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As Spain Uses Aid Funds For Stalactite Ceiling at UN, Ban's Travels Seen from LA and Europe

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- As European countries, caught in the global financial crisis, cut their aid budgets, Spain has dipped into one such fund not for example to address the humanitarian crisis in the Congo but rather to pay a Spanish artist to complete a stalactites-draped room at the United Nations in the name of human rights.

   For a cost of $25 million, Miquel Barcelo has employed a team in Geneva included a chef to cook up this ceiling he compares to the Sistine Chapel. Spain brags that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be on hand on November 18 to inaugurate the ceiling and room. If so, he should be asked in light of his call on developed countries not to cut their aid budgets if this is an appropriate use of at least 500,000 euros meant for development aid.

   The Spanish government says yes, calling the ceiling a selling point (or "a new way of doing diplomacy and foreign policy") for them. They need it, following their General Diaz unceremoniously fleeing his post with the UN in the Congo just as rebel general Laurent Nkunda began his march on Goma. Despite 

Despite Spanish deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega's belated call for disclosure, this controversial use of aid along with Diaz's retreat leads to increased calls to cancel her other plan with Ban, for a UN Peacekeeping information techology hub in Valencia. That proposal, still not approved, should also be addressed on November 18. There has to be a ceiling to abuses.

  Ban might also be asked for his reaction to Iceland's announcement that, despite commitments it made in exchange for votes in its failed attempt to get a seat on the UN Security Council, it is now cutting its aid budget. Inner City Press had asked Iceland's foreign minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir about the issue; she complained then about broken promises, and about the UK's freezing Iceland's assets here in London. Video here.

UN's Ban in Spain, aid use for $25 million UN ceiling not shown

   During an earlier trip to Europe, Ban inappropriately touted the bid of Iceland's ultimately victorious competitor Austria. Does that, along of course with the global financial crisis and having assets frozen by the UK under and anti-terror law, explain Iceland's new status as what's called an Indian giver?

  Ban had been expected at the University of California in Los Angeles today, but cancelled on 24 hours notice seemingly at the request of the Saudi king, who held a surreal "culture of peace" event in the UN on that day. UCLA was apparently told that Ban cancelled not for Saudi Arabia -- hardly an applause line in LA -- but rather for a separate trip to Washington to tag along to George Bush's lame duck meeting on the global financial crisis. Click here for that.

  The UN flew out to LA an expert on Sudan, who may have spoken better, or at least clearer, than his ultimate boss. But did he explain Ban's seemingly vacillating position on distancing himself from Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir, while praising a ceasefire announcement that France has already denounced? Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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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