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US Helicopter "Crash" in Haiti Described to Inner City Press by UN Sources, Developing

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18, 7:30 pm, updated Jan 18, 8:50 am -- A helicopter has crashed by Port au Prince, Haiti, a senior UN official told Inner City Press on Monday at 6 p.m.. 

  An hour of further inquiry within the UN has resulted in a confirmation, along with a statement that the aircraft's affiliation with the UN is not known. Injuries are rumored. Watch this space.

Update of 8:41 p.m.- while the crash has been multiply confirmed to Inner City Press, a request for further information sent to the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator resulted in the following, from his spokesperson: "Full info about this crash is still not known. It was apparently not a UN craft; MINUSTAH is trying to ascertain more details."

The Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General ws padlocked shut. Inner City Press has sent an inquiry, then, to MINUSTAH. Peacekeeping logistics chief Susana Malcorra told the Press on Monday that MINUSTAH has Internet. Watch this space.

Update of January 19, 8:57 a.m. -- While the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs referred on Inner City Press' inquiry Monday evening, and formal UN spokespeople in New York have not provided any update (the UN's spokespeople in Haiti never responded, perhaps understandable), well placed UN sources have just provided Inner City Press with this update:

"A US helicopter was off-loading relief aid and was having problems maneuvering because of the crowds. They mistook the whole thing as a crash, because there was smoke on the background (and it was not that close to the air strip)."

  We hope to have more on this. Watch this space.

Helicopter over Port au Prince on January 14, 2009

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At UN, It's "All Hail" to US in Haiti, While Elsewhere France and Brazil Are Critical

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- As the UN Security Council emptied out Monday at noon, sources told Inner City Press that in closed consultations, the U.S. said that to strengthen the mandate of the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, would "send the wrong message... that the Haitian government is weak."

  Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, who represented the U.S. in the meeting and spoke afterwards to the Press, said that the U.S. is supporting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's request for a vote authorizing 2000 more troops and 1500 more police for MINUSTAH.

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Wolff if it is true that the U.S. thinking strengthening the mandate would send some wrong message. Wolff replied that the UN, including chief Peacekeeper Alain Leroy, has not identified any deficiency in the mandate.

  As Brazil's Ambassador left the Council, Inner City Press asked her about public quotes from Brazil that MINUSTAH's mandate should, in fact, be bolstered. She, however, called the mandate "sufficient."

  When asked about any difficulties Brazilian NGOs have had getting into Haiti through the airport, now run by the U.S., she said there have been "no such problems."

  French Ambassador Gerard Araud, too, was over the top in his praise of the U.S., telling the Press that "we are living in the US after all." Inner City Press asked if, as reported, France supported Medecins Sans Frontieres complaints about having planes blocked by the Americans from the Port au Prince airport.

French Ambassador Araud, ministers' critiques of U.S. not shown

  Araud quickly answered (video here) that the Americans are doing a good job, that the airport is small by international standards, and that "we are living in the US after all."

  In fact, French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet made a complaint about the blocking of MSF's plane. And Araud's boss Bernard Kouchner has said the airport has become an "annex or Washington," according to France's Ambassador to Haiti Didier Le Bret.

   So what is France's position -- these two statements, or Araud's?

From the French Mission's transcription, of question dubious, of answer less so:

Inner City Press: Médecins sans frontières complained that its planes couldn’t get in to the airport and blamed the Americans. Does France confirm that?

Amb. Araud: Of course, no. I think we are extremely grateful and personally I said it in the Council, extremely grateful for what the US government is doing, and especially managing the airport. You know, frustrations are understandable. You have a small airport, in international terms, which was devastated by the earthquake and you have hundred of planes which want to land. So it’s totally normal that there are delays, but I think that the situation has dramatically improved. Yesterday, you know, it was possible to have sixty planes landing and today it will be one hundred planes landing. But the most important will be to work on the port. We have to rehabilitate the port where we can bring most of the aid.

Once again, we are living in the US after all, and we want to express our gratitude for the mobilization of the US administration and the US people.

  From the US Mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: Someone said on this idea of strengthening the mandate that the U.S. had a concern that this would send a message somehow that the Government of Haiti was too weak. I just want to know whether you think there is a danger in that type of message being sent. And also whether the U.S. will be participating in the UN's Flash Appeal that was announced on Friday, whether the $100 million announced by President Obama in any way is related to that or should be counted towards that.

Ambassador Wolff: I'll get back to you on the later question, I want to make sure I have the right information for you, exactly how that $100 million fits into that, into the Flash Appeal.  As to the mandate issue, there is no indication, indeed neither the Secretary-General nor Undersecretary-General Le Roy mentioned any deficiency in the current mandate. And so, if the UN is satisfied and the troop contributors are satisfied and the force commander is satisfied then we should focus on what we need to do under the current mandate. Of course, as you indicate, we will need to look and evaluate over the longer term, as we assess the long term impact of this tragedy on the country and on the UN's ability to function, and whether the requirements for the UN have to be adapted in any way.  That is something that we do with any mandate and we will obviously do it with particular attention in this case.

Watch this site.

Footnote: Since the Security Council has other matters on its agenda, Inner City Press tried to ask this month's Council president, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, if and when he expects the Council to address Afghanistan. But having been asked if the Chinese search and rescue team stopped after finding the Chinese delegation who'd met with Hedi Annabi, Zhang Yesui just walked away. Who will replace him as China's Ambassador is not yet known.

 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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