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On UN's Short Congo Trip, US Rice Might Go, Depending on Right Media and Iran

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 13, updated -- With the UN Security Council cutting off the Uganda and Rwanda legs of next week's Africa trip, Tuesday morning the buzz was that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice might reverse course and actually go on the shortened four day trip to Kinshasa.

Tellingly, the determinant of Ambassador Rice's plans seemed to be which media outlets would still be going on the trip. The basis of this supposition was what the UN Office of the Spokesperson said was a request from the US Mission to know which journalists would go on the trip. The UN Spokesperson's office treated this US request seriously, more seriously than one from a non Permanent Five, non major donor, non Host Country state.

  Why do they want to know so much, a centrally placed reported wondered to Inner City Press, harkening back to Ambassador Rice's carefully managed appearance in Vogue magazine ("She's Got Game").

   From the upcoming trip, once Sudan was dropped from the itinerary due to the elections there, most media outlets decided to wait for the Council's projected trip to Khartoum in the Fall. Tuesday, the U.S. mission through the UN Spokesperson's office was desparate to know: which reporters would go to Africa from Friday to Tuesday?

   For these few reporters, though, the key was whether the Council Ambassadors would be meeting in New York about nuclear sanctions on Iran. Just as Susan Rice did not want to miss -- or to be seen to be missing -- any Iran sanctions negotiations, the reporters can't miss these meetings and stakeouts either. Inner City Press reported earlier this week that Rice would not go to Africa, and why - click here for that.

   A cynic imagined a deal: an Ambassador would reverse course and go to Africa, if positive coverage in the right -- and we mean Right -- media could be arranged. On the flip side, powerful right leaning media would still go to Africa, if they could know that no Iran negotiations would take place in New York while they were away.

US's Susan Rice and Ruganda of Uganda, his trip leg cut off

The Chinese announcement that it is not the right time for sanctions would seem to militate for fewer, or less newsworthy, Iran meetings in New York -- and thus for permanent representatives and the right media to go to Africa. But it could still all fall apart. Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press, seeking comment from the countries cut off from this trip, was told that they will be visited when the Council goes to Sudan in the Fall. We'll see.

* * *

As UN Council Shortens Congo Trip, Sanctions Committee Stymied, Doss Impunity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- With renewed chaos in the Congo even the UN's sanctions team has been crippled, by Chinese blocking of full staff-up so that only one of the positions in Goma is filled.

  This sanctions committee detailed in the past involvement by UN-supported government troops in illegal mining. Now its reporting powers are curtailed, sources tell Inner City Press, and few complain out loud.

   Complaints about UN envoy to the Congo Alan Doss, on the other hand, continue to grow. Already the Congolese Ambassador to the UN has said the government has opposed him continuing past June. The names bandied about, beyond the French (Guehenno and Ripert), including former U.S. Ambassador to Kinshasa William Garvelink. Il parle francais.

  Regarding the shamelessly drawn out UN investigation of Alan Doss' nepotism email, in which he urged UNDP to show him "leeway" and give a job to his daughter, the issue was raised again without answer at the UN noon briefing on April 12. How can it take ten months for the UN to investigate a six line email? "Ask Alan Doss," was the answer. Which would seem to mean he'll take the question, and have an answer.

   Meanwhile, the Security Council on April 12 decided to shorten its upcoming Africa trip. It was to run Friday to Friday; now only to Tuesday. French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who will lead the shortened trip, will describe it to the Press on April 13.

UN's Doss in Pinga: end of an era

  While the Council's president Yukio Takasu told the Press on Monday that it was the heated program of work -- heated by Iran, was the subtext -- that required a shorter trip, the reality is that once Susan Rice dropped out, as Inner City Press reported on April 7, the trip lost much of its luster.

China's Permanent Representative Li Baodong had never planned to go. Someone -- Russia's Churkin? -- asked how many shots were necessary. Yellow fever only! Yellow journalism?

* * *

In Congo Crunch Time, US Rice and Others Cancel Visit, Iran Prioritized, Post-Doss

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 7 -- With new violence starting up and being discovered throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the 15 countries on the UN Security Council arranged to travel to the DRC starting April 13. One goal is to negotiate with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, who has asked for the UN Peacekeeping mission MONUC to begin to pack up and leave.

  While Security Council members, particularly the United States, say that the issues in the Congo -- systematic rape of women as a weapon of war, exploitation of conflict minerals by rebels and rogue Congolese Army units -- are of much concern to them, on April 7 it emerged that only half of the Council member states are sending their Permanent Representative or lead Ambassador on the trip.

  US Permanent Representative Susan Rice, another Council Ambassador complained to Inner City Press on Wednesday, has dropped her initial plan to travel to the Congo, and will stay in New York for the beginnings of negotiations on a resolution to impose more sanctions on Iran.

  "She wants credit for cracking down on Iran," a source said, analogizing her calculus to that of her predecessors Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke when they wanted promotions from US Ambassador to Secretary of State.

Susan Rice, Secretary of State, UN meeting on women, Congo discussed, visit not shown

The UN's top envoy to the Congo Alan Doss, already the subject of a nepotism investigation by the UN for urging the UN Development Program to show him "leeway" and give his daughter a job, is said to definitely be out in June.

   To replace Doss several French names are being circulated, among them former UN Peacekeeping chief Jean Marie Guehenno and even former French Permanent Representative Jean Maurice Ripert, who while titularly employed as envoy on development to Pakistan is said to be in an office in the UN's nearly empty headquarters tower.

  There is also an American, the former U.S. Ambassador to Kinshasa, and current UN envoy to Cote d'Ivoire Choi, both of whom speak French.

  While the UN and its Security Council may show the Congo this idiomatic respect, sending lower level representatives on the upcoming trip at this time of crossroads is a bad sign. 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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