the statement on April 19 by the new head of the UN's Department of Public Information Kiyotaka Akasaka that the contested issues came to include the "role of France, whether you can blame one hundred percent on the Hutu, the role of the Church and other issues we have to look into closely." Gen. Dallaire in Rwanda: blue beret not helmet             Mr. Dallaire noted that the Pope visited Rwanda in 1992, two years before the genocide, and that both the Church and France were unequivocal in their support of the Habyarimana government and even harder-line Hutu factions. He went on to say that the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front also engaged in what are now called non-judicial executions. But on the UN's postponement of the exhibit, he said "I need my pills, really I need a scotch, please get me some water," before calling it "scandalous" and "spineless."             Slated to be present at Monday's evenings opening ceremony are Secretary-Gneral Ban Ki-moon, the Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the UN, Joseph Nsengimana, the Aegis Trust's St[...]

Somali Diplomat Questions UN's Warlord Payments, Blackhawk Down - TFG Connection Confirmed

Mon, 30 Apr 2007 05:23:55 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, April 28 -- The UN Security Council on Friday heard a closed-door briefing from Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin about his country's continued military presence in Somalia. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Mr. Mesfin about reports and letters showing that UN humanitarian aid has been hindered by the Transitional Federal Government, which Ethiopia installed atop the country in December. Surrounded by guards, Mr. Mesfin denied that the TFG or "our troops" had created obstacles, and noted that TFG Prime Minister Gedi had "the day before yesterday said that humanitarian aid is welcome." In an interview appearing in the Times of London on April 27, Gedi is quoted accusing UN agencies "of corruption; of using private airstrips to ship in contraband, weapons and insurgents; of striking cozy deals with warlords and the ousted Islamic Courts regime and pocketing the proceeds. He said the United Nations' World Food Program and other agencies were upset because they had lost power after effectively governing Somalia during its 15 years of civil war and anarchy. 'They want to operate in this country without any control,' he declared. 'They know they can't do that any more . . . Now there's a Prime Minister who knows them too well.'" Inner City Press at Friday's noon briefing asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson for a response: Inner City Press: In Somalia, the Prime Minister in an interview had said that the UN aid agencies are used to running the country like it’s their own fiefdom and that they’re basically disagreeing with Mr. [John] Holmes in terms of humanitarian access. So I'm wondering if anyone in the UN system has some response to those statements or what the status is of humanitarian access in Somalia. Spokesperson: Well, according to what I got today, the discussions were good and they were given access. And the tone was positive on the part of WFP. After some other Inner City Press questions, a statement was handed to Spokesperson: Spokesperson: "We can find an answer for you. And about Somalia, as far as I know, and I see the information I got there, there was a meeting about the Transitional Federal Government ([...]

Before UNDP Meeting, North Korea Reaches out to G-77 and Deal for Silence Reached, Unless a "Wrinkle"

Thu, 25 Jan 2007 16:17:50 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, January 15, 11:10 a.m. -- The night before the expected showdown on North Korea and audits at the UN Development Program's Executive Board meeting, a deal was reached, Board diplomats say. Under the deal, according to one of its proponents, UNDP would suspend its programs in North Korea pending an audit. The diplomats predicted that unless any "wrinkles" emerge when the agenda item is called later this morning, the United States will not speak on the item. With a whimper, not a bang, one observer mused. A delegate from Lebanon provided a different perspective on the process. North Korea made a pitch to the Group of 77 organization of developing countries, rallying support to the idea that suspension and an audit would create a precedent for further "politicization" of development and of UNDP. This too appears to have had its effect. A diplomat seen as demanding reform pointed out that even if the audits are done by the same Board of Audit which previous concealed the North Korea - UNDP internal audits of 2004, 2001 and 1999, this time that Board is led by France, which has said it can and does use outside counsel and auditors. It is said that between Ban Ki-moon's Friday announcement of urgent worldwide inquiry into all activities of UN funds and programs and his Monday narrowing of scope, agencies and diplomats complained of the dangers of a full external audit. And so this deal, which as of 11 a.m. in the press gallery appears to be on track. We'll see -- it sounds as if the sides' understandings or spin of any deal are quite different. Also seen from the bleachers, to which the working press was confined, was a team from UNDP's Communications Office, including a blond woman accused by an Executive Board member's spokesperson of seeking to eavesdrop of what the spokesperson was saying. Notes were being taken, and spin was being prepared. It has twice been announced that UNDP's Ad Melkert -- who is said to have led the overnight negotiations, rather than Administrator Kemal Dervis -- will take media questions after the morning's session. Watch this site. Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: New[...]

