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As Sri Lanka Still Bars Press from Camps, UN Denies Receiving Elders' Letter

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 4, updated -- With the Sri Lankan government still blocking the press from its camps for people it internally displaced, the Elders organization founded by Nelson Mandela last week wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, his top humanitarian John Holmes and top development official Helen Clark, urging the UN to do more.

  On November 30, days after the Elders announced their letter, Inner City Press asked then outgoing UN spokesperson Michele Montas for the UN's response to the Elders' letter. Ms. Montas said the UN hadn't received any such letter.

  Ironically, on the evening of November 30, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona told Inner City Press, on the record, that he had received the letter, of which he said he "questions the timeliness." He spoke to Inner City Press about opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, but said his comments were off the record.

  Later in the week, a senior UN official from Mr. Ban's 38th floor approached Inner City Press to say that the letter had been received. But when Inner City Press on December 3 asked acting spokesperson Marie Okabe to finally respond to the call in the Elders' letter, Ms. Okabe repeated the statement that her Office was not aware of any such letter. See transcript and update below.

UN's Ban and Elders: urging on Sri Lanka not shown

  The Elders' now week old announcement states that they "are particularly concerned that the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross and national and international NGOs have had too limited a role in monitoring the movement of people, and have not had access to all the areas where people have been returned. Equally worrying are reports that some of those released have been placed in new, closed camps in their district of origin by local authorities."

  Despite quotes from UN officials this week about how pleased they are with the government's announcement that IDPs will be released or at least allowed to temporarily leave the camps -- most see this as tied to the January election, and not any vindication of the UN's decidedly "quiet" diplomacy approach -- major wire services report ongoing problems

Journalists are still not allowed in the camps, and by December 4, reporetdly less than 20 percent of the IDPs had left. So what is the UN happy about? And what is it hiding from? Watch this site.

From the December 3 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: And I asked you about this letter from Elders, Desmond Tutu and others about Sri Lanka. At the time that I asked you you’d said that you hadn’t received it. Has it been received and what’s the UN’s response to it?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: We checked for you at that time and we had not received it, and I have not seen anything that has updated that

Update: from the December 4 noon briefing transcript:

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: in response to a question on Sri Lanka -- I believe, Matthew, you asked about the letter from Desmond Tutu -- we can now confirm that that letter has been received.

   But what about the issues? Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, No Iraq and Maybe No Congo Sanctions, No Colombia and Georgia in the Wings, December's Step Children Issues

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- The agenda of the UN Security Council was discussed informally on the night of December 1, then formally the next day. At a fried rice and liquor stoked reception by Thailand on Tuesday night, a diplomat from Georgia asked Inner City Press if his country, following the war with Russia and the subsequent removal of UN observers, is still on the Council's agenda.

  Meanwhile, as Venezuela's Ambassador fueled up, Inner City Press asked if he expects his country's letter to the Council to succeed in its request to put Colombia on the Council's agenda. Let's see, the Ambassador said.

  Which member would call for a vote on Venezuela's request, Inner City Press asked. Already it appears that neither Mexico nor Costa Rica will do so. We have friends on the Council, Venezuela's Ambassador said. But the one other logical friend -- part of the axis including Hugo, as one wag put it -- said that the conflict between Colombia and Venezuela isn't serious enough to get on the agenda.

  Wednesday the new President of the Council, Burkina Faso's Michel Kafando, took question about the Council's program of work for December. Inner City Press asked four questions, including what happened with Venezuela's letter, since the issue is not even in the footnotes of the month's calendar.

  "Yes we were seized by Venezuela," Ambassador Kafando began. "But the Council prefers to have all the necessary elements at hand before expressing itself" or even taking a matter up in its program of work. What further information could the Council be waiting for? Or is this just a diplomatic way to say, not enough deaths?

