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At the UN, Posturing on Kosovo, Evasions on Use of Rubber Bullets and Ballots, Veto Trades

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 9 -- The UN Security Council, after not meeting for five days, convened Monday about Kosovo. Even on this, the UN was not the center of the action, and both the main briefer, Joachim Ruecker and the holder of the fulcrum point, Russia's Vitaly Churkin, declined afterwards to speak with the press.

            Russian deputy foreign minister Denisov framed the issue over the weekend: if the Council in this case chooses self-determination over territorial integrity, then why shouldn't the logic be applied to Abkhazia and South Ossetia? He might have added Transdniestria, Nagorno-Karabakh and, why not, West Papua.

            The speakers outside the Council were less philosophic. The UK's Karen Pierce said of Russia that it "won't engage" on the issue. The U.S.'s Zalmay Khalilzad recited the line that Kosovo will be independent one way or another; he said a decision will have to be made in a week or ten days. But what decision? The U.S. State Department's man in the Balkans, David Fried, has already said there'll be no action for months. So why a different line, by the U.S. Mission to the UN?

            On the sidelines, the talk turned to how things might actually play out. "Serbia has to be offered EU membership," said one observer. Another asked about the Trepca mine and factory in northern Kosovo. "It's been closed for ten years. A Greek magnate bought it, in cash, during the time of the Milosevic sanctions. Now it's more symbol than reality."

Ban Ki-moon views Portugal, while Council consult on Kosovo

            Back in the world of the real, while the UN put off municipal elections in Kosovo counting -- unrealistically, as it turns out -- on a fast status determination, now questions are rising how long elections can be put off.  Joachim Ruecker should have been asked; perhaps that's among the reasons he rushed past the stakeout, accompanied by a veteran UN spokesman, who has of late circulated from Timor Leste to Lebanon to the Balkans.

            Also for the UN to answer: in the wake of the announcement that UN police in Kosovo will no longer use rubber bullets (which killed to Kosovar protesters), in which other UN missions and by which troop contributing countries are rubber bullets still in use? Inner City Press asked, first the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) then the Office of the Spokesperson, from which the following response was received:

"DPKO will be proposing sending a team to all the missions where FPUs have this type of ordnance. They will look into what they have, how they are trained and how these assets are employed. Following their report we will then go to relevant TCC/PCCs with a proposal on this issue."

            So the direct question, in which countries do UN police have rubber bullets, has not been answered. Or is it that DPKO doesn't know where to send its team?

            At day's end outside the Council, a diplomat said the options are the U.S. pushing for a vote on Kosovo, just to get Russia and perhaps China on the record with a veto, or the process stretching on and further on. Would China veto? It's Ambassador Wang was asked, and referred back to his press conference last week, in which he said, if Serbia and Kosovo come to an agreement, China will have not problems. But how is that different from Russia's position?

    One wag wonders if Russia's support of China by co-vetoing the U.S. resolution to put Myanmar on the Council's agenda in January does not portend China's support of Russia by co-vetoing a U.S.-led resolution on Kosovo. We'll see.

    On Wednesday there are Council consultations on Western Sahara, after which a Presidential Statement may or may not be read out. The diplomat said, "It's sensitive." Yeah.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540