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At Iran's Council Dinner, Two No-Shows, Show and Tell on Enrichment, Russia "Satisfied"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 7, updated -- The UN Security Council's dinner with Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki on Thursday night featured "excellent cuisine," Russian attendee Dolgov told the Press on Friday morning, "I am satisfied." Several Council members, however, either left early (Mexico), came late (Uganda), or didn't come at all (Nigeria and Gabon).

Of the Permanent Five members of the Council, China's Li Baodong was the only Permanent Representative to attend. It was argued, not by Mr. Dolgov, that Russia's P.R. Vitaly Churkin might have attended, but for a dinner with World War Two generals.

Friday morning in front of the Security Council's new basement chambers, Nigeria's absence was excused as part of mourning the President's death. Gabon's Ambassador, who arrived at 10:15 for Friday's Council session on the UN's embattled Chad mission MINURCAT, told Inner City Press, "I'm late, I'll talk with you after" the meeting. France's attendee de la Riviere declined to comment on the dinner conversation.

Inner City Press spoke with one Permanent Representative who attended and who said that the Iranians described the various offers they have made about uranium, but showed "little change of position" on enrichment.

Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, recently returned from a Somalia sanctions trip to spots from Asmara to Yemen, left the dinner after 15 minutes. (It is pointed out that he arrived early and "had a little chat.") Uganda's Ambassador Rugunda, who spoke earlier on Thursday to a group of UN Ambassador's spouses, arrived an hour into the dinner.

Iran's Mottaki: host with the most?

Much was made of the presence of U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff. Some said he was the highest ranking US official to attend such an Iranian event in the US in 32 years. When he left the dinner, from the reporters staked out on the sidewalk came a mock wolf howl, to try to get a readout. Still none was forthcoming.

Japan's Ambassador Takasu, who alone spoke with the media after the dinner, was chided Friday for having spoken only in Japanese, to Japanese media. "I saw only Japanese there," Takasu said as he went into the Council Friday morning. We will interpret this as a too-rare joke.

While as Inner City Press predicted Thursday afternoon, the UK sent neither of its two top officials. Deputy Parham, attending the retirement party of a long time human rights advocate on Thursday evening, was asked if this reflected the UK prioritizing human rights over non-proliferation. He affably declined to comment.

  The UK Mission to the UN is "in purdah," apparently not allowed to speak to the press until there is a government and foreign ministry machinery in place. "Hopefully by the end of the NPT," it was said. So how will they vote on the Chad MINURCAT mission extension, which must be done by May 15? Watch this site.

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At UN, Uganda Ambassador Tells Colleagues Wives of Iran, Nuclear Monsters

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 6 -- Answering a question about Iran on Thursday the UN Ambassador of Uganda, a member of the Security Council, said "we should not let the development of science makes nuclear weapons move faster than us, who are trying to stop these monsters of mass destruction."

  Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda, who invited Inner City Press to his session with Women's International Forum, fielded questions from the wives of Ambassadors to the UN from, for example, Bosnia and Mali. The latter, Mrs. Amalle Baba Lamine Keita Daou, asked "what about Iran?" (Click here for Inner City Press' question and answer with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

  Ahmadinejad recently traveled to Uganda, in what was reported as a trip to lobby for Uganda to vote against nuclear sanctions on Iran. Afterwards, Uganda's position was that it would confer with other African nations, which it represents on the Security Council, and would seek "clarification" from the Obama Administration in the US.

  Some read this as putting Uganda in the camp of Brazil and Turkey, for example, said to be skeptical of sanctions on Iran. But Uganda's Ambassador Rugunda on Thursday thundered against even non-weapon nuclear developments unless they could be closely monitored. He is a medical doctor, graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and a member of a group against nuclear weapons.

  Rugunda was also his government's representative at the talks in Juba, South Sudan with the Lord's Resistance Army. He was asked about this, and characterized the LRA as reduced to groups of four or five "causing trouble." There are, however, reports from the Congo of massacres of 100 and even 300 civilians at a time by the LRA.

