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At UN, Security Council Moves But Medical Files and Union Left Behind by Master Plan, Conditions Set for Journalists

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- While the UN Capital Master Plan lurches forward, some are left behind. On fifth floor of the Secretariat building last week, the hallway was full of rolling carts of medical files.

  Weeks ago, the UN Medical Service, embroiled in a scandal of doctors without U.S. licensed signing out controlled substances to themselves, moved out to Second Avenue and 42nd Street, "above the liquor store," as it's known.

   But the contractor had made the shelves for medical records too small. So so the records stayed in an office empty but for the X-ray unit. This apparently can't be moved "above the liquor store." It will be buried in the UN's third sub-basement.

  Also on the fifth floor, the UN Staff Union hasn't even been told where they will finally move to. They were offered a minuscule space in the Alcoa Building on 48th Street; this offer may have been withdrawn.

   This despite a blustery ultimatum from the Capital Master Plan, that if journalists don't relinquish their offices on the fourth floor by March 31, their files will be thrown out. If the Staff Union one floor above is any indication, the April 1 deadline is false. We shall see.

  In terms of the forced move of UN correspondents to cubicles that initially came equipped with security cameras above them monitored by the UN -- the "no whistleblower zone," Inner City Press dubbed it -- now the UN wants to begin charging even for an inside-the-UN phone.

 Since these allow correspondents to call and cover the UN's work in the field, from Congo to Timor Leste, one wonders if it's smart. But this UN must know what it's doing, monitoring and making things more difficult for independent journalists.

As new Security Council was built- now finished, journalists not shown

  The Secretariat, Staff Union officials complain, has been trying to divide and conquer. While two officials have been released from day to day UN work to perform Union functions, the second vice president remains employed in the forestry unit of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. She wants and applies for promotions, setting up a conflict of interest in her Union work.

  Records indicate that she came into UN service "through the back door," seconded by Brazil and then somehow "regularized." She has accused Union president Steven Kisambira of being an emperor; he has responded by putting on a emperor-like hat. And so it goes at the UN.

  To give credit where credit is due, for the move of the Security Council down to the old Conference Room 4 in the General Assembly building basement, work went on over the weekend. By Monday morning, if for example the Council wanted to meet about the subway bombings in Moscow, they could.

  A visit Monday morning by Inner City Press found that the flags were set up where the Vienna Cafe used to be. The consultations room was in old Conference Room 5. And the horseshoe table was in place, raised the mezzanine cheap seats, with a replica painting behind.

  "We busted a nut," a CMP official said. Why not for those left behind in the Secretariat? And how is the Council going to act when the UN's Security Council Affairs has been relegated out to Third Avenue in the so called Teachers Building of TIAA-CREF? There appears to be dissension in that office.

Footnote: March 29 at 1:30 p.m., the first stakeout was held in front of the new Council, a press statement on the Moscow subway bombings. Inner City Press asked the first question -- was there any discussion by the Council of who was responsible? But the Gabonese president for March declined to answer.

On Sudan, Moonlighting UN Staffer as Darfur "Rebel" Leader, As JEM Is Pressed to Support Elections on April 11

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 -- With elections in Sudan approaching as threats and irregularities multiply, a United Nations employee in Addis Ababa Al-Tijani Al-Sissi suddenly emerged as the head of newly formed rebel Liberation and Justice Movement. Beyond the politics, one wonders how a person can be a paid UN employee and at the same time by a pro-government "rebel" leader?

  Despite Al-Sissi being out of The Sudan for 20 years, and being a full time staffer of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, he was brought to the fore as purported replacement for Abdel Wahid Al-Nur, leader of the legacy rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, whose Fur tribe has thus been unrepresented as Al-Nur refuses to participate in the Darfur talks much less elections.

  A Fur willing to talk with al-Bashir was needed, and a UN staffer was found. But to be a leader, he must have put time into the rebel movement, while being a UN staffer. Why was this accepted?

  Inner City Press is informed that Al-Sissi's supervisor at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Abdalla Hamdok, complained about the moonlighting or double service of Al-Sissi, but that nothing was done.

  This does not look good, one long suffering Darfuri told Inner City Press on Friday. The UN has some explaining to do: watch this site.

Al-Tijani Al-Sissi, moonlighting from UN ECA job not shown but accepted

  Meanwhile, with Sudanese opposition parties nearing a decision next week on whether to boycott the April 11 election if Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party does not agree to postpone it, Inner City Press is told by Arab Group ambassadors at the UN that pressure is being brought to bear on Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement rebels to have JEM come out favor of April 11 polling.

  "Khalil Ibrahim has been summoned to Doha," Inner City Press was told by an attendee of the March 26 meeting of the Arab Group, at the Ambassadorial level, held in the UN's new building by New York's East River.

  At the UN on Friday, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky to explain Ban's quote in Al Hayat against any postponement of the election, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: There is an interview that the Secretary-General gave with Al Hayat about… there are portions about President Bashir -- that he would not meet with him unless “absolutely necessary”. But particularly it seemed to be quoting him as saying that he is not in favour of any postponement of the Sudanese election. Something the opposition parties there requested and the Carter Center has said that -- and I believe that the UN in a background briefing has said -- that 11 April would be would very difficult to accomplish. So, what does he mean by no postponement? He believes it absolutely should be held on 11 April?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Read out the exact quote.

Inner City Press: Okay: “I understand that elections could be postponed for a short period of time, but why should be made to postpone the month of November? I am not sure it can properly [be] arranged at that time.” So I am asking, I guess there are some words missing there, but…

Spokesperson: Yes, there are some words missing. I read that, too, and there are some words missing in that transcript. What I think is clear is, as we have said before and has been said from here, there are fairly considerable technical challenges to delivering that election for the Government that is in the driving seat on this, and for those who are providing technical assistance. It is a considerable undertaking. What I think he is suggesting there is that, if there is a delay, it does not mean that it will be any easier should there be a delay to deliver at a later date. I think that is all he is saying.

  But some see a connection, which the UN has yet to address, to the UN housing or hosting a pro-government rebel leader to support talks with Al-Bashir, while also ignoring Sudanese opposition parties' call for a postponement in light of abuse. Watch this site.

Footnote: on the above quote by Ban Ki-moon, which came from the Sudan Tribune's pick-up of Al Hayat's interview, a junior Al Hayat correspondent ran into the UN press briefing room to say that her newspaper's version of the transcript did not have any words missing. While Inner City Press then explained where it got the quote from, strangely neither statement was included in the UN's transcript, although both can be seen in the video, here.

 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

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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