UN's Ban Prepares for a "No" from Obama, Dialogue Except in
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
February 10 -- When Ban Ki-moon
returned to New York from Gaza earlier this year, he said he'd lost his
This month when he came back from travels he briefed the Security
then the press. Fourteen media questions were allowed. Gaza and the
indictment of Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir came up again and again,
Congo and Somalia, for example, were not asked about. (Inner City Press
failure to call for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.)
veer from the questions to unilaterally clarify something, and this
invitation for Barack Obama to visit the UN on climate change in
Ban said he would understand if Obama is busy, he is "just settling
in," Ban said. To many, it sounded defensive and craven, as if saying
advance, "if I get dissed, it is no loss of face."
conference's first question was about Obama and Iran: has Ban told
start peace dialogue now? Apparently not. Ban was seen Monday night at
celebration in the UN's Delegates' Dining Room of the 30th Anniversary
Islamic Revolution. Tuesday he said that all problems should be
dialogue and not military force -- a principle he did not apply,
was asked if the foreseen rightward shift after Israel's elections will
peace more difficult. A supporter of Hezbollah, interviewed by Inner
at the Iranian celebration, said he hoped "Bibi or the further right
guy wins," apparently in order to bring the Apocalypse on more quickly.
asked about the Gaza crossing, then about Myanmar. A UN staffer who
the issue later told Inner City Press that Ban's envoy Ibrahim
visit was a success, even though Senior General Than Shwe didn't deign
with him. "Where is the leverage?" the staffer asked.
called his meeting with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe a success. He was
this, and said that Mugabe is happy to work with UNICEF and the World
Organization, and that the UN's Catherine Bragg will soon visit the
UN's Ban and Robert Mugabe, no call for ceasefire in Sri Lanka called
question concerned the so-called Hariri tribunal, investigating the
assassination five years ago. The timeline calls into question what the
Bhutto panel can do. Ban said he will be sending his top lawyer,
O'Brien, to The Hague for the formal opening of the tribunal.
asked if he listens to Obama's speeches, and in response he read out
statement reducing expectations for his mini-climate summit in March. He was asked, in French, about Libya and the
financial crisis. Ban's answer, also in French and leading to applause,
contained references to "son leadership" and "mon
asked about the Hariri tribunal, can justice be expected. Would Ban
Sudan's al-Bashir if he gets indicted? The question was not answered;
seek Ms. O'Brien's advice. But clearly the scenario's been thought
what is the answer?
asked about Pakistan and about Kashmir, in response to which he said
problems should be solved by dialogue and not military force. Then Inner City
Press asked why this doesn't apply to Sri Lanka. "Because Sri Lanka
on the Security Council's agenda," Ban replied. This interpretation of
UN Charter was openly rejected, later in the day, by the president of
Council, Japan's Yukio Takasu. Video here.
asked about the Gaza inquiry, and whether Israel should pay for damage
UNRWA. The final question was whether Ban would support suspending the
International Criminal Court's process against al-Bashir. Ban appeared
if Sudan implements the type of legal proceedings the ICC requires. But
country put its own sitting head of state on trial?
record, the Somalia question if allowed would have been that last
the UN's top envoy for Somalia, Amedou Ould Abdallah said that the
not have reported on an incident in which African Union troops fired
crowd in Mogadishu, killing between 25 (according to Bloomberg News)
(according to local sources). He said there should be a moratorium on
from Somalia, and compared those who did report to the Mille Colline
station which stoked genocide in Rwanda. The UN Secretariat has
asked to respond to the comments, but so far there's been no
retraction. What is your position?
put to the Committee to Protect Journalists' Joel Simon earlier on
Tuesday by Inner City Press, and
he expressed concern, mostly at the Rwanda analogy. Video here.
But what about
the UN calling for censorship?
Footnote: The US
Mission to the UN, moving en masse
to a meeting of the so-called Friends of Georgia on the UN's second
could or would not yet speak for Obama. Surprise was expressed that
Clinton didn't immediately appoint her personal spokesman to the same
the State Department. The talk is of the new Mission spokeman, Mark
now set to begin on February 23. And when, as seemed to be Ban's focus
Tuesday, will Obama decide when he's coming to the UN? Watch this site.
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
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
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for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
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