Amb. Kafando last time 'round, Georgia, Sri Lanka and Iraq not shown

  Inner City Press asked if the Council will discuss Iraq, where the election is being postponed, and if Georgia is still on the Council's agenda. Video here, from Minute 23:38. Ambassador Kafando said there is no Council meeting on that Iraq topic -- a Western member on the other hand tells Inner City Press there are consultations on December 4.

Kafando said that Georgia was not raised by anybody, and therefore isn't in the program of work. But it is "still a current question" he said, "we might discuss it."

   The distinction is between being in the program of work, and being "on the agenda," so it can be raised. Sri Lanka, despite tens of thousands of victims, was never placed on the agenda, and is no longer discusssed by the Council, even in the basement. But Georgia can be.

  Inner City Press asked when the Council will finally consider the very damning Group of Experts report on the Congo, which slams MONUC for assisting Congolese Army units which kill and assist illegal mining. Kafando said there is a meeting on the 16th of December, but he is not sure if the report, already widely publicly available, will be "ready" at that time. "There is a problem with that," he said, "the report hasn't been finalized."

  The Group of Experts leaked the report because they fear that the process in New York of "finalizing" it would result in its being watered down. Now the Council refuses to consider the report UNTIL it has been watered down. Only at the UN.

* * *

On Darfur, Gambari To Be "Vigilant," U.S. Belatedly Says, No Comment on Blackmail or Myanmar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- Two days after Inner City Press exclusively reported it, on Wednesday morning a Security Council member confirmed that a letter nominating Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria as the UN's and African Union's Special Representative to Darfur has gone to Council members.

  Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, for the second time, about Mr. Garbari for Darfur, given that the U.S. criticized his predecessor Rodolphe Adada for being too soft on Khartoum. Ambassador Rice said Gambari should play an "active and vigilant role... to halt attacks on civilians." Video here, from Minute 11:41.

  During his time as UN envoy on Myanmar, Gambari was criticized by human rights groups for being too close to the military government of Than Shwe. Gambari's response, privately and then publicly, was that if the "Western powers" didn't give him benefits to offer to Myanmar, he could accomplish little because the country has natural gas and oil which China and India want.

  Darfur, of course, also has oil which China wants and is obtaining. So what benefits, what "carrots instead of sticks," will the U.S. through Ambassador Rice allow Gambari to offer?

  At the UN's noon briefing, the day after Inner City Press had asked acting Spokesperson Marie Okabe about Gambari, she read a statement about his nomination.

  Inner City Press asked her to respond to the statements, including by an African Ambassador who withheld his name from consideration for the post, that Nigeria "blackmailed" Ban Ki-moon by threatening to pull its troops from Darfur if a Nigerian didn't get the post.

  Ms. Okabe declined to respond, saying it is now with the Security Council. Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Rice about the Nigerians threat to pull out of Darfur. Video here, from Minute 13:23.

  "I can't comment on that," Ambassador Rice said as she walked away from the stakeout microphone. Why not? Some say Nigeria was miffed at the Obama administration for visiting Ghana rather than Lagos. We'll see.

Susan Rice as President, Darfur process and Myanmar successor not shown

Footnote: Ambassador Rice also declined to provide the U.S. position on what should be done with with the UN good office post on Myanmar that Gambari has been filling.

  "I'll let the UN address that question as to what his relationship with MYanmar will continue to be, if any," she said. Inner City Press was told by an involved Ambassador that the UK -- and the U.S.? -- wanted Gambari out of that post for being too soft on Than Shwe. Is Darfur less important? Has it become just a footnote?

From the U.S. Mission's transcript, video here from Minute 7:27 -

Inner City Press: On Darfur? I wanted to ask you, it’s known that…

Ambassador: Hold on, can we continue on Afghanistan?

