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As Ban Ki-moon Alleges 3 Copters from Belarus for Gbagbo, Silent on 3 from Ukraine, Says Only Fired in the Air

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 28, updated -- While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on his way to Washington, called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council on reports of Cote d'Ivoire's defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo importing three attack helicopters from Belarus, questions remained unanswered about the UN's delay in moving three copters and 2000 troops approved in December from Liberia to Cote d'Ivoire.

On February 23, Inner City Press asked Portugal's Permanent Representative Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral if the Security Council had expected the troops and copters voted on with much fanfare in December based on Ban's “urgent” request would in fact be in the country by now.

Yes we expected that, he answered, urging Inner City Press to “ask DPKO,” Ban's Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to explain the delay.

Previously, Inner City Press had asked DPKO chief Alain Le Roy, who said responded that an agreement had to be worked out with Ukraine about how the helicopters would be used -- reportedly, only in pairs -- and that the troops required visits to Togo and Niger and an unnamed third country, now believed to be Mongolia.

On February 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: In Cote d'Ivoire there was a briefing yesterday given by one of the Security Council ambassadors, on the record, in which he said that…

Spokesperson Nesirky: In or on?

Inner City Press: On, on. But still out of discretion, but I guarantee that what he said is that, as a Council member, he was surprised that the troops meant to get to Côte d'Ivoire, voted on by the Council in December, not being there was surprising and that, he said, you should ask DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] why they are not there yet. So, I wanted, it seems to me, it’s, especially with this renewed fighting, that’s what sort of brings it to a head. Is there some way to get a statement of what, if DPKO had expected them to get there faster, if this is the fastest that the UN can get troops to a place? What happened that an emergency call to send troops in December is still not acted on in late February? Is there, I mean, do you know, can you give a short answer?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I am sure my colleagues in DPKO are listening right now.

If DPKO was listening, there was no indication: no response was provided to Inner City Press in the 24 hours that followed.

UN"s Ban gets out of a copter, explanation of Ukraine not shown

And so the following day, Inner City Press asked again:

Inner City Press: On this Cote d'Ivoire question of why it’s taking so long to get the emergency peacekeepers that were voted on in December into the country, has there, I tried to go to the C-34 peacekeeping mission yesterday, but was told it was a closed meeting. So I am wondering, has DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] — you said they were listening — have they provided any response to this?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, we did provide some details last week, and the position remains the same. Obviously the intention is to move as quickly as possible and my colleagues are liaising with the troop contributing-countries towards that end.

Inner City Press: But were these contingents that are already in Liberia? That was the kind of, I was just trying to get the specifics of the Togolese and the Niger troops.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, as I have said, this is what we said last week, and it remains the case today that there is liaison, consultation with troop-contributing countries with the aim of trying to ensure that peacekeepers, additional peacekeepers, are in place as soon as possible. Everybody recognizes that that is a very important movement that needs to take place quite quickly.

With so little explanation of the delay, before the Council met on the morning of February 28, Ban's spokesman Nesirky put this out:

Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Cote d’Ivoire

The Secretary-General has learned with deep concern that three attack helicopters and related materiel from Belarus are reportedly being delivered at Yamoussoukro for Mr. Gbagbo's forces. The first delivery arrived reportedly on a flight which landed this evening and additional flights are scheduled for tomorrow. This is a serious violation of the embargo against Côte d'Ivoire which has been in place since 2004.

The violation has been immediately brought to the attention of the Security Council's Committee charged with the responsibility for sanctions against Côte d'Ivoire. The Secretary-General hopes that the Security Council will consider convening urgently a meeting to discuss this issue.

The Secretary-General demands full compliance with the arms embargo and warns both the supplier of this military equipment and Mr. Gbagbo that appropriate action will be taken in response to the violation. The Secretary-General has asked UNOCI to monitor the situation closely and to take all necessary action, within its mandate, to ensure that the delivered equipment is not prepared for use.

But the emergency meeting requested did not take place in the Council's Monday morning session. A diplomat from a Western Permanent Five member said the facts had to be checked.

Portugal's Permanent Representative Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral told Inner City Press that with Belarus denying that any contract exists and denying sending any copters, things have to be checked.

The Council presidency indicted to Inner City Press that there are even different views “in the UN” about “three attack helicopters and related materiel from Belarus.... being delivered at Yamoussoukro for Mr. Gbagbo's forces.”

