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UN Won't Disclose Ban's 1 on 1 Meetings This Month, Presidents Beyond Sri Lanka?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 30, 2010 -- While the UN issued summaries of some 100 meetings between countries' leaders and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during this month's General Debate, for between five and ten of these meetings there was an additional one on one session which was not included in the UN's summaries, it has emerged.

  On September 29, Inner City Press asked Ban's adviser Nicholas Haysom why Ban's statements minimizing the mandate of the UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka, about which Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa later bragged, had not been included in the UN's summary of the Sri Lanka meeting, which alone among the 100 summaries included a summary of non-Ban statements.

  Hayson admitted this was “abnormal,” but said that one in ten or one in twenty of Ban's meetings also had a tete a tete (or one on one) segment, not included in the summaries. He said these might involve “staff issues” or other private issues.

For two days now, Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to disclose at least which of Ban's 100 meeting included one on one sessions not included in the summaries, and to either put an asteriskk by these incomplete summaries or expand them to include at least the issues discussed tete a tete.

  Nesirky has for now refused. This is yet another reason the UN needs a Fredom of Information law.

UN's Ban & Rudd- previous "courtesy call" tete a tete not shown

From the UN's September 29 transcript:

Inner City Press: what Mr. Haysom said that apparently 1 in 10 of these bilateral meeting of the Secretary-General during this general debate have been separate tête-à-têtes on seemingly un-summarized portions. I just wanted to know…

Spokesperson Nesirky: This is standard, Matthew. Let’s knock this on the head straight away. First of all, he said 1 in 10 or 1 in 20. And it was a figure he clearly plucked out of the air as a generalization. He wasn’t saying — he didn’t have a spreadsheet in front of him that 1 in 10 or 1 in 20. First thing. Second thing is the very nature of diplomatic discourse is that if you have a tête-à-tête, that’s what it is. You can’t expect then to have a readout of what someone is trying to speak about confidentially. If the other party chooses to do so, that is for them to do and is not for us to judge. That said, the readouts that we provided, and which we tried to provide swiftly and provide in some detail, are to help you in the best way that we possibly can. Clearly you don’t seem to appreciate that.

Inner City Press: No, I guess my question is just that, rather than take his estimate of it, is it possible to get the number of the bilaterals with tête-à-têtes? And shouldn’t you put an asterisk on the ones that are incomplete summaries? It strikes me like, to have a summary that leaves the most important issues out is worse than having no summary, in a way.

Spokesperson: Well, you might want to ask your colleagues how useful or otherwise they believe the readouts have been. That’s the first thing. Second thing is to get involved in that kind of statistics, it really doesn’t work like that. And here is why: because sometimes there will be a meeting that is scheduled to be with delegations and the Secretary-General and the other principal will decide, no; they think that it would be time better spent given that most of these meetings are 20 minutes, 15 minutes — just the two of them, because they have one specific topic that they need to deal with. On other occasions, it can be the other way around. So, it’s not terribly helpful for you or anybody. We try to provide the information that we can in the best possible way. Next question, next question?

Inner City Press: I just want to ask one question actually about Israel in this situation, in which Israel made a representation about a promise they said the Secretary-General had made apparently in a tête-à-tête meeting. The Secretary-General and your Office said that’s not true, we deny that. So, it’s not the case that when Presidents or interlocutors make representations you don’t represent, it just seems like, given the controversy that surrounded the panel, given that the meeting with the panel wasn’t in his schedule, some conclude that he is somehow now ashamed of this panel or won’t include in the summary. Why wouldn’t he include his panel in the summary…?

Spokesperson: Matthew, with respect, with respect, the panel that you are talking about, we have spoken about that openly here. We’ve told you about the fact that they met. I don’t really see what your problem is there. What is your next question?

Inner City Press: I’ll ask this. There is a report…

Spokesperson: And then I might turn to some other people who might have some questions too. In fact I will take a question from someone else first and then I’ll come back to you.

From the UN's September 30 transcript:

Inner City Press: you’d said that there is no need of a spreadsheet of statistics. Having thought much about what Mr. [Nicholas Fink] Haysom said yesterday, which is that some portion — whether 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 — of these bilateral meetings with leaders included an heretofore undisclosed side meeting in which topics as public as the Panel would be discussed, is it possible to know which of the bilaterals involved in tête-à-têtes, not the topic of them, just the fact that…?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Typically, typically, as I said to you, there are different types of meetings. Sometimes a tête-à-tête will, if you like, spontaneously happen at the end of the meeting with the delegations. Sometimes it is pre-programmed, it’s scheduled as precisely that — a tête-à-tête, with no one else unless there is need for an interpreter. And sometimes, it is done at the request of one side or the other. There is nothing unusual or nothing new in this — absolutely nothing unusual or nothing new. What is new, and it doesn’t seem to be appreciated by you, is that we have been providing readouts of every single bilateral meeting, virtually every bilateral meeting that’s been held, the last one of which was held this morning with the Foreign Minister of Guinea.

