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At UN, Cote d'Ivoire Troop Rollover Stalled by “Politics,” UK Blames Russia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18, updated -- As the UN Security Council met Tuesday morning at the deadline to extend its extra troops in Cote d'Ivoire, two Western Ambassadors for the first time admitted there's a problem. Ambassador Wittig of Germany said there might be a “hiccup.” Then Mark Lyall Grant of the UK came out and blamed it on Russia.

As Inner City Press reported back on January 14, several Council members complained that the “Westerners” had loaded up what was supposed to be a technical rollover with “politics.” After a second draft by France, sources told Inner City Press that while China was “flexible,” Russia still had a problem with a paragraph about sanctions.

Why then the surprise on Tuesday morning that the problem remains?

   Inner City Press asked Lyall Grant about the sanctions paragraph Russia was known to have a problem with, even back on Friday. Lyall Grant said the Council President -- Bosnia -- was talking to Russia, and that he didn't think the Russians in New York knew what the issue, apparently taken by their capital, was. But why call a vote, he asked, if Russia doesn't have instructions?

Gambari and Lyall Grant, who will not second guess UN

  As Russia's Vitaly Churkin walked into the Council, Inner City Press asked him about what Lyall Grant had said. Churkin asked rhetorically, We're the problem?

Update of 11:18 am -- Inner City Press is told the Council will have Cote d'Ivoire consultations after its meeting on Sudan. At issue is not only the “political” language that Russia still doesn't want in, but also whether the new / Ouattara Ambassador, Yousoufou Bamba, should be allowed to speak in the chamber. Inner City Press told Churkin what was said about him “not having instructions.” He replied, smiling, “I always have instructions.”

Update of 1:31 pm -- Russia's Churkin tells Press his country has agreed to an “improved” Cote d'Ivoire resolution. “We inserted freedom of expression,” he said, smiling. It will be voted on tomorrow. Inner City Press asked Ouattara's Ambassador Bamba if he'll get to speak and he said “yes.” Watch this site.

* * *

At UN on France's Cote d'Ivoire Resolution, Russia Objects on Sanctions, China "Flexible;" Kabila's DRC Change

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- The UN Security Council was slated to vote on January 14 on a peacekeeping resolution about Cote d'Ivoire. But the vote has been delayed, until January 18. Why?

  Inner City Press is told by Council sources that “the Westerners” -- drafter France and the United States -- loaded the resolution up with “too much politics,” getting back into the same issues which caused a long delay in issuing a mere press statement about Cote d'Ivoire.

  And so, with the clock ticking, on the January 14 day scheduled for voting France circulated another version of the resolution, with “some of the politics” removed, aiming to have this voted on January 18.

   After a Council experts meeting broke up at 5 pm on January 14, sources told Inner City Press that the remaining problem is a paragraph about sanctions that Russia is objecting to. "China is being more flexible," one said.

  Meanwhile, beyond Angola's President coming out in favor of Gbagbo, there are rumblings of other changes. A Congolese UN staffer approached Inner City Press on Friday morning to ask that Ban Ki-moon be asked what he thinks of Joseph Kabila's move to change his country's Constitution to avoid the type of run off that allowed the UN in Cote d'Ivoire to reach out and certify a winner.

UN's Ban: why rely on Gbagbo if UN certified as illegitimate?

  All told the UN's handling of Cote d'Ivoire makes it less likely, many diplomats say, that the UN will be invited in for any substantive role in their elections. Merely logistical, one African Permanent Representative told Inner City Press. “The UN should move the ballots around and pay for things, but say nothing.” We'll see.

* * *

In Cote d'Ivoire, As Ouattara is Served “UN Food,” UN Dodges Plot Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 13 -- When a crowd of Laurent Gbagbo supporters in Cote d'Ivoire stopped and looted a UN food convoy earlier this week, the UN said it was a violation of international humanitarian law. On January 13, Inner City Press asked for confirmation that the food trucks had been bound for the luxury Golf Hotel, asked what kind of food it was and who was paying for it.

  UN spokesman Martin Nesirky did not answer the question during the noon briefing, but inserted into the subsequent transcript was this line: “The food is UN food.”

  Does that mean UN World Food Program food, the sort of high energy biscuit or sacks of rice and flour that the UN delivers in many part of the world?

  UN sources have told Inner City Press that the Alassane Ouattara camp -- hundreds of people -- are being provided with “Presidential food” as one disgruntled UN staffer put it, and all with UN money. There is talk of linen in the hotel being changed every day: a new human right, perhaps.

  What does the phrase mean, “UN food”? Does the UN have some warehouse of steaks and even wine? Or did it put out a procure contract for these humanitarian supplies?

  Inner City Press would liked to immediately follow up on the “the food is UN food” answer, but the answer was not provided to Inner City Press directly. Rather it was said over a speaker system that is audible in the cubicles the UN provides to the UN press corps, the so-called whistleblower free zone. It would have been easy to e-mail the answer, as Inner City Press has requested. But it was not done.

Here is the UN's transcript, beginning with a still unanswered question:

Inner City Press: Sure, I wanted to ask some questions about Côte d’Ivoire. I understand that you said there would be some statement on things on the ground. I just want to know, in advance of deploring these things, is the UN confirming the burning of its vehicles by supporters of Mr. Gbagbo?

