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On Sri Lanka at UN, Nambiar Said to Back Down to UK, Bloodbath Briefings

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 22, updated -- With wildly divergent numbers circulating about the numbers of civilians fleeing or dying in northern Sri Lanka, UN envoy Vijay Nambiar is said to have reversed himself overnight and is now expected to brief the Security Council this afternoon, well placed UN sources tell Inner City Press. Even some of Nambiar's colleagues in the heights of the UN expressed surprise to Inner City Press that Nambiar “chose a fight we couldn't win.”

The reference is to push back overnight by the United Kingdom, which after protests in London sent its envoy Des Browne, rejected by Sri Lanka, to the Council in New York. A senior UN official ascribed the UK's belated interest to the protests. Early on, he said, when the UN was speaking internally about helping with an “evacuation,” the UK government wasn't interested, saying that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam would use the movement of civilians to escape and fight another day.

While the UN's various public schedules, including the daily Journal and the updated wide screen televisions in the basement, still do not list any Council briefing this afternoon, a notice went around on Tuesday night that rather than Nambiar, John Holmes' humanitarian deputy Catherine Bragg would do the briefing. Now, high UN officials say, Nambiar is back on. We'll see.

UN's Nambiar in national dress, so light he can reverse himself

Earlier on Tuesday there will be a press conference by a number of NGOs about the situation in Sri Lanka. Inner City Press will attend and ask questions, and may live-blog the press conference in this space, time permitting.

Update of 10:50 a.m. -- The International Crisis Groups says the conflict will go on even if the LTTE is wiped out. HRW says numbers are hard to verify, but military commanders haven't been told clearly enough they may be held accountable for war crimes. Caritas says it is asking for $2.5 million. Will it be used in detention camps? James Traub, journalist / NGO official, is here but will not speak, at least not on the panel.

Update of 10:57 a.m. -- Operation USA says that the government prohibits NGOs from mentioning or working on sexual violence, and has taken all doctors in the conflict zone off their payroll, so they won't give out numbers. A doctor was shot by a “militant” yesterday.

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 a week later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. Now Inner City Press has put the question to another Permanent Five member's Permanent Representative. As more answers arrive or are released 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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