On WFP, Annan and Ban Ki-Moon Hear and See No Evil, While Resume of Josette Sheeran Shiner Is Edited

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 21:26:31 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, November 7 -- In the hours after Josette Sheeran Shiner was "confirmed" as the new head of the UN World Food Program, questions continued to arise. At the UN spokesman's noon briefing, reporters asked about Ms. Sheeran Shiner's now-UN resume, which omits previous claims of status as  Pulitzer Prize finalist and as promoter of the interests of U.S. agribusiness, and about the involvement of the U.S. and of Ban Ki-Moon (and another Moon, see below) in choosing Ms. Sheeran Shiner.             At a 10 a.m. stakeout interview, Inner City Press asked U.S. Amb. Bolton: "On WFP, did the U.S. reach out to the incoming secretary- general, Ban Ki-Moon, in order to get his position on it?             Ambassador Bolton replied, as transcribed by the U.S. Mission, "My understanding is that the secretary-general consulted Ban Ki-Moon's office, and we certainly supported that and supported the decision to go ahead with Josette Sheeran's announcement. As I've said to you before, this is almost exactly what happened in late 1991, when Javier Perez de Cuellar and the then- director general of the FAO [Edward Saouma] when they appointed Cathy Bertini to be the executive director of the World Food Program."             At the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric when Mr. Annan had communicated with Ban Ki-Moon, and if the decision on Ms. Sheeran Shiner had already been made before they spoke.             Mr. Dujarric replied that that the two had spoken "in the past few days," after Mr. Annan had interviewed Ms. Sheeran Shiner, and characterized the process as "consultative" and "rigorous."             Inner City Press asked if Ms. Sheeran Shiner had been asked, by Mr. Annan or the other outgoing UN official who interviewed her, including Mark Malloch Brown and Jan Egeland, about her 20-year affiliation with Sun Myung Moon and for her position on his stated views, including that the UN should be destroyed, or merged with the U.S..             As reported by Associated[...]

Senegal's President Claims Peace in Casamance and Habre Trial to Come, A Tale of Two Lamines

Mon, 30 Oct 2006 23:42:28 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- "That is not an African question." WIth that, Senegal's president Abdoulaye Wade answered a question about his age, at a press conference about the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit. Wade challenged the reporter to race him down the hallway. While tennis player Serena Williams was also taking questions, most were directed to Wade. Inner City Press asked President Wade whether he would follow through on his pledge to put Chad's ex-dictator Hissene Habre on trial, after refusing requests to extradite Habre to Belgium to face war crimes charges. Wade responded that "texts are being prepared," but that the trial is conditional on receiving financial contributions, since the jury may have to travel to Chad. President Wade spoke of his effort combating female genital mutilation and under-aged marriages, and of the daaras, or Koranic schools, he has set up. Through a hipster translator, he bragged of boosting corn production by 600 percent. He said he would offer the reporter whose question he'd called un-African a scholarship to get some education. He talked up his formula to require sharing of oil "super-profits," which he promotes on a streaming video web site. On the age question it's worth noting that the Casamance rebel leader Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, 78, was evacuated on October 20 to France due to poor health. Mr. Wade is 80 years old. Inner City Press about the status of the conflict in the Casamance region. The trigger for the question was rebels' attack on a bus earlier in the day, click here for one report. "We have peace there," President Wade claimed. "There are no more attacks." The briefing room was full, so there was no time to follow-up, or to ask whether Wade has acted on his commitment to remove "press offenses" from the Criminal Code, in Article 80 and elsewhere. Shortly after Senegalese President Wade's didactic press conference, Senegalese General Lamine Cisse briefed reporters, briefly, at the stakeout outside the Security Council. H[...]