 Later, video here from Minute 11:41 --

Inner City Press: I want to ask you on Darfur, it’s… it’s thought or known that the US had concerns about Rodolphe Adada when he was SRSG of the UN for UNAMID. Now that Mr. Gambari’s been nominated in a letter sent to the Council does the US, you know… do they… do you feel that his approach will be different than that of Adada what do think he should do as SRSG and relatedly what’s going to happen with Myanmar for the UN? Is he going to cover both?

Ambassador Rice: I’ll let the UN address that question as to what his relationship to Myanmar will continue to be, if any. We have significant appreciation and respect for Ambassador Gambari and we look forward to working with him as he takes over the role of SRSG for Darfur. We think it’s vitally important that UNAMID come up to full strength; that the impediments to its movement and access are immediately eliminated; and that the SRSG play a very active and vigilant role in ensuring that both sides adhere to their obligations to halt attacks on civilians, to adhere, we hope, to a lasting cessation of hostilities. There is great work to be done as we discussed the other day in the Council on the political front, but there’s a vital need to ensure that UNAMID, whose mandate it is to protect civilians, is fully able to accomplish that and that’s what we will look to Ambassador Gambari as SRSG to accomplish.

  And then the question about Nigeria's reported blackmail to get the post for Gambari is not included in the U.S. Mission's transcript.

* * *

Darfur Post to Gambari Confirmed, US's Kurt Campbell and UK's Burma Shave

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 1 -- That the UN is giving its top Darfur post to Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari was an open secret Tuesday night at the UN, although so far only Inner City Press has reported it, repeatedly, four times in the last 36 hours. A top UN peacekeeping official told Inner City Press that Nigeria made a strong play for the post, citing its high number of peacekeepers in Darfur.

An involved Ambassador told Inner City Press that the cynical explanation is that the United Kingdom wants someone more strident to be the envoy to Myanmar, Gambari's current job, and so agreed to move him to Darfur. But why did the U.S. go along?

Inner City Press approached Gambari himself, for the second time in 12 hours, at Thailand's national day reception on Tuesday night. "No comment," Gambari began, laughing. He said he had met in Washington with the the State Department's Kurt Campbell. As before, he argued that his strategy of engagement with the Than Shwe military government in Myanmar is now being adopted by the U.S. -- why not in Darfur? Scott Gration may be only the beginning.

UN's Ban and Garbari, Western views on Myanmar and Darfur not shown

An official of the UN's half moribund Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, a post Gambari used to fill, confirmed that Gambari is going to Darfur. A person already offered a job in Darfur by Gambari said the Nigeria's new president likes Gambari. As reported, even UN Peacekeeping acknowledges that Nigeria used its peacekeeping presence in Darfur to win the post.

  During the reception, Lynn Pascoe he UN's head of Political Affairs, another job Gambari previously held, exchanged pleasantries with Gambari and then left. Then Gambari left. "Darfur here I come," someone said, still wondering why he took the job. But take it he did -- you heard it here first. Watch this site.

* * *

Offering Darfur Jobs, UN's Gambari Returns from DC, Link to UNDP Post?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 1 -- In the lobby of UN headquarters on Tuesday morning, the UN's envoy - designate to Darfur Ibrahim Gambari told Inner City Press, "I was in Washington yesterday." Over the weekend, Gambari began asking certain UN staff to work for him in Darfur.

  Several Darfur focused advocacy groups have contacted Inner City Press responding to its exclusive reporting and expressing concern about Mr. Gambari, pointing to his recent "good offices" role with military government of Myanmar, and previous service of the Sani Abacha military government in his native Nigeria.

  Does Gambari's November 30 Washington trip, they now ask, confirm that these concerns are not shared by the Obama administration?

  A senior UN official approached Inner City Press on Tuesday and criticized Gambari's "unprincipled" actions regarding Myanmar. "He goes to China and Russia and says, 'you have to help me with these self righteous Westerners,'" the official said. "Then he goes to the U.S. and says, 'China and Russia don't to do anything.' Finally he tells Than Shwe, 'I can help you improve your image, I did it in Nigeria.'"

