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March 1, 2011: Libya

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UN Stonewalls on Abyei & Sudan Army, Somalia Mercenaries, Sanctions & Layoffs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 11 -- Amid complaints about the UN again dumping feces by rivers in Haiti, funding mercenaries in Somalia and being soft on the Sudanese Armed Forces, the UN in New York has simply stopped answering questions.

  A day after Inner City Press reported that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky plans not to return to the UN until September 17, while his deputy Farhan Haq canvassed select reporters to justify curtailing even his ten minute noon briefings, virtually none of the questions asked at Thursday's noon briefing were answered by the UN on August 10.

  After the SPLM complained that soldiers from Khartoum remain in control of contested Abyei, despite the UN force of Ethiopian troops being there, Inner City Press asked Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci when the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is paying for and ostensibly overseeing UNISFA, thinks the Sudan Armed Forces are supposed to leave. The question was not answered.

  Inner City Press asked about a media report that in Darfur a local staff member of the UN WFP was killed. Thursday afternoon, the Office of the Spokesperson read out over its squawk system that no staffer was killed. Inner City Press e-mailed Maestracci, Nesirky and Haq, as well as WFP, with the media report, saying that Ahmaday Mohammad Omar, an employee of the World Food Program, was killed by an armed group in West Darfur on Tuesday. His wife and child were also killed in the incident."

  WFP's spokesperson in New York replied that "Security tells WFP that no WFP staff member was shot dead in Darfur today."

  Since August 11 is Thursday, the answer is not complete. Inner City Press send a follow up email to WFP, Maestracci, Nesirky and Haq: "does WFP have an employee named Ahmaday Mohammad Omar? If so, is the individual alive? If not alive, how and when did he die?"

  But by deadline, no response was received.

  Since Ban Ki-moon was described in the Korean press as saying that it is "too soon" to remove UN sanctions on North Korea, Inner City Press asked Maestracci what Ban thought of the move by the US and others to impose more sanctions on Eritrea, in the midst of famine in the Horn of Africa. Maestracci genially said she doubted there would be an answer.

But why would Ban comment on Korean sanctions but not Eritrean? Or Libya? Because he is in South Korea, Maestracci said. Some wonder: or is it because Ban is Korean? If he traveled to Eritrea, or Libya, would he there talk about sanctions on those countries?

Inner City Press asked about reports of mercenaries in Somalia "funded by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department, Bancroft Global Development has provided training in a range of military services, from bomb disposal and sniper training" and was told an answer would be forthcoming. Five hours later, none was.

Ban & team (Kim, Pascoe, Haq), lead spox & answers not shown

  Even questions about the UN's own actions in its headquarters in New York were not answered. Citing the lack of a boom microphone at the Security Council stakeouts on August 10 about Somalia and Syria which lead transcripts of stakeouts including by Ambassador Susan Rice by the US Mission to the UN to list most journalists' questions as "inaudible," Inner City Press asked about the UN's giving layoff notices to seven more broadcast engineers, on top of 17 positions already eliminated.

  Maestracci said she wouldn't necessarily connect layoffs to the lack of a boom microphone, but said she would look into both. But by deadline, no answer at all had been received.

  With questions pending about Sudan soldiers still in Abyei, UN peacekeepers dumping feces in Haiti, layoffs and what some see as double standards by Ban Ki-moon, how can the UN stonewall and even try to cancel its 10 minute noon briefings? Watch this site.

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UN Dodges Press on Crackdowns in Sudan, Seeks To Cancel Noon Briefings, Spokesman Out for 40 Days?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visit to Korea greeted by artillery fire from the North, there are few answers from Ban's spokespeople in New York.

  They had no comment on crackdowns on the press in Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire, nor on protests of the UN in Nepal and even just across First Avenue by Haitians demanding reparations for the introduction of cholera.

   Even why Ban gave out the post of "Commissioner-General of the UN" to Samuel Koo in South Korea did not get an answer, twenty hours after it was asked at Tuesday's noon briefing.

  Nor, despite two requests from Inner City Press, has the UN been able to provide any information about Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro's month-long "official travel" in Tanzania.

  Now comes word that Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky is taking even more time off, reportedly from now until September 17. During this unheard of absence by a lead spokesman, Nesirky's acting deputy Farhan Haq is "canvassing" select reporters in order to say that they don't actually want the UN to hold noon briefings, despite events ranging from Syria to Yemen to Somalia and Sudan.

   Even though Haq runs "his" briefing in such a way that it takes less than ten minutes a day -- by limiting the Press to three questions, most of which are not answered -- even this is apparently too much, despite there being other people in the UN Office of the Spokesperson.

Haq at briefing on Haiti, responses to protests & Qs & crackdowns not shown

  Forget whether or not the UN will comment on crackdowns in Cote d'Ivoire or Bahrain: as an organization that has over 100,000 armed personnel out in the field, is it too much that they should stand and take questions for ten minutes a day, five days a week?

  Especially when, as of today, the UN has in place no chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as Alain Le Roy leaves as long ago announced, and the next Frenchman -- Jerome Bonnafont, Inner City Press reported six weeks ago -- is not in place, not even interviewed? We'll see.

Update: some Missions and Permanent Representative of the UN, even among the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, somewhat surprisinly watch the UN noon briefing on UN TV, and some have expressed surprise at the length of leave and move to shut off even the short televised briefings. But are the member states being canvassed? Who is being canvassed?  Watch this site.

Update: Haq later told Inner City Press, about the post given to Samuel Koo, that it concerns UNEP (though the post was reportedly given by Ban Ki-moon) and to "ask Martin [Nesirky] who is traveling with the Secretary General" in South Korea. Inner City Press has copied Nesirky on emails of subsequent questions, but so far, no answers.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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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