A Tale of Two Americans Vying to Head the World Food Program, Banbury and Sheeran Shiner

Mon, 30 Oct 2006 22:55:31 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- The four-person short list to replace Jim Morris as head of the UN World Food Program includes Tony Banbury, a Democrat who worked in the Bush Administration for a year before rejoining the UN system and the current head of WFP's Asia operation, Inner City Press has learned. As first reported by Inner City Press on September 29, the Bush Administration's nominee for the WFP post is Josette Sheeran (Shiner), formerly an editor of the Washington Times and a 20-year member, until 1998, of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The two other short listers are Canada's Robert Fowler and Walter Fust. Sources say that many senior figures in the Bush Administration could live with Tony Banbury getting the job, given his strong credentials earned in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan. They simply couldn't or didn't choose to nominate a Democrat instead of a Republican, particularly a Republican with a history with the Unification Church, a sub-constituency. Friday, a senior UN official confirmed to Inner City Press that Tony Banbury is on the WFP short list. The list was whittled from eight candidates to four by a five-person panel that included the UN's Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland and UNFPA's Thoraya Obaid, and well as two representatives from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. Now the finalists will be interviewed by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, who is currently in New York. It is widely known that Dr. Diouf does not get along with finalist Robert Fowler who has been serving as Canada's ambassador to the FAO in Rome. Dr. Diouf's views on Walter Fust, are not known. Nor are Dr. Diouf's connections with the Bush Administration although regarding these, the coming decision may speak loudly. On October 25, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, as transcribed by the UN: Question: On the World Food Program (WFP) process, we have heard th[...]

At the UN, the Unrepentant Blogger Pronk, a Wink on 14 North Korean Days and Silence on Somalia

Mon, 30 Oct 2006 22:54:03 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- Jan Pronk, the UN's envoy to Sudan who has been declared persona non grata by Sudanese president al-Bashir, was defended Friday by the UN Security Council and Kofi Annan's head of peacekeeper Jean-Marie Guehenno. Inner City Press asked Mr. Pronk to explain his statement that his blog posting about the low morale of the Sudanese army was meant to tell the rebel not to attack the army. Video on UNTV. Mr. Pronk explained that his point was that because of low morale, reinforcement were being called, including the janjaweed. Inner City Press asked Mr. Guehenno is he is aware of such blogging by the chiefs of any other UN peacekeeping missions. Mr. Guehenno did not directly respond, except to repeat the Secretariat's line, that "blogs are personal." Asked about the al-Bashir government sabotaging and delaying the delivery of armored personnel carriers meant for the African Union force in Darfur, Mr. Pronk said yes, APC are delayed, leading to death. Inner City Press asked Mr. Pronk why he didn't post his views on the official website of the UN Mission to Sudan, Mr. Pronk said that the UN has never told him to be quiet. But when Inner City Press earlier asked this same APC question, the response was to "look at Pronk's blog" -- in UN parlance, a link verbale. The president of the Security Council, Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, defended Mr. Pronk. Inner City Press asked if any Council members inquired into the envoy-blogging phenomenon. Amb. Oshima answered, no. Video here. Pronk on his web site Earlier on Friday, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN has any comment on its own leaked report that in Somalia, in violation of the UN embargo, there are up to 8000 Ethiopian troops, and 2000 from Eritrea. Video here. From the UN's transcript: Inner City Press: there are between 6,000 and 8,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia and 2,000 Eritrean troops. It is a report that has some length, and I was wondering if you can now[...]

At the UN, Literacy Losses in Chad, Blogless Pronk and Toothless Iran Resolution, How Our World Turns

Thu, 26 Oct 2006 20:22:29 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- On the topic of literacy, a 390-page study was released at the UN on Thursday. On page 201, it is reported that in the African nation of Chad, adult literacy stands at 25.7%. The figure has declined from 1990. Inner City Press asked two officials of UNESCO to explain this Chadian tragedy. "Increases in population," said UNESCO's Nicholas Burnett. "And not enough schools opening."             Earlier in Thursday's briefing, Inner City Press asked what the UN is doing about Niger's move to expel tens of thousands from Diffa Province back to Chad. Click here for one report. "It is something UNHCR is aware of," the spokesman answered.             "But has the UN told Niger not to do it?"             "They're trying to gather more information," the spokesman answered. "I can't go beyond that."             UNHCR has been aware for some time of the shooting of Tibetans trying to flee into Nepal. Publicly, however, UNHCR has said little. Inner City Press has asked UNHCR in Geneva to explain its position.             Another topic the UN says it will now consider is the opposition to UNESCO's plan to name Sri Lanka's former President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, to a 14-month term of a Special Consultant to UNESCO on Education for All, the topic of Thursday briefing at UN Headquarters. Opposition has arisen given Mrs. Kumaratunga's human rights record. Click here for more. Inner City Press' question to Kofi Annan's spokesman about how Special Consultants are selected was referred to the two UNESCO officials in attendance. They indicated that UNESCO's executive director Koichiro Matsuura may not have been aware of these issues and that they will not look into it. One of them said wistfully, "And I thought it would be a quiet weekend." Not in Chad.             Nor in the Congo. Days before the run-off election, the UN's apparently non-blogging envoy to the DR Congo, William Lacy Swing, met with Jean-Pierre Bemba about an upcoming campaign rally. Fr[...]

