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As Libya Bans a Lebanese UN Staffer, UN's Ban Says Nothing, Vanished Imam, Sources Say

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 25 -- At the UN, often it is the questions not answered, and the protests not made, that are the real story. On Thursday morning after answering Inner City Press' questions about Myanmar, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked to comment, "One of your bodyguards was denied a visa because he is Lebanese. What's your comment?"

    While Ban answered that "I did enough yesterday. As you know I am leaving for Sirte, Libya," Inner City Press has looked into the issue. The raiser states that in the run up to the Arab Summit in Sirte, Ban's office provide the Libyan mission to the UN with a list of his entourage, and ran into a problem.

One of Ban's bodyguard, the raiser says, is Mohammed Abdul-Hussein of Lebanon. Libya and its Leader have problems not only with Switzerland -- for the arrest of Gadafi's son for abusing his employees -- but also with Lebanon, on the matter of the Vanished Imam.

  The Libyan mission, the raiser says, told Ban's office that Mohammed Abdul-Hussein of Lebanon was "persona non grata." Rather than protest this, Ban or his office accepted, and submitted a list without Mohammed Abdul-Hussein, which was accepted.

UN's Ban on a previous, sUNnier trip to Sirte

  The raiser says a member of the Office of Ban Ki-moon's spokesman told him clearly that Ban knew of the issue, but let it go and decided, if he'd say anything, to say it after the trip to and from Sirte -- this was later denied.

  But inevitably the failure to protest would be contrasted to Ban's protest of blockage of a journalist from one of his traveling parties. Is the difference class, nationality or religion, the raiser asked Inner City Press? Watch this site.

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UN Official Ali Treki Is on EU Travel Ban List of Libyans, UN Sources Tell Inner City Press, Swiss Silence

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 22, twice updated -- As Libya moved to deny visas to citizens of 25 European countries due what it calls their ban on travel by 180 prominent Libyans, at the UN Inner City Press has been told that the Libyan President of the General Assembly, Ali Treki, is on the travel ban list.

  One member of Treki's office at the UN said he is on the list, and that it why in his trans Atlantic trip he visited only the UK, which is not a part of the EU's Schengen passport agreement. Another member claimed that, despite the list, Switzerland had provided assurance that Treki could visit Geneva, since he is president of the UN General Assembly.

  Swiss diplomats at the UN have been untransparent. The mission's spokesman forwarded Inner City Press' request for confirmation or denial to two officials in Geneva, saying he is on the way to Burundi. One of these officials has an "out of office" auto-responder on; the other has not replied. Nor has Ambassador Peter Maurer, chairman of the GA's budget committee under Treki's presidency.

Ali Treki with Belgian president of Geneva-based HRC: could Treki travel there?

  All of Inner City Press' inquiries said the questions were on deadline, and Inner City Press has waited more than 48 hours.

Update: this (non) response can in from Switzerland:

Subject: RE: Press Q on deadline: is Ali Treki on Swiss list banning travel? Pls answer asap, thanks
From: Sollberger Adrian EDA SYI
To: Inner City Press
Date: Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 3:44 AM

Dear Mr Lee - Switzerland is pursueing a restrictive visa-policy towards Libya. We cannot give you any further information on this subject.

Sorry, kind regards
Adrian Sollberger
Mediensprecher, Stv. Chef Information

  The dispute began when Switzerland arrest Libyan leader Gaddafi's son, for abusing his employees. Libya retaliated by locked up to Swiss businessmen. Switzerland prepared, Libya says, a list of Libyans to be barred from travel from all 25 members of the Schengen agreement. Italy has asked Switzerland to reconsider.

  Can a UN member state like Switzerland put the president of the UN general assembly on a travel ban list? Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press' sources describe tensions between Treki and Libya's Mission to the UN, which hired and controls many of the members of Treki's staff. There are a number of festering problems in the PGAs office on which Inner City Press is showing restraint before reporting. For now, a simple update: long time UN Security officer Ralph Hering remains on suspension for a visit to the PGA's office -- and Treki's daughter employed there -- by a KFC Colonel Sanders impersonator....

