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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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UN Envoy Declines to Criticize Myanmar, Says Corporations Should Check With Global Compact

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- Weeks after his trip about Myanmar to Far East capitals, the UN's Ibrahim Gambari finally briefed someone on Tuesday. He started with a closed-door session with the General Assembly, then took and fought off some questions from the press. A reporter asked about arrests by the Burmese government since Gambari was there. "Do you have the numbers?" Gambari asked. Another reporter opined that Gambari sounded very optimistic. Don't characterize me as optimistic or pessimistic, Gambari replied. Later, off-camera, he told the first reporter, "I don't trust you to not spin what I have to say."

            Inner City Press asked Gambari about Western corporations still doing business in Burma, using France's Total Oil as example. Gambari referred to the UN Global Compact, with its human rights standards. But to a follow-up question of whether Global Compact members should do business with the Burmese government, Gambari declined to answer. Video here. He told Inner City Press that moves are afoot to name another UN country representative to replace Charles Petrie, who the regime expelled for mentioning its problems.

Mr. Gambari at the stakeout, verily, warily

            Days ago, a source who had run into Gambari on the street and had been told that Gambari was headed to South Africa, allegedly to hear ideas about Myanmar. Inner City Press asked the spokesperson's office, which responded that Gambari was on annual leave (vacation), and that to say where would be improper. Tuesday Inner City Press asked Gambari if he had, in fact, been in South Africa. The answer was yes, and the reason was given: to attend the International Peace Academy's session on the right to protect and prevention of genocide. "I spoke about the genocide in Rwanda," Gambari said, "in which I played a role... while on the Council." Another reporter snarked that yes, Council members had played their role in Rwanda's genocide. Gambari was a Nigerian diplomat, but on Tuesday the diplomacy ran a bit thin. There's always another day...

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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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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

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