Sudan Pans Jan Pronk While Praising Natsios, UN Silent on Haiti and WFP, Ivorian Fingers Crossed

Thu, 26 Oct 2006 03:40:04 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, October 25 -- As Kofi Annan prepares to discipline his envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, on Thursday morning, Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem told Inner City Press on Wednesday that Pronk had been "playing politician" and had encouraged rebel groups in Western Sudan to move beyond Darfur.             Speaking exclusively to Inner City Press for ten minutes in the hall outside the Security Council, Amb. Abdalhaleem said that the rebels' advance on Hamret al- Shaikh, in Kordofan State and not Darfur, was attributable to Jan Pronk's statements on his blog, most recently of losses by the Sudanese armed forces. Inner City Press pointed out that Pronk has claimed he only repeated what he read in local newspaper. Amb. Abdalhaleem scoffed. Surprisingly, Amb. Abdalhaleem praised U.S. envoy Andrew Natsios, saying that he "listened with understanding."             "Send us people like [head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie] Guehenno and [head of UN humanitarian work Jan] Egeland, professionals," said Amb. Abdalhaleem. Inner City Press pointed out that Sudan had previously blocked Jan Egeland from entering Darfur. "That was temporary," replied Amb. Abdalhaleem.  Inner City Press previously got Amb. Abdalhaleem to publicly acknowledge a right by the international community to intervene in such situations as Rwanda in 1994, without the consent of the government, click here for more.             Inner City Press asked Amb. Abdalhaleem about a recent statement, off the record, by senior UN Peacekeeping officials, that the UN system should hold the rebels in Darfur to previous ceasefire agreements they signed. Amb. Abdalhaleem responded that while the Abdul Wahid faction has signed such agreements, other elements in the Redemption Front have no agreements at all.             Later on Wednesday, as Kofi Annan left the Security Council consultation on Ivory Coast, see below, Inner City Press asked him if Pronk will be sent back to his post. Mr. Annan replied, as u[...]

As Turkmenistan Cracks Down on Journalists, Hospitals and Romance, UNDP Works With the Niyazov Regime

Thu, 19 Oct 2006 02:26:49 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- The European Union reacted to the torture murder of Turkmen journalist Ogulsapar Muradova while in state custody, and other excesses by Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov, by declining the invitation to enter a trade agreement with the Central Asian coungtry. The UN Development Program has taken a different approach, and recently offered praise of Niyazov's government. Today's Turkish Daily News quotes Niyazov that "for some years the state structures and public organizations of Turkmenistan have successfully realized joint programs and projects in collaboration with such organizations as the UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO and many others." UNESCO, it should be noted, recently "voiced grave concern at the death of Ogulsapar Muradova in jail in Ashgabat," the capital of Turkmenistan. The UN agency's press release, No. 2006-116, cited Reporters Without Borders that "Ms Muradova's children identified Ms Muradova's body in the morgue of Ashgabat on 14 September. Witnesses are reported to have seen a head wound and many other marks on the rest of her body." A month after Ms. Muradova's body was identified in the morgue, UNDP's resident coordinator in Turkmenistan Mr. Richard Young told two hundred people at a conference on UN - Government of Turkmenistan cooperation that "as a member of the United Nations, Turkmenistan recognizes the importance of working together to meet concrete targets for advancing development. National ownership is a key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and adhering to global human rights values." The quote is from a write-up provided by the UN System in Turkmenistan. The write-up contained no criticism of Niyazov or his regime. It is not clear what "national ownership" the UN's Richard Young was referring to. In recent years, Niyazov has closed all hospitals outside of the capital, telling the BBC, "Why do we need such hospitals? If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat." Ni[...]

