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As UN Budget Talks Hit Midnight, Grumbles of Strike and Where Torsella Is, Monthe Says SPMs & Numbers Will Come

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 22 -- It was past 10 pm on the Thursday before Christmas and at the UN the budget committee was in full swing. "We will arrive at the number," Fifth Committee chairman Tommo Monthe of Cameroon told Inner City Press as he paced slowly by the Vienna Cafe in a pinstriped suit with broad lapel.

   He said that at midnight, negotiations would start again about the "Common system," then about the Special Political Missions such as that in Libya.

  The representative of a major developing country told Inner City Press, "in the negotiation about the numbers, the substance of the debate should be be forgotten."

  Whereas a number of representatives complained that US Ambassador for Management Joe Torsella, who loudly argued that the Committee's opening budget session should be televised, was not here for crunch time. "Steve is here," one said.  "Though I haven't seen Torsella," said another, "maybe he is still here."
  In fact, Torsella tweeted earlier on Wednesday about pushing for "real saving and real reforms," and hoping to make it home in time for Christmas.

  (Ban Ki-moon's office was asked on Thursday for a simple reform: to make public when Ban accepts material support from particular member states, for example from Qatar for recent travel.)

  Back in October, Torsella predicted the Committee would finish by December 20, allowing him to return to Pennsylvania in time to cook a "dinner of the seven fishes" -- click here for that.

  "Torsella kicks the ball from time to time," one delegate said with a smile. "And this is his only job. He is like an umbrella. When it is not raining, you put him in the closet."

  The US and Japan were identified as major players, to which "moral" arguments were made. "The EU is like the G77, unwieldy to get a decision," a delegate said.

  Earlier on Thursday, there was talk among UN staff about going on strike, if the numbers were too low. Many delegates sympathized. "You can't make tens of thousands of people justify their jobs every year," one said. "It's like you don't trust them."

UN North Lawn, Dec 22, 2011 at 10 pm, Torsella not shown (c) MRLee

  For the diplomats engaged in this annual ritual, aluminum trays of food were served. On Wednesday night, the provider was Monthe; on Thursday he said it was "someone from the President of the General Assembly's office."  It was past 11 pm. "We will work all night," Tomo Monthe told Inner City Press. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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