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On Myanmar, As EU Prepares Visit, Ban Delays Replacing Nambiar, GA Mandate To Be Cut?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- When the European Union's Catherine Ashton came to the UN on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked for the EU's position on Myanmar, and to contrast it with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's.

  Ashton began, “With Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi is somebody we are in contact with, she and I have just been writing to each other, and I'm hoping that somebody from the EU will be visiting her shortly.”

By contrast after Ban's chief of staff and part time Myanmar envoy Vijay Nambiar visited Aung San Suu Kyi, when he returned his internal assessment within the UN as conveyed to Inner City Press by well placed UN sources was that she is out of touch and too hard line.

  Ashton continued that “on all of these issues, we need to talk with the opposition, of course with her, she's central, but also with the others around her and engage with this... The EU will make its position clear when we've got that type of discussion out of the way and so we're waiting to be given the chance to talk with her.”

Inner City Press asked Ashton if she agrees with Ban Ki-moon's recent assessment, if the EU is on the same page.

  Ashton replied that she doesn't have a “detailed, finger tip knowledge of the last thing the UN said.”

Ban Ki-moon put out a statement about the new parliament, 25% of whose members are appointed by the military and in which proposals have to be shown to a screener 10 days before they are introduced, with the possiblity of prohibition without any chance of appeal.

Catherine Ashton at the UN, previously, ASSK assessment not seen

  After for weeks declining to answer Inner City Press' questions about the banning of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar, the plight of the Rohingya and when Ban would finally move on the request by the UK, Mexico and others to replace Nambiar with a full time envoy, the UN sent this:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 4:18 PM
Subject: Your questions on Myanmar
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] Inner City Press

In response to your emailed question about the dissolution of the NLD in Myanmar, we have the following to say: We have taken note of the decision with concern and continue to follow developments closely. We believe that in order to succeed any transition must be inclusive and participatory, including both those who won seats in the recent elections and those who did not participate.

Regarding the Rohingya boat people, UNHCR is trying to obtain access; please follow up with UNHCR on that matter.

On replacing Nambiar, the UN has had nothing to say. Now, sources in the UN tell Inner City Press there is a reason. The goal is to get the entire UN mandate on Myanmar eliminated in the General Assembly, by pointing to the new parliament and recycled president. That, the sources say, explains Ban's statements and delay. Watch this site.

* * *

EU's Ashton, Who Cut Sri Lanka's GSP Plus, Says Rajapaksa Blocks Inquiries, While Ban Praises His "Flexibility"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praises Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa's “flexibility,” even as Ban's Panel on Accountability is blocked from traveling to Colombo, the EU's Catherine Ashton on Tuesday was more direct when Inner City Press asked her Tuesday about the removal of GSP Plus tariff benefits for the country.

  “It's me that did the GSP Plus removal from Sri Lanka,” she said. “It's important if you have a program that says, this is conditionality, if you don't do it or you do something in breach of it that there are consequences. I stand by that completely. We did our own independent look into what had been going on. I'd like to see Sri Lanka make progress.”

Inner City Press asked her about the UN's position, saying (before being cut off by her spokesman) that “the government is not going to allow.”

Ashton said that “the government usually doesn't allow things like that. The President took the power to prevent independent inquiry, wouldn't allow someone in to do the inquiry into GSP Plus, which meant that it was much more complicated. So the words 'the government doesn't allow' are not unusual.”

Meanwhile Ban Ki-moon cites a 2005 visit while he was South Korean foreign minister as somehow pushing for accountability, and praises Rajapaksa's “flexibility.” Seven weeks later, with the UN now offering Sri Lanka a mere video conference call, will Ban explain his statements? Watch this site.

Inner City Press also asked Ashton about Myanmar. She said she and ASSK are exchanging letters, and that she hopes the EU will be able to send someone to visit her soon, as well as others in the opposition. We'll see.

 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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