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France Tries to Block W. Sahara Briefing to Aid Morocco's UNSC Bid, AU Pushes Back

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 28, updated -- During April's fight at the UN about human rights in Western Sahara, it was agreed that UN envoy Christopher Ross would come back and brief the Security Council in October.

  But with Morocco up for a contested election with Mauritania for a seat on the Council, the Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon told the Council's president for October, Nigeria, that Ross didn't want to brief, that he had little new information and didn't want to conflict with the Council election.

  That is, a briefing about human rights violations in Western Sahara would not be helpful to Morocco's run.

   Inner City Press on September 28 asked South African Permanent Representative Baso Sangqu about the claim the Ross did not want to brief. "Preposterous," Sangqu called it, adding, "They were trying to say there is an election to the Security Council, with Morocco running."

Supporting or directing Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat in this was Morocco's main supporter France, assisted to the surprise of some by the United Kingdom. (Even one of the surprised said perhaps the UK wanted to "preserve the Special Envoy's independence," and noted that the election for the Security Council has been moved to later in October.)

 Late Wednesday, Inner City Press asked Ambassadors Gerard Araud of France and Mark Lyall Grant of the UK, "What about Western Sahara?" Looking surprised, Lyall Grant said "You have to ask my French colleague about that, the UK has a carefully balanced position on Western Sahara." Araud himself did not answer.

   In order to stand up to the pressure, South Africa and Nigeria joined forces with Brazil, and also to the surprise of some Gabon, which went silent on Western Sahara back in April.

In a rare UN victory for non-Permanent members, the African Union Three and Brazil appear to have won, with the decision as of September 26 being that Ross will brief the Council on October 11. But could that change?

Araud of France with Ban and Nambiar, Ross and Morocco SC election not shown

  Some were reluctant to confirm it. Inner City Press asked Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu, October Council president, who looked surprised and replied, "All those are speculation." But multiple sources say this is just how it happened. How will October be?

  In another contested race, Hungary faces off against Slovenia and others, with positions on Palestine one of the litmus tests. Watch this site.

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Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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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