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After Bhutto's Killing, UN Statements Watered Down, Omitting Need for Speed and Law

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 28 -- In the hours after Benazir Bhutto was killed, the 15 members of the UN Security Council negotiated and agreed to a Presidential Statement of condemnation. A sixteenth country was consulted: Pakistan. According to Council diplomats involved in the negotiations, among the changes made before the final Presidential Statement was issued was the omission of any temporal reference in the Council's statement of the "need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this reprehensible act of terrorism to justice." The proposal was to say this should be done as soon as possible, but this was omitted, apparently to make it less likely that the matter could be brought back before the Council if the investigation is too slow or otherwise not credible. 

            Before these Security Council negotiations, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had issued a statement, including a

"call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice as soon as possible. I convey my heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Bhutto's family, her colleagues and to the people of Pakistan. While strongly urging for calm and restraint to be maintained at this difficult time, I call on all Pakistanis to work together for peace and national unity."

            In the Council, it was suggested that the Presidential Statement should track Ban Ki-moon's already-issued statement. But issue was taken with the phrase "as soon as possible" and "peace" -- "international peace and security" being the legal hook for the Council to send peacekeepers or investigators, as in Lebanon, to a country. Following the assassination in Beirut of Rafiq Hariri, the Security Council set up an International Commission to investigate, and is now setting up a tribunal in The Hague. Diplomats involved in the negotiation Thursday of the Council's Presidential Statement, dismissive of the post-negotiation comments on camera of Pakistan's Deputy Permanent Representative Farukh Amil, opined to Inner City Press that the government of Pervez Musharraf wants to forestall any outside inquiry or oversight, even any language that could help bring his administration to the attention of the Security Council again.

Benazir Bhutto with supporters and cameras, UNSC Presidential Statement not shown

            When asked about the phrase "as soon as possible," which is in the Secretary-General's statement but did not make it into the Council's Presidential Statement, Pakistan's Deputy Permanent Representative Farukh Amil said "I don't understand the question," and then "not at all, the statement was prepared and done very smoothly." A journalist also asked about reservations Pakistan might have had with the tribute to former Prime Minister Bhutto. The real question, though, concerns the omission of those fighting for democracy and rule of law.  

            While the final Presidential Statement offers a "tribute to former Prime Minister Bhutto," it had been proposed to also mention those fighting for democracy and the rule of law. But this too was omitted, apparently under the theory that it might embolden and even empower those questioning the rule of Pervez Musharraf. One is left with a watered down statement, and ever-multiplying questions.

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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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540