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UAE Lent UN's Ban a Private Jet, Now Disclosed, No Comment on Web Censorship

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- The United Arab Emirates provided UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with a private jet this week, Ban's office belated disclosed on Thursday after Inner City Press had three times asked for disclosure. The UN Spokesperson sent this to Inner City Press

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Subject: Your questions
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]
Date: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM

On aircraft, in case you did not see the noon briefing:

- The UAE Government provided an aircraft to fly the Secretary-General from Beirut to Abu Dhabi because of time constraints.

- National governments have provided similar assistance in the past to this Secretary-General and to his predecessors.

- As you well know, most of the Secretary-General's official travel is on commercial flights or peacekeeping aircraft.

On SOPA/PIPA: This is a national legislative matter. We don't have a comment.

On Yemen elections: You will have seen there are also reports that the Foreign Minister has said the elections are on track. We continue to watch this closely.

  These last two answers are internally inconsistent: Ban will not comment on "national legislative matters" in the United States, even when they implicate censorship of the Internet -- but the UN has commented on "national legislation" in Yemen, albeit belatedly.

   When Ban Ki-moon spoke with Yemen strongman Ali Saleh on November 23, Inner City Press asked him if he had raised to Saleh his push for the immunity he is now in the process of obtaining. Ban replied that "I have not discussed in detail on that matter." If he opposed amnesties, that was the time to say it. Because now the law is passing, with full immunity for Saleh, and "political" immunity for his allies.

  While minimizing the possible conflict of interest in accepting private jets and other assistance from member states, Ban and his office have yet to explain how they decide when and from whom to accept assistance. Would they take a plane from Syria's Bashar al Assad?

Sources close to Ban Ki-moon talk about Saudi assistance to a length trip by Ban and his entourage. Does that make it more difficult for Ban to criticize the lack of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, or its crackdown on protesters and opponents?

  During the UAE blogger prosecution, when Inner City Press asked for any UN or Ban comment, none was given. Could this free plane represent a conflict of interest?

(c) UN Photo
Ban and UAE FM, free plane (and comment on blogger prosecution) not shown

In the past, at least one member state provided air transport -- then sent the UN a bill. Has Ban offered to reimburse the UAE? Should he? We'll have more on this.

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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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