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In Cote d'Ivoire, UN to Cut Battalion & Monitor Speech, Pushing Back Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 18 -- As the Cote d'Ivoire envoy under UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Herve Ladsous of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Bert Koenders, briefed the Security Council on Wednesday several members emerged to tell Inner City Press, "He sure likes to talk."

  They said Koenders' "long" briefing was cut short, because the Council had to also discuss is working methods on peacekeeping missions' mandates. One member said, "Koenders would still be talking."

But Koenders was apparently under other instructions outside. He came out of the Council and said, despite a press pen nearly full (albeit in search of Syria news), that "I don't think there's anyone."

  Inner City Press said no, there's interest, and asked why DPKO wants to reduce its service in Cote d'Ivoire when Ivorian Ambassador Bamba had just said they are still needed?

  After some strange back and forth reported below, Koenders eventually answered this question by saying that, yes, one full battalion is proposed to be withdrawn, pulling some 750 out from a mission of 9000. Other Council members told Inner City Press that DPKO's idea is to pull forces out of Abidjan.

  Inner City Press also managed to ask Koenders when there will be accountability for the killings in Duekoue, which are seem as attributable to (high profile) supporters of the Ouattara government. Koenders replied that he and the UN have told the government there should be accountability. But when will the report be done?

  Meanwhile press accounts -- really, press releases -- from UNOCI have Koenders inveighing against "virulent language" and say that "UNOCI has a mandate... to monitor the behavior of the media."

  On that, when Inner City Press first said no, it's not that there's no one here, there is interest, and asked why DPKO wants to reduce its service in Cote d'Ivoire, Koenders countered, "is the idea that you ask me questions? Or I can say something?"

  Sure, Inner City Press, why don't we go to the UN TV stakeout camera?

  Koender said no, "Could you just let me speak? That would be nice." Then with a half dozen Syria-focused journalists holding up microphones and Inner City Press standing behind them and a barricade, Koender said, "could you take a little distance from me?" For now, perhaps this is not attributable to Koenders.

  These seem to be DPKO's chief's and spokeman's new press instructions - absurd, and unlike those for example of the Department of Political Affairs (click here for a contrasting DPA interview on July 17) and the countries on the Council. But this is Ladsous' DPKO, and ultimately, Ban's UN. Watch this site.

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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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