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At UN's G-192, France's G-20 Called Untransparent Amid Dictator Flights, Cassez Charges, No Non-French Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 16, updated twice -- As France tries at the UN to pitch the upcoming G-20, there is more than a little grumbling, met by a lack of transparency.

  Amid news of French ministers accepting vacations and transportation from dictators and their associates, French diplomats descend on the UN General Assembly and its president seeking, they say, the “legitimacy of the G-192” and of democracy.

  Last week in the UN's North Lawn building, France's Permanent Representative Gerard Araud emerged from meeting with GA President Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, only to make snarky jokes to a Swiss diplomat sitting in the relocated Vienna cafe.

  Araud not having had a Press availability in months, Inner City Press sent questions about the meeting to the spokesman for PGA Deiss, as well as to the French Mission to the UN's spokesmen.

  PGA spokesman Jean Victor Nkolo replied that “The topic PGA Deiss discussed with the Permanent Representative of France to the UN was global governance and the French presidency of the G20, in the context of the coming informal plenary of the GA with French Minister Le Maire.”

  The French Mission replied curtly that “As for the meeting with PGA Deiss, Ambassador Araud and him discussed global governance reform in the framework of the French presidency of the G20.”

In fact, the Swiss have complained about France not inviting them to the G-20, while inviting among other non-members Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea -- some jokes, could a junket in Malabo be far behind?

   PGA Deiss -- whose housing in New York is paid for by the Swiss government -- has complained about the illegitimacy of the G-20. But he by far the only one, and French Minister Le Maire's pitch on February 17, believed to focus on the rising prices of agricultural commodities, seems unlikely to give the legitimacy Nicolas Sarkozy says he wants. (Click here for a previous Inner City Press report on a Sarkozy visit to the UN, complete with press conference limited to reporters with French passports.)

Sarkozy & UN's Ban, Georgia solution & transparency not shown

While dismissed as unrelated to the G-20, Sarkozy and his ministers including Chrisine Lagarde are loudly beating the drum for Florence Cassez, convicted of kidnapping in Mexico. (Ms. Lagarde says she will bring up l'affaire Cassez at the upcoming meeting of G-20 finance ministers). France derides the Mexican legal system and ask that Ms. Cassez be sent back to Paris to serve out her sentence.

But what ever happened to the those returned from Chad to France from L'Arche de Zoe, also accused of kidnapping? The French Mission does not make it easy to get answers, even for Francophone non-French.

Why did France abstain from the Security Council's Iraq resolution -- most say “BNP” -- and what will happen next? What is France's thinking of deferring the International Criminal Court's prosecution of Sudan's Omar al Bashir?

And, as relates to “its” G-20, how will France pass the G-20 torch to Mexico 2012, while so deriding its legal system? Watch this site.

Update of 6:10 pm -- the French Mission has responded that while the l'Arche de Zoe staff were returned to France in December 2007, their sentences of hard labor being converted to imprisonment, on March 2008 Idriss Deby of Chad granted pardons and they were released.
   Inner City Press asked, and asks, where are they now? But answers are appreciated - including by Mr. Le Maire about the G-20. Watch this site.

Update 2 - it is explained that Equatorial Guinea was invited as head of the AU, and Ethiopia for its role in NEPAD.

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At UN, Russia Blasts Georgia, Germany Dodges & Spins, Egypt Ambassador Runs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- The UN Security Council's daylong debate on peace, security and development ended in discord Friday night with Georgia accusing Russia of ethnic cleansing, and Russia's Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin calling Georgia's president a criminal.

  Not waiting for this right of reply time at the end, Costa Rica's foreign minister told Inner City Press at the stakeout about his country's attempt to get land back from Nicaragua. A copy of his statement was promised, but before it arrived Nicaraguan diplomats told Inner City Press of the land, it's ours, we're not leaving.

  Inner City Press asked Colombia's foreign minister about human rights violations and the killing of union organizers. We will crack down on crime, she said, turning to questions about Egypt. We'd like to hear more from Council member Colombia.

  Ten hours earlier it had begun with so much promise, with a concept paper drafted by the Council's president for February Brazil, whose foreign minister met with his G-4 counterparts from India, Germany and Japan to push to get permanent seats on the Council.

  German foreign minister Guida Westerwelle, who refused to answer a question from Inner City Press about Iran at the Council stakeout claiming that the day was devoted to Egypt and Hosni Mubarak's exit, later on Friday was called on to answer a question from Inner City Press about Security Council reform:

Inner City Press: having looked at the index of the document prepared by Amb. Tanin, the membership seems divided, at least on the issue of categories. Can you respond to the idea that there's still no agreement? What steps will you take?

Westerwelle. I mean the main issue is exactly what Foreign Minister Krishna said. ... What we agreed last year before, that we want to have a restart, to use the opportunity now to reform the Security Council, to reform the United Nations, is the main message we can send now. This is the point. And I would like to add something to my opening remarks. It is not only the fact that 3 of us are at the moment members of the Security Council. It is also a lucky coincidence that heavyweights like South Africa and Nigeria are now also members of the Security Council. And this opens new opportunities and these opportunities is what we'd like to use. ... I underlined that we think it is not just in our national interest, what we are doing here. The idea is, if the United Nations will not reflect the world like it is in our days, the authority of the United Nations will decrease, and because we want to have a strong United Nations, a successful United Nations, with authority in the world, we think it's necessary to reform this worldwide working organization.

