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France, Under Fire on Roma & from Al Qaeda, Hides from the Press at UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- With confirmation that the French uranium workers in Niger abducted last Thursday are being held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, recent French hijinx at the United Nations are increasingly being questioned.
  Two months before this UN General Debate, France's former diplomat Douste Blazy was exposed, including by this publication, for siphoning off $11 million in UNITAID funds to raise a mere $200,000. Still, Douste Blazy appears in this week's MDG Summit.

   French President Nicholas Sarkozy was in New York for three days, including his speech Monday to the Summit, but he did not hold any media availabilities with the UN press corps.

   Sources say Sarkozy wanted to avoid the inevitable questions about his policy of expelling Romas or gypsies from France. Previously, Sarkozy held a "French only" press conference at the UN, excluding even a Francophone Lebanese reporter for lack of a French passport.

  A day before Sarkozy, French Defense Minister Herve Morin came to the UN. In light of the previous day's kidnappings in Niger, Inner City Press specifically asked Morin about his country's war on Al Qaeda, leading to the military action along with Mauritanian troops against northern Mali in July. Video here, from Minute 14:42.

Kouchner previously at UN with Ripert, inaction on Pakistan not shown

  Morin told the Press, that “France is determined to combat Al Qaeda... France is committed to combat this cancer which has invaded the Sahara.” He said France trained troops in Mauritania, Mali and Niger to fight “four to five hundred fanatics.”

  Now the five French hostages have been taken from Niger into Mali. France is flying surveillance planes over the desert. Even in New York, the security seems to be high.

  French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who claims he almost quit over the Roma issue, will host a reception Friday night at the French facility on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street. Even journalists who questioned Morin are not invited, or are specifically dis-invited. Is it fear for security, or fear of questions? Watch this site.

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At UN, Morin of France Dismisses Georgia on Mistrals, Dodges Roma Question

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- When French Defense Minister Herve Morin came to the UN on September 17, Inner City Press asked him about his country's proposed sale of Mistral ships to Russia. Morin began with a long answer about Russia's changes since 1989, calling for a change of “mental paradigm.”

  When Inner City Press asked as a follow up, “What about the war with Georgia?” Morin replied dismissively, can we imagine that “the sale of a few vessels can significantly change the balance of force between Georgia and Russia?” Yes, we can.

  Inner City Press asked about France's declared war on Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Morin mentioned Mauritania, Mali and Niger and spoke of “400 to 500 fanatical fighters,” saying that France will take then on. Some wondered why France does not focus on the similarly sized Lord's Resistance Army in the Congo, CAR and South Sudan.

Morin at UN on Sept 17, Roma answer and entourage not shown

Footnote: Morin, French reporters tell Inner City Press, came to New York with an entourage of 24, in the process of announcing his new political party to challenge President Sarkozy (who has been in New York this weekend visiting his son now that his previous wife has moved to New York with Richard Attias, the French reporters say.)

  It was surprising, then, that Morin declined to answer a reporters reflexive question about Sarkozy's crack down on the Roma, saying instead that neither US officials nor Ban Ki-moon had raised it. If the burning of a Koran could put US soldiers at risk, how not the expulsion of the Roma? Inner City Press has requested access to various French mission events this week, to get the answers and France's side of the story: watch this site.

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Gambari's Travails with Dictators Shown in UKUN Documents, Myanmar Now Darfur

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- The UN's Ibrahim Gambari was humiliated by the military rulers of Myanmar in 2009, internal documents of the UK Mission to the UN obtained by Inner City Press show. For example, of Gambari's 2009 trip the UK Mission wrote:

Gambari's visit on 26-27 June lasted a mere 32 hours. As on previous encounters, his programme was revealed to him on arrival. He was driven directly to the new capital, Naypyitaw, a 4-hour drive from Rangoon. A flight to Naypyitaw would have taken an hour.”

  Earlier more optimistic projections, including from the September 2009 meeting Group of Friends on Myanmar meeting (similar to the forthcoming meeting on the sidelines of this week's UN General Debate) came to very little. In 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and her NLD party has been dissolved.

  Beyond showing Gambari's and the UN's subservience to Than Shwe and others in Burma's military regime, the documents will raise more questions about Gambari's questionable engagement with Sudan's Omar al Bashir government, from which Gambari as head of Darfur's UNAMID peacekeeping mission awaits permission before even sending troops to protect civilians.

  The Myanmar documents of the UK Mission to the UN and of the UK Mission in Yangon, which Inner City Press is exclusively putting online here, include

-a document thanking Italy and summarizing Gambari's visit in early 2009 during which a “meeting was attended by the members of the CEC but the Burmese/Myanmar authorities insisted on the exclusion of Win Tin;”

-a 2006 document in which Gambari “did acknowledge that there were now cross-border implications to the issue, as a result of the situation in the Kayin State;” and

-another 2006 document reciting Gambari's claim that “Than Shwe had pointed out the challenges facing the country, including the underdeveloped border areas, and the role of the military. Gambari commented that he thought Than Shwe would like to re-engage with the international community, and to turn a new page in relations with the UN.”

After these claims, and in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, the Than Shwe government took up to 25% of the UN's aid by means of scam foreign exchange conversion which the UN covered up, until exposed by Inner City Press.

UN's Ban & Gambari spin on Myanmar, UK docs and Darfur not shown

  Now with Gambari in Darfur, seeking permission before protecting civilians and reportedly angling to turn over to the government rebels who support Abdel Wahid Nur, the Myanmar documents provide a glimpse some say into the pro dictatorship leanings of a diplomat who formerly represented a military government at the UN.

 Read the Gambari documents here, and imagine what similar internal documents about the (in)actions of Gambari's successor Vijay Nambiar will show. 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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