  This recounting is not inconsistent with how Gambari himself has described his role.

  In something of a new low for the UN, Acting Spokesperson for the Secretary General Marie Okabe at Tuesday's noon briefing dodged Inner City Press' request that she confirm that the Secretariat has already offered the post to Gambari.

  Ms. Okabe said that a joint letter with the African Union will go to the Security Council. Video here, from Minute 10:54.

  Ms. Okabe insisted that this procedural explanation answered Inner City Press' question. But the request for for confirmation that the Secretariat has offered the post to Gambari. On Monday, three senior UN officials told Inner City Press this, with one of them adding only that "it's not signed."

  The Secretary General himself, when Inner City Press told him the Gambari to Darfur story had already been published, asked "how did you know?" For his acting spokesperson, the next day, to decline to confirm the offer falls short of the transparency -- even, of the competence -- that has been promised.

UN's Gambari and Myanmar's generals, Khartoum not shown

  Similarly, Ms. Okabe on Tuesday quoted from a Ban Ki-moon speech that he will shortly appoint a woman as Associate Administrator of the UN Development Program. Video here, from Minute 5:35.

  Since the African Group, as exclusively reported by Inner City Press, has protested to Ban against his projected appointment of Rebecca Grynspan of Costa Rica to the post, announcing now the gender of the winner appears to reject the African protest.

  Inner City Press asked for confirmation that the appointee is Rebecca Grynspan, and Ms. Okabe said no name is being announced. But doesn't announcing the gender imply that the decision is made? "I only know what he said in his statement," Ms. Okabe said. Isn't a spokesperson supposed to know, or at least be able to find out, more than that?

  Some think that the top nomination have cynically, or demographically, become linked. The Ban Administration will be "humiliating" the African Group, as one Ambassador put it, by denying them the UNDP post they believe was promised to them when Helen Clark of New Zealand took the top spot and Ad Melkert left.

  But the Ban Administration will point, as a sop to Africa, to the appointment of Gambari to the Darfur job, a post that was certainly going to go to an African anyway. "Or they'll wait on Grynspan, to combine it with some other announcement," a UN official told Inner City Press. Watch this site.

* * *

U.S. Supports UN's Offer of Darfur Post to Gambari Despite NGOs' Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- On making the new UN envoy to Darfur the Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari, previously UN envoy to Myanmar, it appears the fix is in. Even the U.S., said to have wanted a more strident human rights voice for the post, has reportedly gone along.

  U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, asked Monday about Gambari to Darfur, said "we support the Secretary General."

  Following Inner City Press' exclusive report earlier on Monday that Gambari had been offered the post by the UN and African Union, Inner City Press received confirmation that Gambari has already been requesting commitments to come serve with him in Dar fur.

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as he greeted Inner City Press, was told that iot had already published the Gambari to Darfur story. His reaction was, "How did you know?"

  A top UN peacekeeping official said that the offer had been made - and Gambari has already started hiring -- but it "remains to be signed."

  The UN Security Council is required to sign off on the appointment. Because the U.S., France and UK had opposed Rodolphe Adada's "soft" line on Khartoum in a closed door lunch with Ban Ki-moon, many including U.S.-based NGOs had assumed the U.S. would use its leverage at the UN to get a a stronger voice, less "aligned with dictators" as one NGO put it, to head the Darfur mission.

Susan Rice and team at stakeout, Gambari to Darfur not shown

  Inner City Press sought to ask questions of Susan Rice at her too rare stakeout session on Monday, but was not given the microphone by her spokesman. Later, Inner City Press posed to the spokesman four questions in writing, including a request to comment on Gambari to Darfur. By 7 p.m. no comment had been received.

  Inner City Press asked Susan Rice for her and the U.S. Mission's view of Gambari to Darfur. "We support the Secretary General," she said. Since his Office has confirmed the job offer to Gambari, this means that Ms. Rice and the U.S. support Gambari, despite reservations being expressed by the Darfur focused NGOs which supported Barrack Obama. Watch this space.

