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Ban's UN Tries to Outsource Kosovo Questions, Partial Answers Don't Assure a Second Term

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 6 -- On Kosovo, an issue which may deny Ban Ki-moon a second term as UN Secretary General, his spokespeople refuse to answer questions, and the UN Mission in Kosovo provides, to be diplomatic, half-truths at best. The most recent example involves UNMIK reportedly telling an ethnic Albanian IDP he needs their permission to rebuild his house near Mitrovica in North Kosovo.

   Inner City Press has already seen a quote from an UNMIK spokesperson admitting  that "in this incident, legitimate security forces requested a suspemsion of construction to prevent an escalating security situation. It is very important that all sides in Suhodoll remain calm and refrain from provocations."

   Since the UN so often calls for IDP's right to return, and since a Kosovo lawmaker has accused the UN of "violating Kosovo's constitution and the UN charter," this seemed a noteworthy policy, of which the UN in New York should provide an explanation. This is done on controversies with other UN missions, for example when UN correspondents in New York ask about UNIFIL in Lebanon, they are rarely if ever told to call Beirut.

UN celebration in Kosovo, full answers not shown

  Inner City Press on November 5 at the UN noon briefing asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas to explain the policy

Inner City Press: in Kosovo, there is a report that UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] is blocking the reconstruction of houses in and around Mitrovica by ethnic Albanians.  This is giving rise to some controversy about, in terms of return of IDPs [internally displaced persons].  Is it UNMIK’s position that you need UNMIK approval to reconstruct the houses and to move back?

Spokesperson Montas:  Well, I can get more information from the Mission for you.  But I don't have that information.

  Inner City Press waited to write the story. The next morning Ban's Spokesperson's Office provided this response, reproduced in full:

"Regarding your question at the noon briefing yesterday, we forwarded it to UNMIK. They said: 'As a principle, UNMIK does not disallow reconstruction of houses in Kosovo.' 

For more details about what is happening on the ground in Kosovo and what UNMIK's positions or actions are, please contact UNMIK directly. They are in the best position to answer your questions. We would be happy to resend you contact information for their spokespeople."

  First, the response provided after a full day's waiting does not even include the admission UNMIK made in the region. Second, the response implies that the policies are made up by UNMIK itself, and are not attributable to Ban's administration in New York, which should explain them.

  The same occurred when Inner City Press asked for Ban's or the UN's position on controversies surrounding reported disappearance of money and documents from the UNMIK-administered Kosovo Trust Fund, on the turn over of powers to EULEX, the inclusion of U.S.-national employees of UNMIK in EULEX, even how many American employees UNMIK has or had, a question which was never answered.

It appears that because this is a controversial issue, Ban's Spokesperson's office is trying to avoid any questions in New York, by referring questions to the field in a way that is not done with other peacekeeping missions. But even this transparent buck-passing (perhaps in two senses) may not guarantee a second term.

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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