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On Myanmar, In Run-Up to Verdict and Vacation, UN's Ban Briefs Friends

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 5, updated here -- One month after his fruitless visit to Myanmar, and days before beginning his summer vacation in South Korea, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convened the so-called Group of Friends on Myanmar for a closed door meeting in the UN's basement. Several diplomats questioned the timing of the meeting, coming as it does a week before the expected verdict in the case against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

  The verdict, on charges springing from an American's aquatic visit to the compound where she was under house arrest, had initially been scheduled for Friday, July 31. Earlier that week, Inner City Press asked Ban's Spokesperson's Office for a comment on the case. Only after the verdict would Ban have a comment was the UN's response. So what's changed? Other than the fact that Ban will be on vacation on August 11 when the verdict is now planned?

   A Ban supporter, just outside the meeting, offered an alternative spin. Now Ban wants the "junta" to hear the views of the international community in advance of the verdict. Inner City Press asked, not without sarcasm, does that mean Ban questions the separation in Myanmar between the judicial and executive - or military - branches of government? We're not commenting on that, the UN official said.

UN's Ban in Myanmar

   At 4:30 p.m. Ban and his full entourage swept into Conference 7: Kim Won-soo, Vijay "Portrait Man" Nambiar and security official aft and fore. UK Ambassador John "Burma" Sawers was trapped upstairs in an endless debate on peacekeeping, at which India laid into the lack of clarity of instructions from the UN Mission in the Congo, headed by Alan Doss, about whom other questions have arisen. This Myanmar story has been updated here.

At UN, Mystery of Missing Portrait As Ban Shows Up for Indians, China Without Chef

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 4 -- The world two most populous and rising nations, India and China, held receptions in the UN's lobby in New York on successive nights. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attended Tuesday's Indian reception, unlike the previous day's Chinese art exhibition. Asked why by Inner City Press, a UN insider pointed across the lobby at Mr. Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, formerly India's Ambassador to the UN.

  "When your chef de cabinet asks you," the insider said, allowing his voice to trail off. Another mused that Ban had also skipped last summer's Olympics in China. Given China's veto on the Security Council, including of the second term that Ban's made clear he wants, the strategy's hard to fathom.

  Tuesday night's reception was for portraits by former Indian diplomat Placido P. D'Souza, ranging from executives of Tata Steel and Pepsico through Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon. Word reached Inner City Press that one portrait had been taken out of the show  at the eleventh hour. Inner City Press asked Mr. D'Souza himself, who acknowledged that a portrait had been removed. Of whom, he said it did not want publicity. So we will leave this a blind item, including some viewers' guesses by initials: V.N.? K.W.? S.T.?

UN"s Ban and the chefs cooking

  Last Friday July 31, the UN staff Spice Club held its annual fundraising dance in the third floor Express Bar. As in previous years, the music was pumping and the disco lighting swirled. But the dancing crowd was much smaller. Trays of korma and curry were never open, sat unused on Sterno cans. Blame it on the Capital Master Plan, someone grumbled. Blame it on Michael Adlerstein and Ban Ki-moon.

  The latter seems unfair. In the run up to his vacation in his native South Korea, Mr. Ban is working hard, meeting with current UNDP Administration Helen Clark -- though ostensibly not mentioning or aware of the scandal in which his own envoy to the Congo Alan Doss emailed UNDP to show "leeway" with the rules and hire his daughter Rebecca -- and with Tuesday with Ad Melkert, former Deputy Administration of UNDP.

  Melkert came to the stakeout on Tuesday after briefing the Council, and dodged a handful of questions. Inner City Press asked about the Kurdish constitution and the UN's planned Baghdad bunker. Melkert said he was meeting about the latter, and was studying the former. Then he left the stakeout. One wanted to have asked: do you now finally agree with Ban Ki-moon about the public disclosure of UN officials finances? But the moment was gone.

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  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 http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56

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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