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With Gaza Schools As Targets, Theater in UN Council, Protests in the Streets, French Press Only Allowed into the Chamber

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 6, updates, video -- In the run up to the UN Security Council meeting about Gaza late Tuesday afternoon, money was issue on the Gaza Strip, and one block from the UN on the sidewalks in front of Israel's mission. The UN's John Ging told Inner City Press that no cash has gotten through the border crossing, and staff cannot be paid. On Second Avenue, the owner of Sussex Liquors told Inner City Press that his business is being hurt by dueling protests. He point across the street, past a "Hamas Equals Hitler" sign, to a restaurant called Cibo. "Saturday they served only 56 dinners," he said, compared to 200 or 300 on a normal night. North of 42nd Street a Vietnamese Ban Mi sandwich restaurant reported the same drop-off.

  Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, rushed to Washington to have lunch with outgoing President George W. Bush. Then he returned to New York to meet with Mahmood Abbas and to attend the Security Council meeting, chaired by French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. France's president Nicolas Sarkozy reappeared in Cairo. His Egyptian counterpart, sources tell Inner City Press, faces more and more serious coup threats.

UN's Ban and ministers, Council theater not shown

  But the threat is most immediate in Gaza itself. Inner City Press asked Ging about report of the Israeli army taking over high-rise buildings, telling the residents to leave, and setting up with guns to fire down on streets below. Ging said that's why people flee to the UN facilities, where of late they are also under fire.

  And at 4:41 pm, Ban Ki-moon, Alain Le Roy and the UK's Sir John Holmes trooped into the Council, the UN's Gaza troika, to play their role in the theater. Outside the snow began. This will be updated.

Update of 4:47 pm - Inner City Press' Council sources have said the plan is to suspend today's meeting when it ends, and resume Wednesday at 11 am...

Update of 4:57 pm -- the speakers' list has been passed out, starting with Mahmoud Abbas then Israel, Miliband of the UK, Babacan of Turkey, Condi Rice of the US, then ministers of Libya and Austria.  There at 26 in all, ending with the Arab League's Amre Moussa. Lynn Pascoe of the UN's DPA emerges from the Council, smiling and saying "We're all set." Apparently they are.

Update of 5:49 pm -- UK foreign minister David Miliband, on his way into the Council, stopped and promised the press "twenty four hours of action" at the UN. He mentioned arms smuggling without reference to Egypt's protest of UK Ambassador John Sawers allegation of weapons moving through the Rafah crossing. He took no questions and was gone. Inner City Press video at

Update of 6:17 pm -- After Miliband speaks in favor of the Council's "statement of December 28" -- that was, the press statement after 2 am on that Sunday -- Turkey begins. Insiders say that Turkey would be the backbone of any international force to monitor the border and its crossings. If that wouldn't get them into the European Union, what would? Meanwhile, miffed at no longer having his six-month long EU bully pulpit, Sarkozy now wants to use his newer Mediterrean formation to stay in the diplomatic limelight...

Update of 7:03 pm: in a scrum of TV cameras, Saeb Erakat of the Palestinian Authority -- and, it must be said, Fatah -- spoke dramatically of children slaughtered, children "with four names." He said "we should not clone" the Council's process in 2006 on Lebanon, "eighteen days to a resolution." Arabic journalists shouted, "thirty three days!" Erakat corrected them: a 33 day war, but 18 days in the Council negotiating a resolution.

Update of 7:41 pm -- Bernard Kouchner, at the stakeout where he once lunged at an Al Jazeera journalist, this time took issue with an African journalist's question, about whether France in its presidency of the Council this month is not letter other issues, like the Congo and Darfur, fall by the side. "Why are you shouting?" Kouchner demanded. But no question was allowed on the substantive new developments in the Congo, the failure to protect civilians from the Lord's Resistance Army and the possible ouster of Laurent Nkunda from the CNDP. France's foreign policy, it seems, follows the TV cameras.

Update of 7:59 pm -- While reporters are routinely told to never enter the Council when it is in session (the sign says, Delegates Only), the French have allowed in a gaggle of French-only press. It is reminiscent of Nicolas Sarkozy's "French only" press conference in UN Briefing Room 226, at which even a French-speaking Lebanese reporter was told she could not enter if she did not have a French passport. Various promises were made that it would not happened again, but France is once again at it, screening questions at the stakeout, and allowing "French only" into spaces that the UN, and not France, purportedly controls.

Update of 9:10 pm -- the Libyan foreign minister has come out of the Council and said their resolution is "in blue," meaning it was be put to the vote within 24 hours. Journalists, most of them French, protest that Kouchner has said, give Egypt time to work. This didn't seem to carry much weight with  Libya.


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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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