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Sudan Threatened to Shoot UN Medical Helicopter in Abyei, UN Belatedly Admits

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 4 -- Sudan threatened to shoot at a UN helicopter seeking to take three injured Ethiopian peacekeepers for medical treatment from Abyei, the UN belatedly to the Press on Thursday in response to a follow-up question. The three peacekeepers died.

  On August 3, Inner City Press had asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky if the UN for its UNISFA mission in Abyei had signed a Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA with the Khartoum government.

  Nesirky replied, "I would need to check on the precise technicalities there. But I can tell you that the deployment has been continuing." Later on August 3 when Ban spoke to the media, Ban did not mention anything about Abyei or Sudan, and Nesirky did not allow Inner City Press any questions.

  On August 4 Alain Le Roy, the outgoing chief of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, was asked about the four deaths in Abyei.

 Le Roy acknowledged that while one peacekeeper died the instant the land mine exploded, three were still alive. But, he said while referring to Status of Forces Agreement, permission was not received to Medivac the three injured peacekeepers out.

Inner City Press asked a follow up, which Nesirky has still failed to answer: does the UN have a Status of Forces Agreement with Sudan for the Abyei mission?

No, Le Roy said, the SOFA for UNISFA "has not been signed yet," adding that the SOFA of the now-expired UN Mission in Sudan is then still in place.

Inner City Press asked, then why didn't the UN fly the peacekeepers out?

"The government prevented us to take off... by threatening to shoot at the helicopter," Le Roy told Inner City Press. Video here, from Minute 46:56.  Audio here, from Minute 46:53.

Moments later, Inner City Press asked Nesirky why Ban hadn't mentioned this when he spoke to the media the previous day, since the threat and the death of the peacekeepers, even if somehow not causally connected, happened at the same time?

Nesirky called this "hypothetical," and did not address why Ban had said nothing publicly. Video here, from Minute 56:32.

 Some wonder, is this the so-called "quiet diplomacy?" Ban met with Sudan's Ambassador to the UN, but said nothing publicly. Nor has Nesirky answered repeated questions from Inner City Press about how many UN peacekeepers remain in Southern Kordofan, and what if anything they are doing to protect civilians. Watch this site.

Ban, Nesirky, Nambiar & Orr, action on UN inaction not shown

Here is from the UN's August 3, 2011 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: the UNISFA [United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei] – the mission in Abyei — has it reached any kind of Status of Forces Agreement with the Sudanese Government?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I would need to check on the precise technicalities there. But I can tell you that the deployment has been continuing. Already there are more than 1,000 troops in the area. As you know, there was an extremely serious incident yesterday, and I would also anticipate that we’d have more to say on that in the coming days.

Inner City Press: Is it known now or can you, after various questions, say how many peacekeepers are still in Southern Kordofan?

Spokesperson: Again, I would need to check on that. I know you’ve asked repeatedly, and as have I, but I don’t have the answer for you at this point.

  That has become Nesirky's, and Ban Ki-moon's refrain.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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