   Skeptical journalists on Monday morning attributed Ban's “Chicken Little” emission to his quest for a second terms as Secretary General. Others surmised Ban sees his position on Cote d'Ivoire slipping away.

  Either way, his Spokesperson and DPKO should provide an actual explanation for the delay in moving the copters and troops voted on in December, and now for the statement that “three attack helicopters and related materiel from Belarus.... being delivered at Yamoussoukro for Mr. Gbagbo's forces.” Watch this site.

Update of 12:40 pm -- at Monday's noon briefing, Ban's spokesman Nesirky confirmed the UN hasn't verified the information complained off in the morning. Inner City Press asked if the Ukrainian helicopters are in Cote d'Ivoire yet -- let me check, Nesirky said. But Inner City Press asked this same question before. On ONUCI's statement that it was forced to return fire, when Inner City Press asked, Nesirky said the UN troops had only fired in the air. We'll see.

* * *

In UN Libya Resolution, US Insistence on ICC Exclusion Shields Mercenaries from Algeria, Ethiopia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 26 -- After passage of a compromise Libya resolution by the UN Security Council on Saturday night, Inner City Press asked French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud if mercenaries aren't let off the hook by the sixth operative paragraph, exempting personnel from states not members of the International Criminal Court from ICC prosecution.

  Araud regretted the paragraph, but said the the United States had demanded it. He said, “No, that's, that was for one country, it was absolutely necessary for one country to have that considering its parliamentary constraints, and this country we are in. It was a red line for the United States. It was a deal-breaker, and that's the reason we accepted this text to have the unanimity of the Council.”

  While a Bush administration Ambassador to the UN in 2002 threatened to veto a UN resolution on Bosnia if it did not contain a similar exclusion, the Obama administration has maintained this insistence on impunity, which in this case applies to mercenaries from Algeria, Tunisia and Ethiopia, among other mercenary countries.

 (In the case of Algeria, there are allegations of official support for Gadhafi).

   While Inner City Press was able to ask UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant about the exclusion for mercenaries from non ICC countries, US Permanent Representative Susan Rice did not take a question from Inner City Press, and none on this topic, despite having mentioned mercenaries in her speech.

Obama, Hillary & Susan Rice: mercenary impunity not shown

  When Libya, but no longer Gadhafi, diplomat Ibrahim Dabbashi came out to take questions, Inner City Press asked him which countries the mercenaries used by Gadhafi come from.

  He mentioned Algeria, Tunisia and Ethiopia -- highlighted by NGOs as non ICC members -- as well as Chad, Niger, Kenya and Guinea. So some mercenaries could be prosecuted by the ICC, and not others, under language demanded by the US Mission to the UN. Watch this site.

Here is the US-demanded paragraph:

6. Decides that nationals, current or former officials or personnel from a State outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the State.

Footnote: Araud blaming the US position on "parliamentary constraints" seemed to some a way to try to blame a decision by Obama's executive branch on the Republicans who recently took over the House of Representatives. But it was an Obama administration decision. More nuanced apologists blame the Defense Department for pulling rank on State. But the result is mercenaries firing freely.
* * *

At UN, Final Libya Draft Has ICC Referral, Mentions Article 16 Suspension

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 26 -- As final draft of the Libya resolution was being prepared for a 5 pm UN Security Council meeting on Saturday, China said it had to call Beijing for instructions.

 French Ambassador Gerard Araud bragged that the referral of the case of Libya to the International Criminal Court is still in the draft, crowing “I told you so.”

A Western spokesperson added, when asked by Inner City Press, that a perambular paragraph of the new draft explicitly mentions Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, stating that the prosecution could be suspended for 12 months.

  It's the same language as in the Darfur case, the spokesperson said, in which Sudan's Omar al Bashir is seeking suspension or dropped of genocide charges against him.

The goal is to get those around Gadhafi to stop and defect, a EU Council members spokesperson told the Press. Some had argued that it would push Gadhafi over the edge, this spokesperson said, but we agreed he was already over the edge. But others could defect to avoid prosecution.

The way to do that, another pointed out, would be to set the date of the situation one day forward. Because there are people who could defect today who are already guilty.

What will be done about the mercenaries, from Algeria and elsewhere, alleged by Libya's Deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi? Watch this site.

