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As UN Confirms Death of Annabi, Hotel Christopher Safety Questions Remain

By Matthew Russell Lee

 UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- Four days after the collapse in Port au Prince of the Hotel Christopher, the UN on Saturday confirmed the death of its top envoy to Haiti Hedi Annabi, as well as his deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa and acting police chief Doug Coates.

  Mr. Annabi spoke often with the Press, at the UN in New York when he was deputy peaceekeeping chief, then after taking over from Edmond Mulet at the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH. In this last role he would brief the Security Council and press, urging more attention and help to Haiti.

  Ironically, Inner City Press in 2009 asked Annabi about building codes in Haiti and the UN's role, following the collapse of a school in Petionville. Video here, from Minute 1:50. Annabi said, then and after, that the UN could and should do more.

  While since the earthquake and collapse of its Haiti headquarters in Hotel Christopher the UN has evaded and discouraged the question, records show that the location had yet to be brought up to the ostensibly required UN Minimum Operational Safety Standard, MOSS.

  In MINUSTAH's 2009 procurement plan occurs an item for $400,000, to bring the Hotel Christopher into MOSS compliance.

As UN's Annabi (right) mourned peacekeeper, now he is mourned

  While the UN has argued that the Hotel Christopher fell because it was in the epicenter of the earthquake, a correspondent in Port au Prince wrote Friday to Inner City Press

"you asked Mulet about the location and safety of the UN building in Port au that briefing on Weds morning. He said that the UN building was toppled because it was the epicentre of the earthquake. it is not. it is up the road towards Petionville -- the other side of the city. the quake struck towards the south-west. other buildings in the area of the collapsed UN building, the christoph hotel, are standing up fine --- point being that it may not have been such a safe and secure choice."

  The UN decided to rent the Hotel Christopher in 2004. When Inner City Press asked repeatedly how much rent the UN was paying on the building, the UN refused to answer. Finally, DPKO provided this response which Inner City Press exclusively reported:

"the main MINUSTAH headquarters complex (The Christopher Hotel) is rented directly from a private individual (Dr. Gerard Desir) at the rate of $3.86 per square meter. The total complex is 24,383 square meters which includes parking, office space, pre-fab office space, canteen and conference space. The total monthly rent is thus $94,000. Please note that this does not include the MINUSTAH logbase, which is located on a plot of land provided at no cost by the Haitian Government. The decision to select the Hotel Christopher was based on a locally-completed analytical process which determined that this facility was one of the few premises in Port au Prince which would meet the Mission's requirements with regards to space, water and power . It is also in a neighbourhood that was judged in 2004 to be among the safest in Port au Prince."

  Beyond the ironies, note that as another correspondent has tried to get the UN to confirm and update this $94,000 a month figure after the earthquake, the UN has refused.

  With all due respect to Mr. Annabi, questions remain whether the UN should use -- and separately pay $94,000 a month for -- buildings that are not MOSS compliant. We will pursue this question, out of respect for Mr. Annabi and his colleagues. May they rest in peace.

Footnote: while on Friday night, as Inner City Press exclusively reported, Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky had decided to taken 10 media people, including Korean and UN media, on the Sunday one day trip, after complaints two additional wire services were added. This still does not address what criteria were used, nor some other questions. We will continue reporting.

* * *

From Haiti, U.S. Describes Work with UN Hardly Present, Politics of Aid

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said that all aid to Haiti should be coordinated through the UN, this is not happening, according to two U.S. officials' description on Saturday morning of American activities.

  On a press conference call from Haiti, U.S. Senior Regional Adviser Tim Callaghan described American search and rescue teams from Fairfax, Virginia coordinating with the government of Haiti and "the consulate."

  These teams, he said, have rescued 15 people: seven Americans and eight Haitians. It was notable that this U.S. report included no other "internationals," on whom the UN has focused, as least in its own reporting.

  A reporter from Brazil asked why the U.S. is controlling the airport when "the UN should control on the grounds." Responses by Callaghan and U.S. National Security Council chief of staff Dennis McDonough sought to assure the Brazilian media that President Barack Obama spoke with President Lula. The UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH was mentioned only in terms of the Brazilian role in and leadership of its military component.

  In the health sector, the U.S. is giving "what we call WHO medical kits" to the Pan American Health Organization. In the water and sanitation cluster, which the UN's John Holmes acknowledged on Friday to Inner City Press is usually coordinated by UNICEF except they lack presence in Haiti, the U.S. is giving water bladders to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a water purification system to an Argentinian hospital.

  A reporter from Argentina asked about an Argentine Hercules aircraft, full of medical supplies, which could not land in Port au Prince and is now waiting in the Dominican Republic.

  The American briefers said they would look into it. They confirmed to CNN that a medical donation from Israel "has arrived" but had no information on offers, including of oil, from Venezuela. Call it the politics of aid.

Self-help shelter in Cite Soleil, UN (and US) aid and coordination not shown

  An American radio reporter demanded to know if Secretary of State Clinton's visit today was blocking other aid getting in. McDonough quickly "disabused" the reporter of the idea, saying that the flights used will also bring aid, and take evacuees out.

  Is that the case, one UN correspondent wanted to know, with the plane to be used on Sunday by what's now know as the Ban-tourage, the UN's Ban Ki-moon and entourage, including the documentarians from the UN and Ban's native South Korea? Again, the politics of aid. Watch this site.

* * *

In Haiti, National UN Staff in Limbo, Despite Some Good News in Ruins

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- At the UN on July 14 it became even less clear what the UN Mission in Haiti is doing for it national staff, including how it is counting them. In the casualty figures released by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the morning, no national Haitian staff were included.

At the UN's noon briefing by video link from near the Port au Prince airport, figures were provided for injured national staff, but not deceased or missing. Inner City Press, which first raised the question on July 13, asked why. Because they went to their homes, was the answer. Because they are focused on survival.

  Inner City Press is informed that a MINUSTAH staffer, close with Hedy Annabi, has been found alive. A reliable source told Inner City Press that "Patrick Hein, working closely with Annabi was rescued... brought up from the mess of concrete. According to his dad Philippe Hein ( who has visited him at one point in Haiti and used to work at WTO ) his office is next to Annabi. Father was a bit piss off at Kouchner for saying that everyone has perished."

  If true, this is good news. But what about national Haitian UN staff? When Pressed, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Haiti, the tri-lingual Kim Bolduk, said that UNDP had sent out three missions to check on its national staff in their homes.

  When Inner City Press tried to follow up this answer to MINUSTAH's director of communications, UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky cut in to disallow this follow up.

Hotel Christopher, rented by UN for $94,000 a month, in ruins - MOSS compliant?

  He proceeded to allow some others two and three follow ups, whenever they wanted. The UN is full of open double standards. We will continue. 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.

* * *

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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