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On Gaza at UN, Western Placeholder Statement Competes with Libyan Resolution, PRST Put Online Here

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 7, updated -- With Gaza smoldering from 12 days of bombardment, the UN Security Council's meeting resumed on Wednesday morning. Libya late Tuesday said it would be calling for a vote for its draft resolution. But Western members of the Council were promoting the idea of a non-binding Presidential Statement, to give more time to what can be called the Egypto - Sarkozy proposal, announced Tuesday in Cairo.

  Inner City Press obtained a copy of the draft Presidential Statement, and in the run-up to the Council's 3 pm consultations on the text is putting it online here. It "welcomes the French - Egyptian plan" and says that the Council "will take comprehensive action as Egyptian and other international initiatives will materialize."

  The mere place-holder statement is seen by many as inadequate in response to the level of death and destruction being visited on Gaza.

France's Kouchner with Israel's Ambassador, ceasefire resolution disappeared

  Wednesday afternoon, ministers Miliband and Kouchner of the UK and France strutted in front of the Council, while US Ambassador Khalilzad was with Condi Rice in the UN's basement, meeting Arab ministers. UN Envoy Robert Serry, defender of Egypt among others, begged out of a press conference to attend a Ban Ki-moon luncheon with other ministers. Serry is slated to return to the region Wednesday night, with Ban Ki-moon to follow next week. It was a struggle to be or be seen as diplomatically relevant. The Council's consultations loomed -- watch this site for updates.

Update of 3:36 pm -- Condi Rice has passed through the stakeout, making a statement but taking questions on her way to meet Ban Ki-moon. As she leaves a reporter shouts, "Why are you opposing a resolution?" A cameraman answers, "A resolution is not a solution." Another jokes, "to pollution."  The media talk is why Associated Press had no one at the Sarkozy's Egypt meeting, and had to follow-up hours late with a story from the AP. Reuters and AFP are happy about that. Competition everywhere. But who had the Presidential Statement first?

Update of 3:49 pm -- an hour after Inner City Press got and uploaded it, a Western Council member's spokesman emerges to hand out the draft statement. "The French - Egyptian plan" has been changed to "the Egyptian iniative and the French mediation." Guess who tried to put the word France first....

Update of 5:29 pm -- France's Ripert emerged to say that there is no unanimity on either their draft Presidential Statement or Libya's draft resolution. "See you tomorrow," he said. It emerged that the Arab Group is meeting at 6 pm to decide how to proceed. Inner City Press asked Egypt's Ambassador to explain the Presidential Statement's turn of phrase, "the Egyptian initiative and the French mediation." What is France's role? I can only speak for Egypt, he said, adding that even he was unclear on France's role.

  Ripert, of course, left the stakeout microphone without taking any questions. He then summoned an unwieldy press scrum off-camera. Few could hear him. French diplomacy at its best, one wag quipped. Later a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry said that one of the options is for the Arab minister to leave New York with no text at all. The Security Council has such a bad reputation in our region, he said, it is easy to blame it for anything.

Update of 7:43 pm -- Condi Rice, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner emerged from Conference Room 7 in the UN's basement and paused briefly at the microphone the UN had belatedly set up. They are staying in New York to keep working, beginning with another meeting in the basement at 10 am on Thursday. Later the UK mission pitched an on the record quote from Miliband: the world needs to hear the unified voice of the Security Council. Amre Moussa came out later and said, there is work to do. An Arab Group Ambassador told the Press to expect voting -- that is, on a resolution -- at noon on Thursday. Others demurred, predicting a stronger Presidential Statement than the French draft, followed by two days of waiting on the Egyptian initative. To be continued.

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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