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On Sri Lanka, France Requests UN Briefing, Nambiar's Slow Return, Ban's Tilt

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- With the Sri Lankan government speaking of expanded military action on Tuesday in the "No Fire" Zone, the UN Security Council behind closed doors on Monday discussed getting a briefing from Ban Ki-moon's envoy Vijay Nambiar. On camera, United States Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff told Inner City Press that the U.S. "supports the call" by the United Kingdom for a briefing on Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 9:17.

   Sources tell Inner City Press that in the closed-door meeting, it was France which made the request for the briefing. Outside the chamber, Inner City Press asked UK Permanent Representative John Sawers if his country's envoy to Sri Lanka Des Browne, rejected by the government there, is already in New York. Yes, Ambassador Sawers said.

   Security Council President Claude Heller of Mexico told Inner City Press that as of mid-day on April 20, Browne had not visited to the Council, but that "the general sense of the members of the Security Council" is to get a briefing from Nambiar. "We know that Sri Lanka is a very special case," he said, but "there is an interest to be briefed."

  This reference to Sri Lanka's "special" status highlights the Council's disparate treatment of the "bloodbath on the beach" in Northern Sri Lanka. While less intense fighting, at least now, in the western Sudan region of Darfur gives rise to numerous Council meetings, even large scale military action in areas packed with civilians in Sri Lanka is kept from the Council's formal agenda.

UN's Ban on private jet with deputy chief of staff and spokesperson, Nambiar and Council briefing not shown

    A well-placed Council source tells Inner City Press that in Monday's closed-door consultations, China said that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam "use" any Council briefing to legitimate themselves, and that the Council should beware. This is a argument straight from the Sri Lankan government. It is also one that Sudan for example has advanced without success regarding the emboldening of the Justice and Equality Movement rebels by the Council's attempted micro-managing of events in Darfur. But, as Ambassador Heller said, Sri Lanka is "a special case."

  Some point to Ban Ki-moon's prepared statement on Monday, criticizing the LTTE but not saying who is doing the deadly shelling of the No Fire Zone, and say it reflects a lack of balance, even complicity. There was no opportunity to ask Ban or his spokespeople about it on Monday, as the normal noon briefing was cancelled and replaced by a one-way television hook up with Geneva, where Ban denounced an anti-Israel statement made at the Durban Follow-up Conference in Geneva.

  The Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General said that coverage of Ban's position on this was more important or newsworthy that the day's other events, including in Sri Lanka.

  Inner City Press asked where Nambiar is, since the Council can't be briefed until he returns. Sources tell Inner City Press he stopped in India on his way back. Ban's office says Nambiar will be back in New York on Tuesday morning, but Council sources think it won't be until Wednesday, and that the briefing will take place them, more than 24 hours after the expiration of the Sri Lankan government's ultimatum. Watch this site.

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time more than five days later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. As more answers arrive we will report them on this site.

  Click here for a new YouTube 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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