Inner City Press: It was that Mr. Haysom used the word “abnormal”. I don’t want to belabour it, but he said it was abnormal that the readout of the Sri Lanka public, or open, meeting included a representation of what the President said. So, I’d actually thought since it’s abnormal, and I have looked at the other ones, there is not to my knowledge a single one of the other hundred that has such a representation. I think I would like to at least ask to know, how was that readout prepared? Was it prepared by the same people who prepared the other 99, or was it prepared in some special fashion? Because I think it’s relevant to get, he himself used the word abnormal, not me. So, if it’s abnormal…

Spokesperson: Well, I am the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General. But I am not the Spokesperson for Fink Haysom. He speaks eloquently and on his own account and he also happens to be the Director of the Political Unit. So he has a very good understanding of how readouts are put together. But this is mechanics. I understand your interest, I do. And I also understand your interest in this particular country and subject matter, I do. Why it was done differently, I cannot say right now. If I can find out more, I’ll be very happy to tell you. But don’t simply assume that it’s been done for some particular political reason. It could simply be that that’s the way that that one was done. You don’t have to necessarily read something else into that.

But why not disclose at least which of Ban's 100 meeting included one on one sessions not included in the summaries, and to either put an asterisk by these incomplete summaries or expand them to include at least the issues discussed in the one on one meeting?

  This is yet another reason the UN needs a Fredom of Information law. Watch this site.

At UN, Undisclosed Ban Meetings on 2d Term, Burma Business, Sell Out of Rights?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 29, 2010 -- The accuracy of the UN's 100 readouts of meetings of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with national leaders in the past week was cast into doubt Wednesday when Ban adviser Nicholas Haysom admitted a separate unsummarized meeting between Ban and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Only in the tete a tete meeting did Ban raise the issue of the UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka. This was not included in the purported read out of Ban - Rajapaksa communications.

Inner City Press asked Haysom how many of Ban's bilateral contacts included separate one on one meetings without advisers present. One in ten, Haysom said, or one in twenty.

When Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky took questions, Inner City Press asked for a list of which of the 100 Ban meetings for which Nesirky's office issued read outs had included tete a tete sessions, and for summaries of what issues Ban raised in these sessions. Nesirky refuses to provide this information.

So how is one to know which read outs are incomplete? Perusing the list of Ban's summarized bilateral meetings, some jump out are potentially involving issues not included in the read out:

Afghanistan: since the Afghan National Forces of Hamid Karzai murdered UN staff member Louis Maxwell, but Afghanistan has failed to conduct the investigation ostensibly called for the UN board of inquiry belatedly established after cell phone footage leaked, could this issue have been raised?

Sudan: Ban's envoy in Darfur Ibrahim Gambari has until now allowed the government to deny permission for peacekeepers to leave their bases to protect civilians. Ban told Inner City Press at a stakeout that he would work on this, but has said little publicly since. Was this discussed in any tete a tete meeting with Sudanese vice president Ali Osman Taha?

UN's Ban & Goodluck Jonathan, Ban secret meeting not shown

DPRK or North Korea: Ban while South Korean minister of foreign affairs and trade had many dealings with North Korea, regarding which his closest spokesperson has refused to make disclosure.

Uzbekistan: Ban publicly praised strongman Islam Karimov, even as he forced people back across the border into Kyrgyzstan, while locking up others. Might Ban have belated raised this issue, or the incarceration of anti-AIDS activist Maxim Popov for distributing a UN system funded pamphlet, in a tete a tete meeting?

Myanmar: when he was South Korean minister of foreign affairs and trade, Ban praised a Daewoo pipeline across Burma as a “win - win situation.” Inner City Press has asked Ban's Office if he still has this view of standardless investment in the military regime, but has gotten no answer. Could this have been discussed in a tete a tete meeting?

Those five track Haysom's “one in twenty” of 100 bilaterals. Under his “one in ten” formula, on which Nesirky refused to provide any further information, Ban could have had tete a tete's with each of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, any one of which could veto a second term by Ban, as the U.S. did to Boutros Ghali...

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UN Ban Confined Mention His Sri Lanka War Crimes Panel to Secret Unsummarized "Tete a Tete" Meeting with Rajapaksa

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 29, 2010 -- Five days after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa met and then issued different summaries of their meeting, Inner City Press asked Ban adviser Nicholas Hayson to explain the discrepancy.

Haysom admitted that after the “open” meeting between the two men, which included advisers including Haysom, there was a “tete a tete” meeting, one on one, which the UN did not include in its purported summary of the meeting(s).

Inner City Press asked how many of Ban's bilateral meetings include separate one on one discussions. One in ten, Haysom estimated. Inner City Press asked, why not include the contents or at least topics of these rare addendum to meetings in the UN's summaries? Haysom defended the omissions, saying that these tete a tete meetings often included “staff issues” or other private issues.

While Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky pointedly cut off follow up questions, it is amazing that the UN would now claim that the issue, even the name, of its panel on accountability in Sri Lanka is a private or secret issue.

The "open" meeting

And if it is so secret, why allow Rajapaksa to publicly make representations about the “private” portion of the meeting, and then have no response? Inner City Press wrote about the discrepancy over the weekend, and asked about it on Monday, September 27. Nesirky declined to comment on what the President said, despite the fact that it calls into question the completeness and even accuracy of the other summaries his Office has issued -- or at least one tenth of them. Watch this site.

 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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