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On Sri Lanka, UN Council "Waits for Nambiar," UK Says It's Listening, But...

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- With the Sri Lankan government's ultimatum deadline having expired, the UN Security Council has still not heard from Ban Ki-moon's envoy Vijay Nambiar. Tuesday morning in front of the Council, Inner City Press asked Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting when the briefing would take place. “This week,” he said. “The issue is basically the timing, and the timing of Nambiar himself.”

   Moments later, Inner City Press asked this month's Council president Claude Heller of Mexico if there had been any movement on the issue since what he told the Press midday on Monday. “Not yet,” Ambassador Heller said. “We are waiting for Nambiar to come.”

   Nambiar left Sri Lanka days ago, after President Mahinda Rajapakse and his two brothers rebuffed a request for any pause in the military assault, and reportedly told Nambiar not to attempt any contact with the LTTE. Council sources say that Nambiar stopped in India on his way back, and that it is not clear that this stop really had anything to do with his Sri Lanka mandate. “Funny time for home leave,” one of them remarked. Another said, once you travel all that way, why not? Except for the timing.

Mayr-Harting, France's Ripert, UK's Des Browne and Nambiar not shown

    Meanwhile, the UK Mission to the UN wishes to make clear that Gordon Brown's envoy to Sri Lanka Des Browne, whom President Rajapakse rejected, has in fact been trying to bring about an “urgent” briefing at the UN. The UK Mission, from which a comment on the legality of Sri Lanka's detention of UN staff is still awaited, sent Inner City Press this statement from or about Des Browne, “in case the below is of interest” --

Des Browne MP, the UK Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Sri Lanka, visited the United Nations headquarters in New York on 20 April. At the conclusion of his visit, Mr Browne said:

"The UK government, having made clear its deep concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in north-eastern Sri Lanka, strongly supports the work that the UN has been doing to try to arrange a UN-assisted civilian evacuation from the conflict zone.

"As the Secretary-General has said, UN staff must now be allowed into the conflict zone to facilitate relief operations and the evacuation of civilians.

"I welcome reports that over the past three days substantial numbers of civilians have escaped from the conflict zone. The UK will continue to work with its international partners to try to secure an immediate ceasefire to facilitate a civilian evacuation. I call on the LTTE to allow civilians to leave.

"I was reassured by my meetings here that the UN and our partners are focused on the need to improve conditions in the IDP camps through better access to medical facilities, transparent registration processes, international monitoring, and freedom of movement in and out of the camps. I urged them to provide UN supervision of the reception arrangements for civilians as soon as they cross the front line.

"All Sri Lankans have an interest in peace and prosperity in their country, and we will do what we can to help them achieve that goal. It is clear from my meetings today with senior UN staff, governments and NGOs that the voices of Tamil communities throughout the world are being heard and understood."

   That communication is flowing as Browne's statement says it is is called into a question by a British Tamils press release complaining that the “British Government is yet to break its silence on the latest massacre, the human cost of which is comparable to the total casualty figures of the recent Gaza conflict.” Inner City Press has asked the UK Mission for the chance to interview Des Browne.

   Not only is the UN's and Security Council's response to the “bloodbath on the beach” in Sri Lanka strikingly less than to Gaza, Darfur, Georgia or other recently conflicts -- even today April 21, there is at the UN and in the Council much more focus on a bureaucratic meeting on the North Korea sanctions committee than on Sri Lanka. 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 six 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 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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