* * *

Nigerian "Blackmail" Captures UN's Darfur Post for Gambari, Spurned Candidate Tells Inner City Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- The joint UN - African Union envoy post to Darfur has been the subject of "blackmail by the Nigerians," a well placed African Ambassador exclusively told Inner City Press on Monday morning, explaining the UN's offer of the post to Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari.

  He said that "once the Nigerian threatened to pull their troops out of Darfur unless they get [Rodolphe] Adada's post," he and other candidates withdrew themselves from consideration "to avoid putting the Secretary General in an awkward position."

 Previously, Rwanda threatened to pull its troops if it was not given the force commander post in UNAMID, vacated by Nigerian Martin Luther Agwai.

  Now, the Ambassador said, "the Nigerians have given Ban Ki-moon a list of their nationals for consideration for the post." He added that while he understands that Ban will "give in" and name a Nigeria, it will not be one on the list provided by the country.

  Asked about the possibility, reported months ago on June 19 by Inner City Press, of Ibrahim Gambari getting the post, the Ambassador nodded and said, "but it is not yet very open."

  Subsequently, Inner City Press got confirmation of the post going to Gambari from a senior Ban administration adviser on the 38th floor, as well as individuals who have received confirmation from Mr. Gambari himself. He was getting shouldered out of his Development Fund for Iraq duties by Ad Melkert. He was known to be frustrated by Ban's political chief Lynn Pascoe not letting him work on any African issues. But who will take over for the UN in Myanmar? Watch this site.

  One wonders what the U.S., France and UK, which criticized Rodolphe Adada's "too soft" stance to Ban Ki-moon, think of this process to replace Adada.

  At a closed door lunch between the Security Council and Ban, the three Western Permanent member lambasted Adada's assessment of Darfur. Inner City Press has been told, by an attendee of the lunch, that rather than say he'd look into it -- or, as he has with Kai Eide in Afghanistan, that he fully supports "all" of his SRSGs, Ban said he agreed with the criticism and would talk to Adada. Then Adada was not renewed.

  More recently, Ban's outgoing spokesperson has insisted that UN position like the contested number two post in the UN Development Program are given out on merit, not continent much less nationality. The process to replace Adada, as described by a withdrawn applicant, is at odds with this claim.

UN peacekeepers in Darfur's Zam Zam camp, UN politics not shown

  Following the Security Council's consultations about Darfur on November 30, Inner City Press asked outgoing Council president Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria what the Council made of report that Sudan's Al Bashir government wants the UN to prepare to pull its peacekeepers out. Mayr-Harting said, that did not come up. Again.

Footnote: Mayr-Harting also said, in his final stakeout as Council President, that the Council would defer until its extension of the mandate UN Mission in the Congo the damning conclusions of the Congo Panel of Experts, including that the Mission, run by Alan Doss, is assisting and enabling former CNDP units which are now Congolese Army units and are involved in mining, including of gold.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, in a rare but still overly controlled stakeout Q &A before Mayr Harting's, spoke of the DRC sanctions, alluding to Sixty Minutes' November 29 piece on the topic, as well as Somalia. Inner City Press has submitted written questions on these and another topic to the U.S. Mission, which says it will respond when possible. Watch this site.

* * *

As Congo's Gold Hits 60 Minutes, UN Is Let Off Hook, Wal-Mart's 10% Solution

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- The Congo's conflict gold was the subject of a fifteen minute feature tonight on the American television program Sixty Minutes. A former rebel said he used collected gold to buy weapons and ammunition from the Congolese army. A woman said she was raped by men in Army uniforms.

  Sixty Minutes accepted UN escort and showed a UN camp, but neglected to mention that the UN now provides logistical support to the Congolese army, which beyond weapon sales and rape has been documented for the mass murder of civilians, by the UN's own special rapporteur and experts.

