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With Ban's Cote d'Ivoire Copter Claim Rejected, Diplomats Complain

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 28 -- In accusing Belarus of sending three attack helicopters to Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d'Ivoire, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a mistake, several Security Council Ambassadors told Inner City Press on Monday night.

I don't know where Ban gets this stuff,” one Ambassador told Inner City Press at the End of Council Presidency reception at the Brazilian Permanent Representative's residence on 79th Strreet in Manhattan.

He better have the facts before he accuses a member states,” another said. Ban had called for an emergency Council meeting, which was denied. The Sanctions Committee met, and concluded that evidence did not exist.

Ban's UN News Service took down and changed its story; a publication of Ban's remarks to the Holocaust Museum in Washington Monday afternoon was also taken down. In Cote d'Ivoire itself, a document described as UN orders to shoot at civilians was circulated. It is all breaking down for Ban, a third Ambassador said, shaking his head.

The joke at the reception was that a no fly zone over Libya should be enforced by Ban's “imaginary” helicopters from Belarus.

Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if the Ukrainian helicopters that the Security Council ordered in December, on Ban's urgent request, had yet arrived. He said he would check and get back, but nine hours later there was no answer.

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

From the UN's noon briefing transcript of Monday

Question: Martin, is there anything further you can tell us about the substantiation of the reports of attack helicopters from Belarus going into Côte d'Ivoire, and where is the source of information? What source of information did the Secretary-General rely upon to put out the statement that he did on his concern about that?

Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that the Group of Experts established by the Security Council to monitor the arms embargo against Côte d'Ivoire reported that it had received information that three attack helicopters and related equipment were going to be delivered to the forces loyal to Mr. [Laurent] Gbagbo. That’s what I can tell you on that. Yeah?

Question: Well, just to follow up: Did he express, by the nature of the information, was this intelligence from other Governments…?

Spokesperson: I don’t think I am in a position to give you further details on that particular aspect of it. But what I can tell you is that a team made up of members of this Group of Experts and a UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire] officer from the UN Mission’s Embargo Cell travelled to the airport that we have been talking about, but was unable to verify the information and indeed was forced to withdraw. And despite the severe restrictions on the Mission's freedom of movement, the Mission continues to monitor activities at the airport in order to verify these reports.

Question: Just one more thing, if you will. Do we know that it’s only some of the parts put together of these helicopters have arrived, or all the components have arrived? The process — what do we know of what sort of stage it is in?

Spokesperson: Well, at the moment as I say, the Mission is continuing to monitor activities at the airport in order to verify these reports. And as I have said, the Group of Experts, which was established by the Security Council to monitor this embargo, had reported that it had received information that these three attack helicopters and related equipment were going to be delivered. So that is where we are at the moment. So, further questions. Yes, Masood? And them I’ll come to… Matthew, is this a follow-up on this topic?

Inner City Press: One quick follow-up, yeah. I just wanted to know… there are these reports of the UNOCI peacekeepers saying that they were forced to return fire… I guess I just wanted to know what is the status of that reported fighting between supporters of Gbagbo and UNOCI, what the rule… some would question, I guess, what can you say about that? It seems like a big development.

Spokesperson: There have been a number of developments as you know, in recent days, simply because there has been a turn in the nature of the fighting on the ground, as you will have seen and heard. The Secretary-General has made clear his concern about the threats that have been made again and repeatedly to Mission members who are carrying out a Security Council-mandated role in Côte d'Ivoire. And there have been incidents, including where police, UN police or peacekeepers have been forced to fire into the air. If we have more details on that, then I would be able to let you know.

Inner City Press: And are those helicopters — those Ukrainian, I guess they are Ukrainian — helicopters from UNMIL [United Nations Mission in Liberia], have they now arrived, the ones that were supposed to support UNOCI?

Spokesperson: Let me check, let me check on that. I think there was some movement, but let me check.

Nine hours later, there were no answers, only complaints against Ban by Security Council member diplomats. Watch this site.

* * *

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.

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.

 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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