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March 1, 2011: Libya

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After UN Admits Belarus Error, France Wants to Condemn Shots at Experts, Partial Stories

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 3 -- Despite the UN having admitted the falsity of its allegation of helicopters from Belarus being brought into Cote d'Ivoire, France on Thursday morning asked Security Council members to agree to a Press Statement condemning shots fired at the UN experts who went to check on the Belarus rumor, Inner City Press has learned.

Given the embarrassment caused by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Monday morning call for a Council meeting on the allegations now admitted to be false, other Council members on Thursday suggested not mentioning the incident at all. But, sources say, France continued to insist.

Meanwhile it is now publicly alleged that the source of the false information was the United States, in communications to the Permanent Five members and to the too-ready office of Ban Ki-moon.

Privately, Team Ban grumbles that maybe the story is traceable back to Russia. The results of the inquiry the UN announced on March 2 should be made public -- we'll see.

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As UN Admits Belarus Copter Mistake in Cote d'Ivoire, Refuses to Answer Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- A day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky declined to admit Ban had made any mistake by alleging that helicopters from Belarus were delivered to Cote d'Ivoire's defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo, the chief of UN Peacekeeping admitted that the allegation had been false, and that he had apologized to Belarus.

On March 1, Inner City Press submitted written questions to Nesirky, then asked

Inner City Press: what do you learn from this? When has Ban Ki-moon in the past issued this type of, yes, “half-baked” might be one word; this is the kind of words that are being thrown around out there. What’s the standard for the Secretary-General to put out a statement such as he did on Monday morning?

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I said, given the seriousness of the matter, and the explanation that I have given, - it may have been long; it was nearly as long as your question – to try to, it was an attempt to try to be clear. That’s why I wanted to give it in some detail. Given the seriousness of the matter, it was decided that this would be raised publicly. And again, the other point with this is that any deployment of attack helicopters would clearly present a serious threat to civilians, to peacekeepers, and so on.

Inner City Press: I am thinking, contrasting it to things, for example in Darfur where the UN is so cautious in terms of, even when things or bombs are falling, they say, “we can’t say”’s perfectly fine that it’s a long answer; I am just wondering, it doesn’t seem to directly address the idea that this was an improper side-taking; that it reflects sort of a lack of judgment. Do you accept that? Is there any re-thinking of the Secretariat’s part that maybe that was a mistake what went out Monday morning?

Nesirky refused to admit any mistake. He also did not even acknowledge receipt of written questions from Inner City Press, including

In a press release issued on Sunday, which was picked up by news services around the world, the SG urgently requested a meeting of the Security Council on Cote d'Ivoire. How many times over the past year has the Secretary-General urgently requested meetings of the Security Council on other matters? Please specify the situations and dates upon which he issued such calls.

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

Who is accountable (and responsible) for the content of the "news stories" that are put out by UN News Service on the webpage called "UN News Center"? Does the UN News Service operate with editorial independence of the Office of the Secretary-General, or do they take instructions from the Secretary-General or his advisers on the content of stories?

Who was responsible (meaning what was the name of the individual who issued the instruction) for removing and then reediting and reissuing a UN News Service story concerning the Secretary-General's claim that Belarus had violated Security Council sanctions by allowing helicopters to be dispatched to Cote d'Ivoire? Yes or no, will the UN admit that the UN News Service received instructions from the Office of the Secretary-General to remove the first story, edit it substantially, and replace it with a second story, without issuing a correction which acknowledged the substantial changes made to the first story?

Subsequent to the SG's accusations against Belarus, Google News has indexed more than a thousand actual news stories which reference the allegations. Is the UN going to request corrections or make a statement saying it no longer stands behind those allegations?

In the revised version of the Belarus-Cote d'Ivoire story posted yesterday afternoon by the UN News Service, the following sentence was added: "On Monday, some media reports identified Belarus as the source of the helicopters and equipment." Please respond to the idea that the UN itself was the source of the allegation that Belarus had violated sanctions by providing helicopters to Cote d'Ivoire?

Not only has Nesirky not answered any of these questions 30 hours later -- he has not even acknowledged receipt of the questions, and he took no questions at the noon briefing. Inner City Press asked Le Roy how the UN would correct the media stories that had been based on the UN's false report, and if the incident would undermine UN claims to impartiality in Cote d'Ivoire. Watch this site.

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Ban's Cote d'Ivoire Copter Claim Disproved, Even to France, Russia Complains

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- The allegation that Cote d'Ivoire's defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo received three attack helicopters from Belarus, made on the morning of February 28 by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has been rejected not only by Russia but even France, Inner City Press learned on March 1.

Outside the Security Council, France's Ambassador Gerard Araud told Inner City Press, “we know there were not flights.”

 Russia's Vitaly Churkin told Inner City Press he has raised objections to senior people in the Secretariat. Shaking his head, he said it's his understanding that a communication from Cote d'Ivoire that “there are no helicopters” was misrepresented as “there are helicopters.”

 The question for and from some is, was it intentional?

 The Brazilian Permanent Representative, president of the Council for February and ongoing chair of the Cote d'Ivoire sanctions committee, told Inner City Press that she had spoken with Belarus' charge d'affaires as early as Saturday night, resulting in a strong denial.

The allegation was that the flights had occurred on February 26 or 27, and the consensus Monday morning was that no such flight happened. So why did Ban Ki-moon do it, and then his Secretariat tried to erase some reports on it? We have asked Ban's spokesperson's office, for today. Watch this site.

Footnote: speaking of consensus, it is predicted including by Russia's Vitaly Churkin that the General Assembly vote to expel Libya from the Human Rights Council, scheduled for Tuesday at 3 pm, will be unanimous, after which Russia (and Egypt, China and Venezuela) should speak. We'll see.

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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.

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.

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

 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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