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At UN, 7 Countries Discussed by Ban with 19 US Congress Members, But Not Somalia

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- It was a single line in the Appointments of the Secretary-General. "11:00 a.m., Mr. Howard L. Berman, Chairman, US House Committee on Foreign Affairs." It was not listed in the UN's Media Alert, nor in its Daily Journal. But a sign in the basement, by the Vienna Cafe, blocked out Conference Room 6 from 11 to 1 for a U.S. Congressional Delegation, or "Co-Del," as security officers called it. Ban Ki-moon and his American aide Robert Orr arrived at 10:59, a waiting staff member muttering that "there's no one here yet, will he just sit here and wait?" This one media outlet there, Orr said, would joke of Ban being prompt. Done.

   Five minutes later U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad arrived, with chairman Howard Berman. After that, more than thirty Congress people came, lining up for photos with Ban Ki-moon.  The doors to the meeting were closed. Outside in the Vienna Cafe, African Ambassadors guessed at the agenda, set out to tease it out. "Zimbabwe," they returned with. "There's a request to refer Mugabe to the International Criminal Court." As unrealistic as this seems, in light of the double veto ten days ago, it was explained as a reaction to speed-reading news of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's request for an arrest warrant against Sudan's Omar Al Bashir.

   At the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about the meeting and its agenda, and was told an answer would come later. See below.

From left, Messrs. Orr, Khalilzad, Ban and Berman, in front of Mr. Kim

 When U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad came to the microphone outside the Security Council, Inner City Press asked what the meeting was about.  A range of issues, he said, the full range --

Inner City Press: The Congressional Delegation, what issues are they discussing with the Secretary-General?

Ambassador Khalilzad: I was there with them with the Secretary-General until I came to do my statement on the Middle East. Their interest is broad - anything you can imagine that's hot on the plate in terms of issues that you all are paying attention to are issues also that they are raising. It’s very good to have them here. They represent the people, and they have a role in our foreign policy. We believe that the U.S. role in the UN is important, the UN itself is important. Many challenges we face require effective multi-lateral action so it’s good for them to come and hear not only from us, those of us who represent the United States here, but also to talk to the Secretariat. We’re going to have lunch with them. I've invited colleagues from P5 to participate in that lunch, and they’ll have an opportunity also to engage and interact with them. So I welcome this visit, thank you very much.

   After 3:30 p.m., when the Security Council's debate on the Middle East started up again, the following came through --

Subj: Your question about the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Date: 7/22/2008 3:42:49 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time

The Secretary-General today welcomed a group of 19 US Congressional Members, one of the largest delegations from the US Congress visiting the UN in recent years. The delegation was led by the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Howard Berman.

The issues covered included the food crisis, the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, UN reform and US funding for the Organization, the Human Rights Council, and visa authorization for people living with HIV/AIDS. Countries and regions discussed included Darfur, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Iran, Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

  But nothing on Nepal, on that day's agenda, or the Congo, the largest UN mission, or Somalia, with a major U.S. role. Host country redux.

Footnote: Wednesday there'll be a meeting of the UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country, this time explicitly closed to the press and public. What could be so secret? On Somalia, the UN's envoy is here, to prepare with this week's debate, while his spokeswoman shepherds around ostensible opposition leaders who have signed on to the Djibouti deal.

 Watch this site. And this --


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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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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