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At the UN, Georgian Missile Plot Thickens, With Friends Like These...

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 16 -- A missile fell and did not explode; a press conference was cancelled. At the UN on Thursday, the United States tried to get the Security Council to issue a statement of concern about the "attack" on Georgia earlier this month -- "the second this year," U.S. representative Jackie Sanders said, referring to the March helicopter attack in the Upper Kodori valley.

     Ms. Sanders told reporters that the U.S. supports Georgia's request for a Security Council meeting about the missile, and that the U.S. applauds Georgia's "transparency."

            It was hard for UN correspondents to agree with this last, as Georgia for the second time in a month scheduled and then cancelled a press conference. In their absence, we note that reports that South Ossentian forces may have fired a manpad missile at the Su-24 aircraft, leading it to jettison the Kh-58 missile.

            Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Thursday told reporters that a Russian General is now in Tblisi, and that Russian is hoping for a joint "bilateral" investigation with Georgia. Inner City Press asked Amb. Churkin if Russia saw any role for the UN in the investigation. Video here, from Minute 2:18. Amb. Churkin said there have already been too many confusing investigations, some called "international," some called "independent." Russia opposed the U.S. request for a Council statement, saying there is not enough evidence yet. A Russia (state) reporter outside the Council asked again and again, "Why did Georgia take apart the missile? Why are they destroying evidence?"

Pieces of missile being carried in Georgia

            Georgia's Ambassador on Wednesday asked Ban Ki-moon to arrange a meeting of the so-called  Group of Friends of Georgia on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly meetings in late September. 

    Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson about Georgian media reports that Ban has expressed support and interests in UN inquiry into the missile. The spokesperson said, "those are wrong," that Mr. Ban hadn't said anything after his meeting with the Georgian Ambassador. Video here, from Minute 14:56.  According to the UN's own highlights of the noon briefing, when Inner City Press

asked about the Wednesday meeting between the Secretary-General and the Permanent Representative of Georgia, the Spokeswoman said that they had discussed the 6 August incident in the Georgian territory.  She said that the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the investigation led by international experts could bring more clarity on this matter. He noted that the United Nations would not have firsthand information that could confirm or deny these reports.   The Secretary-General also hoped that the peace process would continue despite this incident, Montas added. The Permanent Representative of Georgia gave a copy of the international experts' report to the Secretary-General. He also gave the Secretary-General a letter, for his information, from the Georgian Foreign Minister, requesting a meeting of the Friends of Georgia on the margins of the General Assembly.

            The scuttlebutt is that Georgia wants to have Russia ejected from the Group of Friends of Georgia. As one wag -- this one -- joked, "With friends like these...".

            There were other questions both Russia and Georgia could have been asked. What rulings or guidance has come from the UN in the wake of Russia's planting of its flag -- inside a metal thermos -- on the North Pole seabed? What of the UN Russian translator arrested for fraudulently arranging visas to the US, through Uzbekistan and UNDP?

            And for Georgia, why is it disregarding UN suggestions and continuing with the "patriotic youth camp" around Abkhazia? If they ever hold a press conference and don't cancel it, we'll ask...

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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