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From Gaza, UN Says Digging's De Rigeur, Dodges on Banks and Blair's Performance

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 29 -- Working and speaking for the UN in a hotspot like Gaza calls, or rather screams out for, diplomacy. One brand was Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's cover letter to the report he himself commissioned from Ian Martin on Israel's attacks on UN premises in Gaza earlier this year. Another was displayed May 28 at UN Headquarters by Maxwell Gaylard, with the long-winded diplomatic title of "Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and UN Coordinator for humanitarian and development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

   When Inner City Press asked about, among other things, what banks the UN uses in Gaza and the UN work of Tony Blair, Gaylard deftly danced around the questions, avoid what he clearly thought could be missteps. The UN does not use the Hamas-founded National Islamic Bank, he said, because it is not licensed by the Fatah- run Palestinian Monetary Authority. As to what Tony Blair is doing, or not doing, Gaylard encouraged Inner City Press to get the answer from Tony Blair himself. Fat chance.

   Tony Blair has evaded requests for briefings even from the UN Security Council. When he spoke with Quartet members in the UN's Conference Room 4, Inner City Press as he left asked if it might be a conflict of interest to work also for JP Morgan Chase. Blair groaned and did not answer. A Blair aid confirmed that yes, Blair still worked for Morgan Chase, but nothing more's been heard since.

   But when in the final question of Gaylard's press conference one correspondent asked if Gazans have any option to improve their lives except by "digging tunnels," Gaylard indicated that digging tunnels is, at least for now, the only way to go. Video here, at end.

UN's Gaylard, there's light at the end of the tunnel

   Immediately after Gaylard said it, one imagined protest from the Israelis, even a headline, "UN to Gazans: There's a Light At the End of the Tunnel, If You Dig It." One could imagine certain correspondents questioning the UN spokespeople for days about Gaylard's comment, did the Secretary General endorse or condemn it, slyly, is the UN providing shovels, etc..

   John Ging, who was the UN's main speaker on Gaza during January's offensive, has been more detailed in answering on banking, but would have this "shall we dig" question as the potential pitfall it is. Gaylard has clearly been around the block, or Strip, more than a few times. What explains his final answer? The truth shall set you free...

At UN, Draft Resolution on North Korea Leaked to Inner City Press, Paragraph 8 Discussed

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 28 -- Five days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, a draft resolution emerged behind closed doors at the UN Security Council. The three-page draft, a copy of which Inner City Press has exclusively obtained and puts online here, has 14 operative paragraphs, one of which, Paragraph 8, is still subject to discussion.

   Paragraph 6, for example, calls on "all Member States immediately to enforce the measures that were put in place by resolution 1718 (2006)" and in the Presidential Statement earlier this year, after North Korea's launch of a rocket that it called a satellite. Paragraph 2 "demands that [North Korea] not conduct any further nuclear test or launch."

   While the draft resolution seems unlikely to change North Korea's course, it has been the subject of intense journalistic interest at the UN in New York, particularly by Japanese media, who have remained camped out in front of the Security Council during meetings on Abkhazia, Somalia, and on May 28, Bosnia and the Congo.

Japan's Amb. Takasu and media scrum, draft resolution not shown

  On May 27, wire service stories were published quoting an anonymous "UN" diplomat that there was an agreement in principle but that no draft would be circulated until next week.

   On the morning of May 28, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here.

Update of May 28, 6:20 p.m. -- UK Ambassador Sawers emerged from the P-5 consultation room and spoke at a stakeout from which non-UN television cameras, most of them Japanese, had been banned. He said, you can ask me questions, but I won't answer. Which was true: Inner City Press asked, is everything agreed to but Operative Paragraph Eight? Amb. Sawers craftily replied, "You're way ahead of yourself." Ahead of something...

  Russian Ambassador Churkin came out to speak, but mostly about Georgia, and mostly in Russian. Inner City Press asked if he denies Georgia's claim that Russia blackmailed Ban Ki-moon into changing the title of the Secretariat's report on Abkhazia / Georgia. Yes, he denies it. Amb. Churkin asked, You don't speak Russian yet? 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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