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At the UN, Finland's Halonen Makes Pitch For Council Seat, on Free Media and Gender

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 -- "I don't know you the media very well," said Finnish president Tarja Halonen at the UN on Thursday, fresh from being denied a meeting in Washington with President Bush -- who did meet, however, with Sweden's Prime Minister.

            Inner City Press asked President Halonen about her call for a study of the media's coverage of the war in Iraq and of recent events in Estonia. She replied with examples, of media as being polarizing, like "now in Russia," and as pushing politicians to "take [on] difficult issues."

            Inner City Press asked President Halonen  about a quote of hers in the Finnish press that "Russia regards us as more important that the US does." Ms. Halonen seemed surprised by the quote -- click here for video, at Minute 12:17 -- but did answer Inner City Press' next questions, about her country's hope for a non-permanent Security Council seat in 2013. Video here, from Minute 11:52 to 17:52.

             President Halonen said that Finland is well suited to be on the Council, given its record in anti-corruption and on human rights. "We are competitive because we have a welfare society," she said.  She pointed out that of Finland's 20 ministers, 12 are women. :The idea was to make it 50 -50 but I'm convinced that all eight men in the government are very capable, even without the quota regulations," she said to laughter, which is too rare at the UN...

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

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