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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At the UN, Ministers Gone Wild, A Week of Dips on the Mic™ About Burma But Not Somalia

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 -- Diplomatic faces new and old passed through the UN this week, some unrecognized, some belligerent, some literally in-your-face like France's Bernard Kouchner, who Thursday lunged at a reporter calling him "big eyes" and "big mustache." At the same spot 24 hours later, Russia's Sergei Lavrov stared dismissively at those gathered. "This is just a photo op? You invited me here!" Video here. A reporter quickly asked about Iran sanctions. "Our statement is clear," Lavrov said. Condi Rice quickly stepped up to the microphone -- hereinafter, "mic" -- referring to both Burma and Iran as "regimes" and saying of the former that they must allow UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari to visit Aung San Suu Kyi, often described as the only Nobel laureate under house arrest.

            On Burma, or Myanmar as the UN system calls it, Inner City Press is told by well-placed first-hand sources that to get Gambari an entry visa, Ban Ki-moon called not Rangoon but Nick Burns of the U.S. State Department, who in turn made calls to get Gambari in. This is sure to show up in of the principal's memoirs. Burns' smooth face is so youthful that memoirs will apparently have to wait.

            On the youthful theme, the UK's new foreign minister David Miliband stepped to the mic in the UN's basement after the Kosovo meeting on Thursday and the first question was: who are you? He laughed and introduced himself. Video here. One wag muttered, how 'bout showing some I.D.? More troubling was that the minister the UK sent to discuss African Issue, Kim Howells, was so little recognized that frantic cell phone calls were made from the meetings to find out who he was -- for security reasons. And the meetings were called "high level."

At the mic, introduction later required (that's Miliband with one "L")

            A conflict that was not granted its own high level meeting is that in Somalia. It appears that the purpose of the high profile meetings during this General Debate was to appear to be accomplishing something. Somalia needs help but is not and apparently won't be getting it; the principals don't want this seen, and so -- no meetings.

            Also viewed as not un-serious is an incident that occurred on Wednesday, after the French delegation had excluded all non-French journalists from the press conference of Nicolas Sarkozy. In preparation of Sarkozy stakeout interview that was later presented as making up for the nationality-based exclusion from his press conference, French security sought to clear a big space for their diminutive boss. The President Correa of Ecuador was standing to the side, being interviewed. He was told brusquely that he had to move, so that Sarkozy could speak.

  Finally, and full circle, at an exclusive (well, no critics) breakfast-with-Bernard Kouchner this week, Kouchner leaned back, hand moving on his microphone and said he had been to Burma and visited with Aung San Suu Kyi "and nothing happened." Reviewing Kouchner's week, beginning with his rant at "mon petit gars" (my little guy) last Friday after the Darfur high level meeting, one wag suggested that Kouchner be admonished in some way by the Security Council, resolution or presidential statement, to show "maximum restraint." And so it goes at the UN...

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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

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

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