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As Olmert Brags of UN's Rocket Focus, Ban Loses Voice, Jordan Truck Said Missing

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- As Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert brags that he got a commitment from the UN's Ban Ki-moon that "any UN investigation of the damage resulting from the war in Gaza includes the damage Palestinian-fired rockets caused in Israel's south," Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas on Wednesday said the first investigation Ban is asking for is by Israel itself. The steps after that aren't clear, Ms. Montas said. Mr. Ban couldn't speak for himself. He has cancelled a press availability, and will reportedly only appear at the Security Council, but not speak. "Cat got your tongue, Ban Ki-Mute?" one wag snarked. Laryngitis, a more serious source told Inner City Press.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas to confirm a Ha'aretz report that Ban had agreed to Olmert's request. She nodded and confirmed, but upon follow-up questions acknowledged that Ban does not control what investigations are done. Questioned repeatedly about negative comments in the region about Ban, Ms. Montas said that a person who cannot be accused of not having the interest of Gazans at heart has praised Ban's performance.

  It emerged that Ms. Montas was referring to the UN system's own John Ging, Gaza chief of the UN Relief and Works Agency. While Ging did on January 20 offer effusive praise of Ban as articulate and inspiring, it must be noted that Ging is part of the UN.

UN's Ban with Israel's Olmert, commitment to investigate rockets made, then silence

On the other hand Robert Fisk, a journalist long covering the region, has written that "
Ban said it would not be up to him to launch a war crimes tribunal. It was pathetic."

   Near the end of Wednesday's noon briefing, Ms. Montas explicitly denied that Ban has been conveying Israel's conditions to Hamas. Time did not allow Inner City Press this follow-up: since Tony Blair has said that the Quartet, of which the UN is a part, has said the Quartet will only deal or even speak with Hamas if it recognizes Israel, does Blair speak for Ban? Does Ban speak with Blair? Today, at least, Ban can't speak.

Footnote: Inner City Press asked also about a report, on the Palestinian Ma'an News service, that a truck of Jordan-given aid was hijacked and diverted at the Karem Shalom crossing, and UNRWA suspended other deliveries.  Ms. Montas said she would get back with an answer, which subsequently arrived:

Subj: your question on UNRWA trucks
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Sent: 1/21/2009 1:14:22 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

We haven't seen the media reports you were referring to, and our colleagues at UNRWA didn't mention anything like this when we spoke with them right before the noon briefing today.

  Inner City Press immediately sent the UN in New York and the OPT a copy of the Ma'an article about with a request for comment, "if UNRWA does not deny the diversion, please explain why the UN has not commented on it, and UNHQ says it's unaware of it." Watch this site.

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

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.

* * *

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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