Update: after publishing the story above, at the February 22 UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked GA spokesman Jean Victor Nkolo about it:

Inner City Press: Libya has announced that citizens of up to 25 countries in Europe can’t travel to Libya. I know usually you say that’s matter of Libya, not Dr. Treki. But I wanted to know, there are various reports saying that Ali Treki is on a list produced by Switzerland of 180 Libyan officials that cannot travel not only to Switzerland, but to all signatories of the Schengen Agreement… to, that’s 25 countries. Someone has said that there is an exception for him travelling to Geneva, since there is a UN office there. Can you confirm or deny if Dr. Treki is on this Swiss list? And…

Spokesperson Nkolo: Either way, I cannot. I cannot comment simply because I haven’t seen that list, if there is a list. I just haven’t seen it.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] and made inquiries, and so, that’s why I’m asking you just to find out. I mean, I think an inquiry has been made by your office to the Swiss about travelling to Geneva. And so, it seems to me like, maybe he can say something about whether… do you believe he shouldn’t be on the list, and if so, why not?

Spokesperson: I think that we can comment when it is about the President of the General Assembly. It happens to be that President Treki, for this year, for the sixty-fourth session, is the President of the General Assembly. But, when it is a matter between a Member State, in this case, Switzerland, and another Member State, in this case, Libya, I think it should be safer to check, to have an authoritative response from either or both Permanent Missions of both these countries.

Inner City Press: I’m only asking because it’s about him personally, and it’s hard to distinguish if it’s about Ali Treki the person, it’s hard to distinguish whether it is in his capacity as a former Libyan diplomat or as President of the GA. So, I’m assuming, do you only speak for him in one… I mean, I’m not asking you to opine about Libya. It’s more, is he on the Swiss list and is there a way to find that out?

Spokesperson: Since I haven’t seen the list, it is very difficult to make that assessment and to know the basis upon which I may be commenting. I haven’t seen the list. I don’t know where this list is, if there is a list. So, if we see a list, and if we have that confirmation either way, then we’ll be able to comment.

Inner City Press: In fact that’s why I [inaudible]. Do you believe that…? I mean this will be… Can he travel to France of Germany today? Is that your understanding?

Spokesperson: I do not want to answer hypothetical questions.

Question: I’d like… Just to follow up.

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: Did you, obviously, like Matthew said, send an inquiry to the Swiss Mission asking them whether Mr. Treki can travel? Is this true? Did you send an inquiry?

Spokesperson: I cannot confirm any official démarche from our Office to make that kind of inquiry.

Question: So, [inaudible]

Spokesperson: I do not have any official démarche that is on the record from our Office making such an inquiry.

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: Since you also that you haven’t seen the list and you’re saying you would not like to comment and you are also saying that you would not like to answer on the question whether this requirement means that he is on the list or not. So, I am asking you now, do you know whether Mr. Treki, the President of the General Assembly, is on the list or can or not travel to those countries?

Spokesperson: First, I do not like you to say what I have said. What I am saying…

Correspondent: That’s what I understood.

Spokesperson: Very good. So, I am going to make myself clearer, if I may. What I am saying is that I haven’t seen the list. I don’t think we have that list in the Office, because I see everything that we have in the Office. I haven’t seen the list. I can, therefore, not make a speculative comment on a list that I haven’t seen, because the list, if it is out there, will enlighten us on the basis of which a name is on the list or not. So, not having seen the list, it will be for me very speculative to comment on a list I haven’t seen and that I cannot confirm one way or another.

Question: But you do not have knowledge of whether or not he is with such a ban, or without a ban?

Spokesperson: I absolutely don’t have that knowledge, whether he is on the list or not. I have been trying to find out myself, but it is not my own authority to find out. And I think we haven’t seen the list, I haven’t seen it. That’s why we cannot comment further. And I do not think that this question, for the time being, somehow infringes the travel of President Treki as the President of the General Assembly.

 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.

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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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