Spokesperson Nesirky: What I can confirm is that there have been a number of incidents, including the burning of a number of UN vehicles in Abidjan today.

Inner City Press: There’s a pretty widely circulated — there’s been in the French press now, among others — and no one knows if the memo is true or not, so I want to preface it that way. But the buzz is that the Forces Nouvelles intend to break out of the hotel around January 19 to 23, there’s a document being circulated that purports to be a kind of a plan for it — it could just be a de-stabilizing document. But I just wanted to know, since the document says that the UN will also get involved — the document seems to indicate that incidents will precipitate action by both forces on that date. Has the UN seen this? Does it deny that it’s playing any part in it? And how would it view the Forces Nouvelles coming out of the Golf Hotel?

Spokesperson: I’d need to check on whether the Mission is aware of the document that you mention, and what their take is on it.

UN's Le Roy & Ouattara, food and cost -- and plot? -- not shown

Inner City Press: One more thing, if you don’t mind — it’s just a factual one. Maybe you’ll answer it or not, but I know that the trucks that were looted were delivering food to the Golf Hotel. It may seem like a strange question to you, but was the food — there are a thousand people or more in the Golf Hotel. Who’s paying for all this? Who’s paying the hotel bill, is the food UN food? If so, how — I heard a figure of $5 million, maybe that’s too high, but — is there some way to know what the actual kind of logistics of this now month-long stay — unplanned stay at the Golf Hotel — who’s paying the owner? Is the food from the UN, and is it WFP [World Food Programme] food or some other, more presidential food? I’d just like to get an answer on that.

Spokesperson: Sure. Yes, Massoud? [He later said that the United Nations does not pay the bills at the Golf Hotel. The food is UN food.]

What was does “UN food” mean? And how much does it cost? Watch this site.

* * *

Amid Discussion of Cutting Cocoa Customs & Paying Gbagbo Army, UN Is Listening

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 7 -- In and around the UN in New York there is open talk about trying to cut off Laurent Gbagbo's access to cocoa customs in Cote d'Ivoire, or to paying bribes to his military to defect. But is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon part of these discussions?

Among Security Council members the date of January 16 is named for when payment is due to Gbagbo's military. One Ambassador told some of the press that Gbagbo's military is being told that “the ICC is watching,” and that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo told the Council that not only Ouattara but also Gbagbo recently called him. France is described as trying to blockade cocoa custom funds to Gbagbo.

Inner City Press on January 7 asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if, during Ban's video conferences with his envoy in Abidjan Choi Young-jin the two speak on these topics. “The Mission monitors such developments with a close eye,” Nesirky replied. He added that “the Mission keep Headquarters informed... They assess every aspect across the spectrum.” Audio here, from Minute 18:40.

To some, this was a surprising answer.

UN's Ban & Choi, talk of cocoa customs & payments not shown

  When Ouattara called for a Special Forces action against Gbagbo and Inner City Press asked Nesirky about it, he replied that the UN favors a diplomatic solution. Watch this site.

Inner City Press asked Nesirky how the UN could conclude that the deadly fighting in Douekou was not related to the Gbagbo - Ouattara standoff. Rather than explain, Nesirky read out a note that a seven person team from Abidjan will go to Douekou with aid and to assess. Then what?

* * *

As UN Misses Gbagbo Forces' Deadly Raid on Opposition Office, Ban's Spokesman Passes Buck to DPKO Missions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 4 -- What is the UN doing in Cote d'Ivoire and whom is it protecting? After forces of Laurent Gbagbo raided the offices of the opposition Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, Inner City Press asked the UN to confirm whether one or four people had been killed, and to state where other that the Golf Hotel is it protecting, even just in Abidjan.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, who earlier spoke about the ONUCI Mission's “patrols,” replied that UN peacekeepers had “sought to gain access but it was not yet possible.”

Inner City Press asked whether the UN was purporting to protect offices of opposition political parties, or by implication their officials.

The focus is the Golf Hotel,” Nesirky said. As the UN says when civilians are slaughtered or raped in Eastern Congo, he said UN peacekeepers “can't be everywhere all the time.” Here we're talking about a foreseeable attack on an opposition politicial party's office right in Abidjan. The UN couldn't be there?

Outside the UN Security Council, Inner City Press learned that the Council will in all probability have consultations on Cote d'Ivoire on January 5. “We're still consulting” a source told Inner City Press, “but it looks like it will be tomorrow.

At the noon briefing, Nesirky added that he would “defer to [his] colleagues in the Mission” to provide further answers. Video here, from Minute 22:22.

UN's Le Roy meets Ouattara, answers on protection of offices not shown

  Nesirky, who is the spokesman not only for Ban Ki-moon but for the UN Secretariat, which includes UN peacekeeping missions, increasingly engages in this passing of the buck. In just the past ten days, he has told Inner City Press to go ask the UN Mission in Kosovo about a UN judge who let an organ theft defendant go free.

  He has allowed the UN - African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur to go 11 days without answering a question about rape by Sudan government officials right next to UN peacekeepers.

  Most recently Nesirky has told to go ask MINUSTAH in Haiti how much the UN pays an official. We'll have more on that one, and the others. Watch this site.

 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.

* * *

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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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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