Update of 4:50 pm -- a Western spokesperson says the vote is moved back from 5 pm to 8 pm, says "mood music" is of urgency. So what's another 3 hours? Hmm.

  Seems the idea is to see if China is bold enough to veto on ICC language.

* * *

As Libya's Shalgam Supports Referral to ICC, Spin of France & NGO, Human Rights

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 26 -- With the UN Security Council deadlocked on whether and when to refer the case of Libya to the International Criminal Court, a letter arrived that might tip the balance. Abdurrahman Shalgam, writing as Libya's Permanent Representative to the UN although on February 25 he compared Gadhafi to Hitler and Pol Pot, wrote to the Council presidency that:

With reference to the Draft Resolution on Libya before the Security Council, I have the honour to confirm that the Libyan Delegation to the United Nations supports the measures proposed in the draft resolution to hold to account those responsible for the armed attacks against the Libyan Civilians, including trough [sic] the International Criminal Court.”

A Security Council diplomat, insisting on being identified in that way, said that the letter may change the positions of, among others, Brazil and of Portugal, previously identified as not supporting referral of Libya to the ICC today. The diplomat added, contrary to an argument made in the press pen, that a letter from a Mission is not enough to join the ICC, it would require a letter from a prime minister or head of state - unlikely.

An African Ambassador going out for lunch was shown the Shalgam letter by Inner City Press and said, “So?”

It is unclear how the letter will play in the Council. Some might argue that if it is a “self -referral,” no ICC language is needed in the resolution. Others might argue that if Gadhafi's own former foreign minister favors the ICC referral, the day after a much applauded speech at the UN, Council members should go along.

Shalgam at UN - some want HIM as next S-G

On his way out, France's Ambassador Gerard Araud said that no Council member has questioned Shalgam's credentials to represent Libya. But he noted that the letter is to the Council president, not to the ICC. Inner City Press asked him if all EU members on the Council support referral of Libya to the ICC in the resolution today. “Ask the EU members of the Council,” he said. The Council will reconvene at 3 p.m.

Footnote: the argument that Shalgam's letter allows the ICC Prosecutor to consider if it is a request for self-investigation came was made to many reporters in the press pen by Richard Dicker, a representative of Human Rights Watch. Previously, complaints have been made to the UN Media and Accreditation Liaison Unit about Mr. Dicker's presence in the press pen, which is often said to only be for UN accredited journalists.

  Recently, HRW criticized Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for being weak on human rights in China, Sri Lanka and elsewhere -- click here for Inner City Press story on Team Ban's reaction. Regardless, the “no NGOs in the press pen” rule has been enforced on others -- but was not on HRW's Dick Dicker on Saturday.We'll have more on the rule of law late in the day.

* * *

At UN, Portugal Denies It Doesn't Support Referring Libya to ICC, EU Blame Game?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 26 -- On the International Criminal Court and whether and when the case of Libya should be referred to it, even the European Union is not united, it emerged Saturday at the UN. As the Security Council met on a draft resolution which would refer Libya to the ICC, a Western -- and we must say, EU -- diplomat emerged to tell the Press that Portugal was not supporting referring Libya to the ICC, due to concerns about retaliation against their citizens in Libya.

Inner City Press e-mailed the Mission of Portugal and asked for a response, ideally to the assembly UN press corps. And it happened: Portugal emerged and told Inner City Press that Portugal supports the draft as is, with the referral of Libya to the ICC, adding that Portugal is open to a compromise to get a resolution done today.

Some skeptics surmise that there may have been an idea of blaming Portugal for dropping from the draft the referral of Libya to the ICC.

An explanation has been requested: watch this site.

Meanwhile, the US Mission tweets in response to Inner City Press that it will have a lot to say on the record. When?

Update of 1:43 pm -- a Afro-Arab state's representative tells Inner City Press that in consultations, Portugal was speaking of putting referral of Libya to the ICC in a separate resolution. Still no response from the Western spokesperson who threw Portugal under the bus.

Meanwhile there's talk of China being 100% opposed to referral, with the counter-proposal of saying ICC will be discussed later coming from India and Gabon -- whose president Ali Bongo is a supporter of Gadhafi, and which dropped out of a planned joint stakeout with South Africa and Nigeria after Friday's meeting. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

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

* * *

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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