  But the UN's top envoy to the Congo Alan Doss has told Inner City Press there is not enough evidence, and has yet to act on Special Rapporteur Philip Alston's report detailing mass rape by Congo's Army. (Click here for coverage of Congo trip by Inner City Press.)

  Rather than at least mention this perversion of the UN's peacekeeping mandate, Sixty Minute showed a UN camp to which 13,000 internally displaced people fled. Bags of flour and beans and cooking oil were distributed on the day of filming, for the first time in five months.

  Neither Sixty Minutes nor the two non governmental organizations which appeared on screen, HRW and the Enough Project, explained the starvation just outside a UN camp.

UN's Ban and Doss in Congo, continuing support of rogue Army units not shown

  The point of the show was that just as conflict diamonds were focused on seven years ago, conflict gold now cries out for action.

  Sixty Minutes said without explanation that the UN tries to stem the flow of conflict gold. But if the UN is supporting Army units which rape, kill and sell weapons, and which themselves control mines, how is the UN trying to stop the flow?

Footnote: Back in the U.S., Sixty Minutes quotes Tiffany's as identifying the source of nearly all of its gold -- in Utah -- while Wal-Mart will only say that it will track the source of 10 percent of its gold by next year. If it were rap music with profanity, Wal-Mart would take action. But conflict gold from the Congo? Ten percent sourcing, maybe, by next year...

* * *

IMF Murky on Angola's Oil, Bond and China Deals, Doles Out $1.4 Billion

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 25 -- Days after announcing a $1.4 billion arrangement with Angola, the International Monetary Fund held a press conference call to offer explanations. At the end, things were murkier than before. Inner City Press asked if the IMF had been able to fully assess the income and distribution of revenue from the state owned oil company Sonangol.

  The IMF's Lamine Leigh, who led the Fund's missions to Angola in August and September, replied that "in the context of our negotiations, Sonangol participated fairly well." Inner City Press asked, since Sonangol has accounts in off shore financial centers and tax havens, if the IMF had gotten to the bottom of these accounts.

  After a long pause, Lamine Leigh proffered another answer, that the government has "committed to steps in the more general area of resource revenue transparency." But what about the Sonangol accounts?

Oil in Angola, Sonangol's accounts not shown

  Inner City Press asked about the statement by IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair Takatoshi Kato that in Angola "measures will be taken to strengthen further the regulatory and supervisory framework." The IMF's Senior Advisor on Africa Sean Nolan replied that the IMF analyzed the effect of the exchange rate on borrowers and "on the banks."

  In fact, Angola's government has gotten billions in pre-export oil loans from, for example, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank. The latter has made similar loans in Turkmenistan, assailed by transparency and human rights advocates. How much of the IMF's new arrangement benefits these banks?

  In fact, the questioner after Inner City Press, cutting off follow up, was from Standard Bank. Other than Inner City Press, the only other media questioner was from Reuters.

  Before the call ended, Inner City Press was able to ask about Angola's reported $4 billion bond sale planned for December. Sean Nolan said that the IMF's "understanding" with Angola does involve a "fundraising effort," but that the timing was not agreed to, the IMF does not "micromanage" to that extent. Nolan added that there is an agreement on an "overall limit."

  "Is it four billion dollars?" Inner City Press asked.

  Nolan replied that the precise limit will be "clear in the documents," which have yet to be released. Why play hide the ball?

 Nolan praised the country for "appointing reputable financial and legal advisers for the transaction" -- JPMorgan Chase will be the manager.

  Nolan continued that the actual size of the bond sale will depend on how much "concessionary lending" Angola gets from "countries with a strong record of financial support to Angola."

  Inner City Press asked if the size of China's loans to Angola -- China gets 16% of its foreign oil from Angola -- were known by the IMF or considered.

