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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.

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At UN, Hardly Mentioning N.Korea, Did Hillary Meet the Wrong Nigerian Foreign Minister or Just Not Know His Name?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 3, updated May 4 -- When Hillary Clinton came to speak to or at the UN press corps on Monday afternoon, the questions were pre-selected and North Korea was not mentioned. The first two questions were given to CBS and the Wall Street Journal, and both were on Iran.

  The third and it seemed last concerned the US decision to disclose the number of its weapons. By sheet persistence a UN correspondent from South Asia got a question in about India, Pakistan and Israel. But no mention of North Korea. (In full disclosure, Inner City Press said "North Korea" during each lull, each time louder.)

  What explains this seeming blindspot? Why focus so much on Iran, calling it a threat to cross the "red line" to nuclear weapons status, when North Korea is already over the line? On the first day of the NPT Review Conference, Kim Jong-Il was visiting China.

  With Hillary Clinton not addressing North Korea, Inner City Press asked Gareth Evans about it. He said the DPRK has somewhere around 10 weapons, and it is a major concern. A reporter for Iranian media shouted two questions to him about Israel's weapons. Evans scoffed at the second question and turned away. He told a persistent reporter - not this one -- that he had no business cards.

As Hillard Clinton spoke, her counterpart from Indonesia walked by, with an entourage of merely three. Hillary's posse was much larger, similar to that of Ahmadinejad or later in the day, the EU's Lady Ashton. Snarks pegged her outfit as something for last week's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and even suggested she could be replaced by David Miliband when Gordon Brown's Labor loses. Miliband keeps Tweeting as if Gordo's gonna win.

Hillary Clinton on May 3, wrong Nigerian foreign minister not shown

The US State Department's tweets, meanwhile, contained a blatant error on Monday. It was announced that Hillary met with Nigeria's foreign minister, but the former ousted one was named.

StateDept #SecClinton just held a bilat with Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe in New York. #Nigeria

Actually this began in Hillary's Daily Schedule:

1:20 p.m. Secretary Clinton holds a Bilateral Meeting with Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe, at the TIAA CREFF Building.


  But Maduekwe, whose melt down at the UN Inner City Press covered, is no longer the foreign minister of Nigeria. Nor, last week, did the US Mission to the UN answer a single one of the questions Inner City Press submitted, about Congo and the Sudan -- a topic on which Hillary says she's "disappointed." Well, we're disappointed too.

 Note to Foggy Bottom: there's a new foreign minister of Nigeria, Odein Ajumogobia, and he'll be appearing at Nigeria House on Second Avenue on Wednesday. Watch this site.

Update of May 3, 6:50 p.m. - Zimbabwe's Ambassador, at a Russian reception Monday evening celebrating the end of World War II, told Inner City Press that the event for Nigeria's new foreign minister has been canceled. The plot thickens...

Update of May 4, 11:01 a.m - Inner City Press asked Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the UN Joy Ogwu about the meeting and snafu, and she was seemingly mortified. Ojo is long gone. So why would the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton, reaching out to the world, not even take the time to keep up with a months-old change in foreign ministers of a major African country that's on the UN Security Council? And what will they say about thiat? Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, NPT Opens Amid Monks' Drums, Dissonant Expectations, Ahmadinejad

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 3, updated below -- With Japanese monks beating mournful drums outside the NPT Review Conference opening Monday morning, the dissonance between the aspirations of those outside and inside the UN building could not have been more clear.

  In Grand Central Station amid singing of "learn war no more," a man held a sign of who has the most nuclear weapons: Russia, the US, the other Permanent Five members of the Security Council (China, the UK and France), India, Israel, Pakistan and, the sign said, North Korea with ten.

  Inside the UN, the talk was nearly all about Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has flown in from Tehran -- former U.S. diplomat Mark Wallace wrote to the Millennium Hotel urging they tell him there was no room at the inn -- and is slated to speak late this morning in the General Assembly Hall.

  In the new UN press floor, a maze of cubicles in which no whistleblower dares speak, the Iranian press was in a frenzy. Inner City Press was interviewed by a woman with a scarf covering her head. "What do you think of my President, Doctor Ahmadinejad?" she asked.

  Another journalist for Iranian media came to make the argument that every time a small country joins NATO, it is an example of proliferation: more countries under the nuclear umbrella and, according to him, more countries paying for nuclear weapons.

  The chairman of the conference is the Philippines Ambassador. Some wonder why him; the Manila press expresses hope his role will lead to the passage of an entirely different treaty, about the rights of migrant workers. Dissonant expectations.

UN's Ban and Ahmadinejad before, May 3 scene not yet seen

  From the press gallery above the General Assembly Hall, Inner City Press called out to a few ambassadors, including Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso. He was on the Council until replaced by Nigeria. Where does nuclear proliferation fit in the scheme of Burkina's concerns? Watch this space, this will be updated.

Update of 10:38 p.m. -- from the spaceship-like it begins, with greetings to Ban Ki-moon and... Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Ambassador of Zimbabwe missed his chance to chair the meeting. Zim for Iran! There was a recent visit by A-Jod, to Harare and Uganda. It has begun...

Update of 10:55 a.m. -- Chair Cabactulan quotes as a Chinese proverb that that leader is best who is not known. At seems he may be referring to Ban Ki-moon, who is now speaking about his visit to Russia's test site. Here in press section in upper deck, there are no headphones. How will be hear Ahmadinejad?

Update of 11:21 a.m. -- New IEAE chief bemoans DPRK, Syria and Iran. BKM praised Indonesia for saying it will ratify

Update of 11:29 a.m. -- while waiting for Ahmadinejad, UN email comes in: Hillary Clinton will speak to Press at 5:20. But when's the Ahmadinejad presser?

Update of 11:39 a.m. -- the General Debate begins, with Marty of Indonesia speaking for NAM. Groups get 8 minutes, nations only five. Ahmadinejad next?

Update of 11:59 a.m. -- after Marty of Indonesia went over his time, Ahmadinejad starts up. He takes on Ban Ki-moon's statement about the uranium deal. We accepted that, A-jod says. Puts on glasses.

Update of 12:21 p.m. -- after Inner City Press ran down to press conferene auditorium, having not yet received any response to its 12:11 email to the UN Spokesperson and Deputy asking when the briefing would begin, the room was already locked. Briefing held 12:05 to 12:10, no questions. They have delayed noon briefing in deference to stakeouts by the U.S. Permanent Representative. Not for the President of Iran?

Running back up to the GA Hall, Inner City Press is barred from 4th floor, but shunted to the press booths on the third floor. Three stories directly above Ahmadinejad, who is still speaking, now on the "Zionist regime."

Update of 12:32 p.m. -- Ahmadinejad has been going for half an hour, now reciting the names of famous Iranians. "there will be no room in the future for bullying."

Update of 12:43 p.m. -- as Luxembourg drones on, Ahmadinejad comes back into GA Hall, takes Iran's seat and sits grinning.. Apparently he wants to see if the Luxembourg's of the world will attack him to his face. These are prepared texts, so it seems that they will.

Update of 12:51 p.m. -- with Ireland speaking, Ahmaninejad leaves with entourage. Already the hall is half empty, the press area in the upper deck entirely empty.

 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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