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On Sri Lanka in UN Basement, Rice of US Speaks, Libya Offers Money, and China Support

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 22, updated -- As the UN's envoy to Sri Lanka Vijay Nambiar gave a begrudging basement briefing to the UN Security Council, France flexed up its humanitarian muscles while China offered unequivocal support to the government's military crackdown in the north. Libya offered financial support, while Sri Lanka's requested $1.9 billion IMF loan pends.

New U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice, it was said, would speak on camera to the Press after the briefing. The previous day, when Inner City Press asked her about the UN's silence about its staff members detained in government camps, Ambassador Rice said, “UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect."

US Amb. Susan Rice on North Korea: Sri Lanka not yet shown

  Asked if the US is concerned about the ethnic aspect of the violence and detentions, she said, "The priority needs to be the physical protection of innocent civilians."

At Wednesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe to elaborate on why Nambiar initially resisted the Council's request for a briefing. Okabe emphasized that now, he would be briefing. But why did he say it was too sensitive, that his talks with Sri Lankan officials were confidential? One would expect Nambiar to speak to the Press after the briefing, as his colleague Ibrahim Gambari does. But perhaps OCHA Deputy Catherine Bragg is being brought along so she can run interference.

We will live-blog the proceedings from the basement in this space.

Update of 6:01 p.m. -- there is talk of pulling UN Television out from the basement, as they go on overtime at 6. If so, some say, whatever is said outside the meeting room, even on behalf of the Council, is not “official.” A new low has been reached in this basement meeting.

Update of 6:11 p.m. -- French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert stepped out to brief the press. He recited commitments he said the Sri Lankan government has made. Inner City Press asked, what about freedom of movement in the IDP camps? Amb. Ripert said that is an issue, but it is important to distinguish between the government and the LTTE, who are “terrorists... who have lost the war and should surrender and release the hostages.” Then he went back into the meeting, where Ambassador after Ambassador is setting forth his or her view.  Video here.

Update of 7:25 p.m. -- in rapid succession, Ambassadors Sawers of the UK, Rice of the US, Heller of Mexico and Palihakkara of Sri Lanka spoke at the stakeout, along with OCHA's Catherine Bragg. Vijay Nambiar left without speaking to the press. Susan Rice, saying she had to be somewhere, spoke but took no questions. (See the approved on the record quotes, above). The rest will be covered in a round-up about the meeting -- now available here.

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. 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.

* * *

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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