  "That hasn't figured in our discussions," the IMF's Nolan responded. Why not? Watch this site.

* * *

IMF's Report Buries Its Icesave Conditionality, Enforcer's Duplicity?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 3 -- While the IMF has acknowledged that its second round of disbursements to crisis-hit Iceland was delayed for months by the country's failure to placate those in the Netherlands and UK who did business with IceSave, the IMF's just released report on Iceland buries the issue on page 30 of the 98 page report. The IMF states that

"[t]he terms and conditions of Nordic loans, amounting to $2.5 billion, have been finalized. Their disbursement has been linked to resolution of the Icesave dispute with the U.K. and Netherlands over deposit insurance liabilities. After protracted discussions, the three governments have reached an agreement on this"

  Once that agreement was reached, on October 18, the IMF then went forward with a letter of intent and memorandum of understanding for the second tranche of financing. But, as with the IMF's moves in Latvia for Swedish banks, some see the Fund operating as an enforcement or collections agent for creditors who even less would like to show their hand.

Iceland / Icesave protest, but is the heartfelt sign true?

  Since the IMF does not like to admit or reveal its degree of control over the countries it lends to, the de facto conditions for loans, such as paying off on IceSave, are often not explicit in what purport to be full agreements containing all express and implied terms.

  In fact, the IMF has claimed that it "no longer" engages in conditionality. But the Iceland report has an entire chart about conditionalities. It's just that the most important one was left unsaid. Is this diplomacy or duplicity?

  The IMF's Iceland report continues, about other loan requests including from Russia:

"A loan from the Faroe Islands ($50 million) has already disbursed, and a loan from Poland has been agreed ($200 million), and will disburse alongside the next 3 program reviews. A $500 million loan originally committed by Russia is no longer expected, but the $250 million in over-financing in the original program, an expected macro-stabilization loan from the EU ($150 million), and use of an existing repo facility with the BIS ($700 million, of which $214 million is outstanding) will more than offset this."

   Offset may be the right word. Last year, in the midst of Iceland's abortive run for a seat on the UN Security Council, the country announced it had to seek a $4 billion loan from Russia. It was after that that the IMF loan commitment was made -- an "offset," some saw it -- and after talks in Istanbul, on October 15 the already whittled down loan request to Russia was formally rejected.

  Then the deal with the UK and Netherlands, and the IMF's releasing. While the IMF calls these types of moves only technical, others call them power politics. Watch this site.

* * *

IMF Plays Ukraine, Zim and Pakistan As "Technical" Questions, Pushes Tax Hikes in Serbia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 -- Are the International Monetary Fund's negotiations with countries about the level of taxes and salaries for public sector employees, the pricing of electricity and the privatization of social services political, or merely "economic and technical"? The questions arose Thursday in connection with Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, among others, in the IMF's first press briefing since its annual meeting in Turkey.

  IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson fielded questions for half an hour, leaving unanswered one submitted by Inner City Press about Serbia, where the IMF's Paul Thompson has been quoted that "if the Serbian delegation has a concrete pan for decreasing expenses, we will support it, if not, they will have to agree with us and think about increasing taxes." Left unanswered: how is raising taxes merely "technical"?

  Ms. Atkinson did respond to Inner City Press' questions about Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. While a full transcript is available online here, and video here, in sum the Q & A went as follows:

 Inner City Press asked, In Ukraine, the opposition party is critical of the IMF as funding the campaign of Tymoshenko. What is the IMF's response to the opposition's criticism? Ms. Atkinson replied that IMF funds go to the central bank, and that the IMF has a team on the ground in Kiev for a third review.

  The opposition was not, it seems, saying that money from the IMF is being used by Tymoshenko for advertisements or to pay poll workers, but rather "MP and opposition government's finance minister, Mykola Azarov, said this at a meeting with delegates of an IMF mission, 'We must say that the program of cooperation with the IMF has turned out to be ineffective, and nothing is left but to consider the IMF's assistance as politically motivated, as funding of one of the candidates running for the presidency.'"

