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

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.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540