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At UN on Cote d'Ivoire, Buzz of Martyrdom, Arms Embargo Violations, Duekoue Fog

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 7 -- The talk at the UN about Cote d'Ivoire on Thursday was confused, ranging from predictions of Laurent Gbagbo's impending martyrdom to a few belated hopes, of continued support from Angola and even a Permanent Five member of the Security Council, dissatisfaction by South Africa which was said to be sending 100 special forces troops.

  At a Russian Mission to the UN space event Thursday afternoon, Inner City Press spoke with a dozen Ambassadors about Cote d'Ivoire. Some were most concerned with their own diplomats still trapped in Abidjan. Others spoke of reports of arms shipments to Gbagbo to airports outside of Abidjan.

  At the day's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky for the UN's response to the Canard Enchaine article reporting that France armed Ouattara's forces, who were allowed to sell gold and buy weapons in violation of the embargo.

  The article also describes helicopters of the UN or Force Licorne blowing up a supermarket in Cocody.

  Nesirky refused to answer about violations of the arms embargo, and of Cocody said that the UN was defending itself and taking out heavy weapons. But who gave Ouattara his brand new heavy weapons?

  Inner City Press asked top UN humanitarian Valerie Amos, fresh back from Duekoue, to respond to criticism of the UN peacekeepers for not moving to protect civilians there, and to Ouattara envoy Yousoufou Bamba's characterization of the NGO Caritas as “pro-Gbagbo” for alleging 1000 dead.

  Strikingly, Amos told Inner City Press to ask Caritas about its numbers. But what about the attack on this NGO as being biased pro-Gbagbo? Amos would only say that the UN works with Caritas - she would not criticize, apparently, anything on the Ouattara side, including broadsides against humanitarian NGOs.

  Previously, Amos had told Inner City Press she hadn't heard about the lack of medicine in Abidjan due to the EU sanctions that led to no ships in the port.

  While she spoke Thursday about the independence of humanitarian work, for the UN right now, at least in Cote d'Ivoire, it all seems to move in lockstep. The unanswered questions is not if but now badly this will impact the UN's credibility going forward. Watch this site.

  From the UN's April 7 transcript:

Inner City Press: On Côte d'Ivoire, there was obviously, there is this incident of the French freeing the Japanese ambassador; I am wondering if you have, if the UN played any role in that.  And also that the Canard Enchaîné has come out with a report saying, among other things, that the helicopter attacks — it doesn’t say whether it was UN or French — blew up a supermarket in Cocody and that, essentially implying that France has been arming the [Alassane] Ouattara forces in violation of the arms embargo for some years.  And I wanted to know what the UN’s response is to that pretty detailed article.

Spokesperson Nesirky:  On the first, the operations that have been going on to help evacuate diplomats and other civilians are obviously coordinated.  As I mentioned to you, UN Mission staff peacekeepers went to the Novotel hotel, where journalists have staying and they had requested assistance.  So, obviously it is coordinated; and either Licorne — the French forces — or UN peacekeepers are carrying out missions; it depends on the location and a number other factors.  On the reports that you referred to, I would simply say that the operation that has been carried out was specifically aimed at preventing the use of heavy weapons and that’s what took place.  So, what’s your next question?

Inner City Press: I have just one follow-up on that.  Does the UN have any knowledge of France providing weapons to the pro-Ouattara forces?

Spokesperson Nesirky:  I have said what I have to say, Matthew

* * *

Amid Cote d'Ivoire Carnage UN, Diplomats & France Focus on & Free Japan's Ambassador, Ban to DC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 7 -- During heavy fighting in Abidjan on April 6 when Inner City Press at the UN asked the Deputy Permanent Representative of a Security Council member about military action in Abidjan, his first response was about the plight of single fellow diplomat, Japan's Ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire, Yoshifumi Okamura.

  Everything else is “philosophical,” the DPR chided Inner City Press, calling the plight of the Japanese ambassador the most pressing problem.

  Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the UN not accessing the Japanese embassy, and that of the Vatican, on the UN noon briefing on April 6. Nesirky had, or at least provided, no answers at or after the briefing.

  Hours later, after Alassane Ouattara's Permanent Representative Yousoufou Bamba told Inner City Press that pro Ouattara forces had fired back at, but had not been able to penetrate, the Japanese embassy in Abidjan's Cocody neighborhood -- click here for Inner City Press' exclusive story at the time -- French soldiers of the Force Licorne shot it out with Gbagbo defenders, freeing Okamura and staff.

  Skeptics say this is how it has been throughout the battle of Abidjan: Ouattara's forces are repelled by Gbagbo's, and then the French get involved, claiming a UN mandate.

  These skeptics say this explains the UN and French firing missiles from attack helicopters at Ggagbo encampments: trying to soften them up to Ouattara's forces can push forward.

  There is a further twist in the hiearchy: what Ouattara's forces couldn't do, the UN tried; what the UN couldn't do, like free Okamura, the French did.

   But the focus of diplomats, even from another country, on problems of their peers means that even countries ostensibly questioning actions like Licorne's and the UN's in Abidjan end up applauding it because another country's diplomat is saved.

  Others note that the head of the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire is former South Korean Ambassador to the UN Choi Young-jin.

UNIDO with Japanese, Okamura shakes with 2 Aug 2010 Cote d'Ivoire ministers

   Some ask, what was Japan's Ambassador doing still living in Cocody when the “final assault”on Gbagbo's compound there began? French expatriates presumably with less information left other Abidjan neighborhoods to move into military camps. Did no one tell Okamura?

This isn't the way to treat a once and future Security Council member, a close observer mused. Or maybe it it. Watch this site.

Footnote on Cote d'Ivoire: with Ban Ki-moon visiting Washington DC today to visit with “key lawmakers,” one wonders if this will include Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who for whatever reason just came out with an analysis that Ouattara did not win the election.

  Will Ban reach out to Sen. Inhofe? Or will his office demand a meeting with Ban?

* * *

As Juppe Says Ban Demands Gbagbo Letter, UN No Comments, Vatican & Japan Q

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 6 -- A day after French foreign minister Alain Juppe said that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agrees that Laurent Gbagbo must sign a letter ceding power to Alassane Ouattara, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if that is, in fact, Ban's position.

I don't speak for the French Foreign Minister,” Nesirky said.

But you do speak for the Secretary General,” Inner City Press asked. Is it Ban's position or not?

Nesirky would not answer, saying he would not characterize the Secretary General's communications with Juppe. Thus does the UN thumbs its nose at transparency and lose credibility, by being used as Juppe used Ban, and France used UNOCI.

Inner City Press was told by a Security Council member's Deputy Permanent Representative that UN peacekeepers have not gotten to the residences in Abidjan of the representative of the Vatican as well as the Japanese Ambassador.

Ban & Juppe, joint demand of letter as condition not shown

 It was unclear, he said, which side was blocking access -- noting that it is Vatican charity Caritas which reported 1000 dead in Duekoue, which many largely blame on supporters of Ouattara.

Nesirky would not answer about which side is blocking access, although he repeatedly blamed the UN's failure to even protect journalists in a hotel on “heavy weapons.”

Inner City Press asked him if Ouattara's forces have heavy weapons too. Nesirky would not answer. He repeatedly insisted that the UN is impartial. 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.

* * *

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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