At the UN, Darfur Discussed, Annan Eulogized and Oil For Food Confined to a Documentary Footnote

Thu, 19 Oct 2006 02:24:38 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- "On Darfur... it's absolutely no good to say, it's horrible, I can't bear to let this happen. That doesn't get you anywhere." So at the UN Wednesday night said Sir Brian Urquhart, who has known and served all seven of the UN's Secretaries-General.             He continued, speaking on a panel in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, that, "I rather wish that those extremely well-intentioned people who take out full page advertisements in the New York Times and demonstrate in front of the White House and, I expect, in front of here would engage in a discussion of what the point of entry might in actuality be. This is a very hard and difficult problem. As far as I can make out, there is very little leverage over the government of Sudan. And if you don't have permission from the government of Sudan, you won't get the nations who take part in peacekeeping to contribute troops."             Andre Lewin, long-time French diplomat who served as UN spokesman from 1972 to 1976, pointed out that the UN has used the concept of national sovereignty to help "more or less" stop wars between countries. (The less would include the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and other clouds on the Security Council's horizon and those ignored, like Somalia and Ethiopia - Eritrea.)  But it is the very concept of sovereignty, Amb. Lewin pointed out, that makes stopping the carnage in Darfur difficult for the UN. S-G in Darfur             A third panelist recounted that "Kofi Annan in 1996 finally convinced the French to stop vetoing him by promising the French the position he had held, head of Peacekeeping. There are reports that the British got similar commitments from the South Korean--"             The moderator Shashi Tharoor quickly said, "I disassociate myself from those remarks," to laugher from the audience. The discussion followed the scr[...]

With All Eyes on Council Seat, UN is Distracted from Myanmar Absolution and Congo Conflagration

Thu, 19 Oct 2006 02:23:47 GMT

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- After twenty two rounds of voting, the race between Guatemala and Venezuela for a UN Security Council seat has still not yielded a winner. After six p.m. on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton came out last to the stakeout in front of the General Assembly. "Venezuela has lost 21 of 22 votes," he said. "In normal circumstances, they would honorably drop out."             These are not, however, normal circumstances. Earlier on Tuesday, Venezuelan Ambassador Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas brandished a copy of the El Pais newspaper, with its front page picture of Amb. Bolton whispering into the ear of the Guatemalan foreign minister. The Venezuelan translator Melina Garcia -- who twice pointed out that she is not a spokesperson -- spoke darkly about extortion and intimidation carried out by the United States. A copy of a crumpled October 4, 2006 letter was flashed, addressed to the Foreign Minister of Antigua and Barbuda from U.S. Ambassador Mary Ellen T. Gilroy, urging a vote for Guatemala in light of Hugo Chavez's speech to the General Assembly, and Chavez' characterization of terrorist Carlos the Jackal as "a friend."  The web site of Harper's Magazine has the underlying quote, click here to view.             The Venezuelan ambassador announced that if John Bolton or George Bush would come to the microphone and announce that countries are free to vote their conscience, Venezuela might be willing to accept "a consensus." This statement appeared to assume that Venezuela would in that case be the consensus candidate.             Inner City Press asked the Guatemalan representative Gert Rosenthal what he thought the vote tally would be, if the U.S. announced that all could vote their conscience. He responded that he didn't think countries were pawns of the United States.             The upshot is that t[...]

As Venezuela and Guatemala Square Off, Dominicans In Default and F.C. Barcelona De-Listed