UN's Ban and Amb. Rugunda, Iran and spouses not shown

  In the WIF audience on Thursday was Madam Yoo (Ban) Soon-taek, the wife of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Rugunda was introduced, quite formally and informatively, by his wife Jocelyn. While Thursday's session was productive, some thought the grouping a bit anachronistic, asking, are their any male spouses of Permanent Representatives, for example those of Brazil, Luxembourg, the U.S. and one other Permanent Five Security Council member? The group will hear next month from New Yorker author Adam Gopnik. The group's webmaster is leaving. So... watch this site.

Footnote: the Security Council members are set to dine Thursday evening with Iran's Foreign Minister Mottaki at the Iranian resident on Fifth Avenue and 84th Street. France will be represented by its "Charge d'Affaires." It is not clear who will be representing the United States. We'll see.

Update of 5:44 p.m. -- word on the street (84th Street, that is) is that since Susan Rice of the US is not going, the UK's Mark Lyall Grant is not, either, nor is his deputy Philip Parham. Apparently it is too late to talk...

  Or, the UK PR and DPR will be drinking away their sorrows at Labour's loss, or celebrating the Conservatives' failure to gain a majority. One wondered if the Germans -- the one in the P5 Plus One -- are invited, at least for dessert.

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At UN, Ahmadinejad Defends Iran's Treatment of Women, Mocks Obama & Ban Ki-moon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- When Iran dropped its candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council last month, some described it as restoring at least some credibility to the UN, as when Bosnia stepped in and beat out Belarus for a seat two years ago.

But when Inner City Press asked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Iran's successful replacement candidacy, for a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, despite gender discrimination and repression, Ahmadinejad had a different and lengthy answer.

  He said the switch was procedural, that Iran had always wanted the CSW seat more than the Human Rights Council, which within the Asia Group Pakistan was supposed to run for. Due to a misunderstanding, Ahmadinejad said, Iran temporarily made a grab for the HRC, before returning to the seat promised to it, on the Commission on the Status of Women.

  But how does Iran intend to use the seat, Inner City Press asked, since it has refused to sign the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women? We will never sign that, Ahmadinejad vowed. He went to on paint of picture of "love and complementariness" in Iran.

Women won't do menial jobs in Iran, he said, nothing "like you and me, cleaning the street or driving a truck." He said he had read that 70% of married women in Europe suffer physical abuse, but refuse to complain for fear of losing their families. Women are better off, he concluded, in Iran than in Europe.

UN's Ban and Ahmadinejad, human rights not shown

Ahmadinejad's answers came during a more than one hour long press conference held Tuesday across the street from the UN. The room in the Millennium Hotel was full, with journalists from the Daily News, Washington Post and wires, and even Christiane Amanpour (who was not called on).

The moderator had taken a list of reporters who wanted to ask question, which Inner City Press arrive too late to sign. But having covered Iran's Nowruz receptions -- "be more positive next time," the Iranian mission admonished, leading Inner City Press to ask "or what?" -- the moderator nodded and allowed the question.

In fact, many journalists remarked that Ahmadinejad's press conference was more open and democratic than those of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, or the pre-screened stakeout by Hillary Clinton the previous day. There, the US State Department decided in advance which questions to take. At Iran's event, alongside some very pro Tehran question, questions were taken about for example the reports of North Korean weapons intercepted on their way to Iran.

We don't need weapons from them, Ahmadinejad answered. If America finds and seizes such weapons they can keep them. Regarding Ban Ki-moon, Ahmadinejad said that if the UN were in Tehran and Iran had a Security Council veto, Ban would never have spoken as he did on Monday. Asked repeatedly about sanctions, he said that if they go through, it will mean that US President Obama has "submitted" and been taken control of by a gang. This order, he said, will soon collapse.

But what of those arrested and disappeared after the contested elections? Ahmadinejad did not answer that question, fastening instead on the women's rights part of the question. Whether the Iranian mission will in the future allow such questions to be asked, and even answered, remains to be seen.

 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.

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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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