  Working? By the time Russia and Georgia faced off, there was not a single person in the public gallery to watch. Inner City Press was escorted up to the photo booths, most of which were locked. Only UN TV was filming.

  Churkin left the chamber before Georgia's sur-reply. His seat was taken by Konstantin Dolgov, who Inner City Press is told will be leaving his deputy post at the UN, the end of an era.

On Feb. 11 at 8 pm Churkin, behind him Dolgov, soon to leave

In the audience was Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, who began by joining in the statement of the Ambassador of Mubarak, or Egypt, Maged Abdelaziz. Maged had refused to answer the Press' questions, running out of the General Assembly.

It was another day on which the news of the world was only peripheral to the words at the UN. In the Council during the week, the Magritte phrase was used, “These are not just words.” But aren't they? The Council will meet on Thai - Cambodia on Monday. Watch this site.

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At UN, Empty Talk of Egypt and Culture Wars on Lesbian Rights, of Muslim Peacekeepers and Decay under Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 1 -- Amid protests by Egyptians in Cairo, New York and elsewhere, the UN Security Council held its end of presidency reception Monday night, hosted by Bosnia in a rooftop space a half dozen blocks from the UN.

That Egypt is the big world news but not present in the Security Council, nor meaningfully addressed by the out of town Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was the talk of the night.

Inner City Press asked the Permanent Representative of one of the Council's permanent members why Egypt had not even been mentioned in consultations. “It's an internal matter,” he said. “We're following it closely, it's a question of timing and that it must be done without violence.”

The spokesman for a Western member said that “the capitals are studying it, they have to get their own positions clear before even thinking of acting through the Council.”

The UK has been most clear, in statements by David Cameron and foreign minister William Hague: Mubarak is a “friend of Britain” and the prospect of Muslim Brotherhood involvement in a subsequent government is abhorrent. To some it echoes the Cold War: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. For thirty years of “emergency” rule.

There were of course other topics. Inner City Press, which reported earlier in the day on attacks in the ECOSOC Committee on NGO on a women's group from Serbia which mentioned discrimination against lesbians in its application for consultative status, asked Serbia's Permanent Representative about the group. He was jovial but hadn't heard of this new Serbian showdown.

The irony is that after Serbia's lower down representative spoke in favor of the group, so did the US and Bulgaria, as well as Belgium and the EU. On the other side were Pakistan, Russia, Sudan and Morocco.

Inner City Press asked Morocco's Permanent Representative about his country's opposition to to the group, the Autonomous Women's Center. “It must be on behalf of the OIC,” he said. Later another Moroccan said his country represents the Arab Group this year in the NGO committee, replacing Egypt whose staffer famously said of a gay rights applicant for consultative status to the UN, “We've asked questions but we just can't get any straight answers from them.”

Now that Egyptian regime is on the rocks, despite its long time Permanent Representative trying to act otherwise at the UN on Monday, delivering a speech to the UNDP executive board as if nothing was happening.

So while the world sees and talks about a wave of change sweeping the Arab world, this leaves no mark inside the UN, where Arab countries like Morocco score points by opposing gay rights.

There was talk of Islamic peacekeeping, with an Asian Muslim country's Permanent Representative telling Inner City Press his country has offered troops to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government if the force ever “gets blue hatted,” or comes under UN command. He said that same of Afghanistan: his country will only send soldiers if the UN is in charge, not ISAF.

While several members characterized Bosnia's presidency in January as rather sleepy, its reception got higher marks from the crowd of diplomatic Epicures, noshing on Kobe beef sliders and burek like Bosnian pastry filled with meat and spinach.

  The Bosnian missions first couple ended the evening by dancing, as the lights of midtown Manhattan flickered through the glass roof. Their Deputy was congenial, having served her country through thick and thin.

  Inner City Press' question to the Perm Rep about a new documentary about UN peacekeepers in Bosnia buying women -- where was the Autonomous Women's Center then? -- met with a smiling “I'm not working tonight.” But of course he was. And through the course of January he got more accessible and comfortable at the Council stakeout, to his credit, unlike some in the UN.

Team Bosnia in the Council, Egypt & Ban's spokesman not shown

The deterioration under the Ban Ki-moon “regime” as one called it was also in the air. A well placed Council source recalled “Martin [Nesirky] got excluded from the Council's consultations and all we got was a letter from [Vijay] Nambiar.” Ban's chief of staff Nambiar was in attendance Monday, but chief adviser Kim Won-soo did not seem to be. Susan Rice was nowhere to be seen, nor it appeared was her UK counterpart Mark Lyall Grant.

  The Permanent Representatives of France, China and Russia were all present, along with those of just left Council members like Austria and Turkey. Israel's prime minister is much concerned of regime change in Egypt. Israel's hard line Permanent Representative was not seen at that reception Monday night, but earlier on Monday Israel joined the defense of the Serbian group on lesbian rights. And so it goes at the UN.

Footnote: earlier on Monday several dozen UN correspondents discussed the lack of information coming out of Ban Ki-moon's UN, unfavorably comparing Ban's answering in New York to what he does, for example, while in Addis Ababa the last few days, including a France 24 interview against deferring announcing a campaign for a second term.

  Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky was reviewed, called alternately rude and “in a tough spot” not getting any information from Ban. We'll address this going forward - later today, and in this new month when Brazil heads the Council, holding a debate on Security and Development on February 11. 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.

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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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