Tue, 17 Oct 2006 02:07:04 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, October 16 -- As Venezuela and Guatemala faced off in ten separate votes for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the names of dark horse or compromise candidates swirled outside the General Assembly, where the voting was taking place. Uruguay and Costa Rica were much mentioned, along with the Dominican Republic. A quick check of the list of countries which have paid their UN dues, and of the nine countries recently excused from this duty, reflected that the Dominican Republic is not on either list and therefore, it seems, ineligible.             Italy, Belgium and South Africa each won non-permanent Council seats, which will go into effect on January 1.  In one of two contested elections, Indonesia trumped Nepal 158 to 28. The Venezuela - Guatemala contest will resume on Tuesday.             The longest such contest was in 1979, when after 154 ballots between Cuba and Columbia, Mexico won out as a compromise candidate. As night fell on Turtle Bay and cell phones buzzed, there were dreams of following this dark horse Mexican path.             To win a two-year seat on the Security Council, a country must win two-thirds of the votes cast in the 192 member General Assembly: in this case, over 120 votes. After the tenth vote of the day -- the results each being about the same, with Guatemala moving from 109 votes to 110, and Venezuela from 76 to 77 -- representatives of the two parties, and Guatemala's main backer the United States, took questions from reporters. Venezuela's ambassador used the word dignity repeatedly, saying his country will be in it until the last vote. U.S. Ambassador Bolton characterized the day as nine losses and one tie for Venezuela. Guatemala's representative was more whimsical, saying that his country will certainly stay in a few more rounds.             Inner City Press asked the Guatemalan representati[...]

At the UN, North Korea Sanctions Agreed On, Naval Searches and Murky Weapons Sales

Sat, 14 Oct 2006 22:35:55 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, October 14, 3:20 p.m. -- "Six days after the North Korean test, the passage of a Security Council resolution is imminent," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters just after noon on Saturday. By one o'clock Amb. Bolton emerged with Chinese Ambassador Wang to announce a vote by 1:30. "What led to the deal?" a reporter shouted.             "Good diplomacy," Amb. Bolton deadpanned. Then he and Amb. Wang ambled north along the UN's second story hallway, surrounded by security guards. Update of 3:15 p.m. -- in serial stakeout interviews following the Council's 15-0 vote, North Korea's Ambassador called the resolution "gangster-like," then strode down the hall, ignoring the questions shouted after him. Chinese Amb. Wang called the cargo inspection language "watered down." Amb. Bolton deadpanned that resolutions are binding. Inner City Press asked Argentine Ambassador Mayoral if this can really be called a resolution -- if it has been resuelto, in Spanish -- since it leaves a 14 day window to make final decisions. Video here. Amb. Mayoral said Council President Oshima will decide how to use the 14 days. On this question of putting off finalizing what can and cannot be transferred to North Korea for 14 days, Russian Ambassador Churkin explained that even earlier today, he was pointing out to other delegations some unintended consequences of the proposed lists. After declining to answer Inner City Press' question about Georgia, Amb. Churkin also panned recent U.S. legislation which purports to cover other countries on transfers to both Iran and North Korea. Video here. He quickly added that he was not connecting those two countries. The scuttlebutt is that the U.S. will try to make the coming week all about Iran. Others are focused on the Venezuela - Guatemala vote(s) for Security Council membership, slated of Monday. Watch this space. Update of 1:59 p[...]

At the UN, Georgia Speaks of Ethnic Cleansing While Russia Complains of Visas Denied by the U.S.

Sat, 14 Oct 2006 22:34:39 GMT

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- In the blizzard of words accompanying Friday's six-month extension of the UN's observer mission to Georgia, several strange factual disputes, some of them surreal, were left unresolved. Before the passage of the resolution, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had said that a person he called the foreign minister of Abkhazia had been denied a visa to come to New York, and that the U.S. embassy in Moscow had tried to link granting the visa with Russia accepting changes to the draft resolution it had put forward. Inner City Press asked Ambassador Churkin, after the resolution's passage, if this individual might still be coming to New York to brief the Security Council in a so-called Arria formula meeting. No, Amb. Churkin said. Then will Russia complain to the Host County Committee of the UN General Assembly? Amb. Churkin said that yes, Russia would be filing such a complaint. Video here. Venezuela recently complained about the detention of its foreign minister at JFK airport, a complaint echoed by Sudan and supported by such countries as Mali and Belarus. Click here for Inner City Press' story, Axis of Airport. \ Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton to address Amb. Churkin's statement about this gambit by the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Video here. From the transcript provided by the U.S. mission: Inner City Press: On Georgia, Ambassador Churkin said that the Abkhaz foreign ministry called him, a person from Abkhazia. Was the U.S. embassy in Moscow didn't give him a visa in exchange for somehow changing the language of the resolution on Georgia -- is that your understanding of what happened? He said it right here. Ambassador Bolton: I have -- yeah, you know, I have no idea what that's about. Sources tell Inner City Press, however, that not only had Am[...]