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UN's Ban Called Daewoo's Myanmar Pipeline a "Win Win," Silence on Elections

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 -- In the run up to Myanmar's military tilted elections, the UN has had very little to say. Now Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar is traveling to Singapore and China, although what he is trying to accomplish is not clear.

  Not only since taking over from Ibrahim Gambari as the UN's envoy on Myanmar, but ever since becoming chief of staff, Mr. Nambiar has yet to hold any on the record press conference.

And so at the UN's June 9 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: You mentioned Mr. Nambiar as being in Singapore, on a good offices mandate of Myanmar. There is a project there that is of some concern to both the opposition and human rights groups. It’s a Daewoo pipeline, and it’s one that the Secretary-General, when he was the Foreign Minister of [the Republic of] Korea, called a win-win solution for Korea and India. Opposition figures also say that UN officials have met with Daewoo about that project in the military-ran country of Myanmar. I’m wondering, does the Secretary-General — I’m now assuming you can’t say necessarily from the podium — but can you check and see whether the Secretary-General still holds the belief that that pipeline is a win-win solution, and whether the various holders of the good offices mandate, [Ibrahim] Gambari and now Mr. Nambiar, have ever met with Daewoo about the project?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: I also need to check, I don’t have any information about Daewoo.

Inner City Press: Okay, if you can check, that would be great.

Associate Spokesperson: I certainly will.

But more than two days later, there has been no answer.

UN's Ban and Myanmar's FM (Win) Nyan Win: Daewoo win win not shown

  In fact, Mr. Haq tried to not take more questions on June 9. Inner City Press said that it has been even less likely to receive answers when questions are submitted in writing to the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General. Haq said that the Office provides answer when it get them. But is it trying? Watch this site.

Footnote: Here from the end of the UN's June 9 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: And you heard the head of UNAIDS saying that he’d asked, or had hoped… well, you heard it. I won’t mischaracterize it. Did the Secretary-General raise the issue of Maxim Popov, a UN, essentially, funded AIDS activist who has been sentenced to 7 years while he was in Uzbekistan, and what response did he obtain?

Associate Spokesperson: I’ll check with the people who are part of his traveling delegation. I am not aware that that name came up, but certainly we can check. And with that, I bid you a…

Inner City Press: [inaudible] go ahead.

Associate Spokesperson: At this stage, this more a dialogue, anyway, so, we can sort this out than…

Inner City Press: [inaudible] where I never got a written answer. Even, for example, on The Three Idiots. I was never sent an answer. So, I’d rather ask the question here…

Associate Spokesperson: I believe you were sent an answer on this about a day or two ago.

Inner City Press: Yeah, but I put it in 28 May. Here is my question, about Burundi, since he was in Burundi.

Associate Spokesperson: Once we had an answer we gave it to you. As soon as we had it.

Inner City Press: Since he was in Burundi, did he have anything to say about the fact that the upcoming election will have only one presidential candidate, since the opposition has dropped out? I’ve read the speeches, but I haven’t seen… I’ve seen mostly praise. But most people say that democracy has fallen apart, there is only one candidate. Is that acceptable?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, first of all, he’s still in Burundi right now. He will talk to the press whilst there. And he is talking with President Nkurunziza, as I said at the start. So, let’s see what he has to say at the end of the day.

Yeah, on a lack of democracy in Burundi and Myanmar, let's see...

* * *

As Uganda Invites Bashir, Indicted by ICC, It Cites Ahmadinejad, and Mugabe, Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 -- "We have an obligation," Ugandan Ambassador Rugunda told Inner City Press on June 8, "as African Union members, and hosting the AU. President Bashir has been invited by Uganda."

  But what about his indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, Inner City Press asked, of which Uganda is a member? Won't Uganda has a duty to seek to arrest Bashir?

"That would be like President Obama arresting Ahmadinejad when he comes to address the General Assembly," Ambassador Rugunda said.

  One of his aides added that Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe had attended a European Union - AU summit, over the objections of "the Europeans," because he is a member of the AU.

  But Bashir has been indicted by the ICC, Inner City Press pointed out.

"We are asking for a deferment," Ambassador Rugunda answered. "We believe these interactions," he said, are useful "for ultimate peace."

When Bashir was inaugurated after his election amid deaths and threats against observers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set to the ceremony both of his top advisers in Sudan, Ibrahim Gambari and Haile Menkerios.

UN's Ban arriving in Uganda, Bashir not yet show, follows

When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman how this didn't undermine respect for the war crimes indictments of the ICC, the response was that attending the ceremony was somehow necessary to the UN's work, to staying in the country.

Meanwhile, Ban while in Kampala for the recent ICC conference on the crime of aggression was publicly quoted as urging African leaders to cooperate with the ICC. While he was quoted urging them to convince Bashir to turn himself in to the ICC in The Hague, the UN has since denied Ban said that. Still, sending Menkerios was a signal to Uganda and others that dealing with Bashir, indicted for war crimes, is okay.

On June 11, ICC prosecutor Ocampo should be asked for his view of Uganda's stance. Meanwhile Sudan's Ambassador to the UN is presenting a book, that the ICC is Guantanamo Bay for African leaders. Ocampo should be asked about this as well. Watch this site.

* * *

Somali Diaspora Questions UN's Move, from Twin Cities to West Bank

By Matthew Russell Lee

WEST BANK, June 10 -- People with no assurance of ever returning home follow politics more closely than those who've never left. Hassan, a Somali living in the Minneapolis neighborhood called the West Bank -- of the Mississippi River -- asked bitterly why the United Nations sent Ahmedou Ould Abdallah and now "the Tanzanian" Augustine Mahiga, as envoy to his homeland. "Who not a Somali?" Hassan asked Inner City Press on June 10. "Are we not good enough?"

Hassan works at Safari Express, an East African take out restaurant, in the Midtown Global Market in south Minneapolis. Over a plate of chicken suqqar, he recounted to Inner City Press how the civil war in his country makes it impossible to return. Some, he said, return only to fight, usually for Al Shaabab, "The Youth."

Outside in the Chicago and Lake neighborhood, women in veils walk in front of liquor stores and half abandoned buildings. The Ugbaad Cafe is closed and boarded up, across the street from one of Minneapolis' Peavy Parks. Two blocks further south, traversed on one of Minneapolis' bikes to rent and share, nurses are picketing Children's Hospital.

"Is that a rental bike?" a Somali calls out to Inner City Press. Yes it is. From 11th and Marquette out to 30th and Lake is less than 20 minutes. The same to the West Bank and Riverside.

  It is June in Minneapolis and aging rock bands play for free. There is a statue for Mary Tyler Moore. Make it, Mary Tyler Moore in Mogadishu. "Don't go there," Hassan advises Inner City Press. "They kidnap you for money."

Ruins in Somalia, West Bank (of Minneapolis) not shown

In fact, Inner City Press traveled with the UN Security Council and Ould Abdallah to Djibouti in 2008. Ministers of the Transitional Federal Government, some from Minnesota, stayed in the expensive Kempinsky Hotel and assigned themselves positions.

  Now they control four square blocks in Mogadishu. The view of them from Riverside, from Minneapolis Somalis, is less than positive. "We need our country back," Hassan said over chicken. Then he smiled and went back behind the counter.

  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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