  When another reporter asked a follow up question about Ukraine, wondering if with the IMF mission on the ground, the upcoming election "is an issue," Ms. Atkinson said the IMF does not comment while a mission is in the field, negotiating a program, but that information -- and one hopes some questions and answers -- will be provided once the mission is completed

IMF points the way, in budgets... and politics?

  On Zimbabwe, Inner City Press asked, "NGOs are critical of the IMF for, they say, pushing Zimbabwe to privatize its social services system. Has the IMF pushed for that, and how does it respond to the criticism?" Ms. Aktinson, while saying she can get back to Inner City Press with more information, argued that the IMF does not favor or disfavor particular privatizations, but must be pushing to strengthen the social service sector to help the poor.

  But speaking just ahead of civil society's consultative meeting with an IMF team under Article IV of the Fund's Articles of Agreement, NANGO said "'we are opposed to some IMF polices such as privatization of basic social services. We know it from the past that some IMF policies have worked against people in this country. They have affected the social services sector and their polices are anti-people and negative'... [NANGO] said some of the IMF instigated polices which had brought suffering to the people were the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) and Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (ZIMPREST)." It's a pretty specific critique, and we'll publish the IMF's response upon receipt.

  Following up on Inner City Press' questions and article from August 2009, it asked "in Pakistan, the IMF in August extended for a year the country's time to eliminate electricity subsidies. Now, while the IMF says 2 price increases will be implemented, others say this is not possible politically. What is the IMF's thinking on consumer power pricing in Pakistan?"

Ms. Aktinson replied that "as I believe you know, the issue of issue of electric subsidy is typically done by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank," that IMF gets involved due to the budget."we will be having another review of the Pakistan program in early November." We'll be there....

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On Food Speculation, UN's Expert Says Nothing's Being Done, S. Korean Land Grabs from Madagascar to Sudan, Brazil on Ethanol

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 21 -- After many speeches at the UN about the need to crack down on financial speculation in food, nothing has been done, the UN's expert on the right to food told Inner City Press on Wednesday.

  Olivier de Schutter, a Belgian law professor just back from a visit to Brazil about, among other things, the loss of land for food to ethanol, replied that "nothing is moving at the inter-governmental level." This despite a statement by the G-20 in April favoring the regulation of hedge funds which present systemic risk. The argument is that commodities index funds which speculate in food present systemic risk to net food importing countries. But nothing has been done.

   De Schutter spoke about the monopolization of the seed industry, and made a slew of recommendations for governments. The three top monopolizers -- Monsanto, Dupont and the Swiss-based Syngenta -- are all members of the UN Global Compact, and claim to comply with human rights. De Schutter pointed out the antitrust law is directed as national and not global or subnational markets. It is all very heady but one wonders what effect it has.

  Brazil might be one of de Schutter's claims to impact. He spoke glowingly of President Lula, saying that Brazil has said that only 19% of land can be used for sugar cane for ethanol, and has committed to monitor labor rights. But what about, for example, Indonesia and Malaysia?

De Schutter, action on food speculation not shown

  After De Schutter's briefing, Inner City Press asked his staffer for an update on the proposed land grab in Madagascar by South Korea based Daewoo, which was reputed after the coup in that country. De Schutter had been scheduled to visit, but it was put off by the coup. The same thing happened in Honduras. So perhaps De Schutter does have an effect after all, mused one wag.

Footnote: immediately after De Schutter's briefing, the UN's Haile Menkerios was scheduled to speak to the Press about Madagascar. While the UN usually compartmentalizes its work such that a rapporteur looks at land grabs, while the Secretariat remains on "political affairs" narrowly defined, this land grab played a role in the change of government. Now it's said the South Korean deal is being pursued from India, while South Korea appears to have moved on to 690,000 hectares in Sudan. 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.

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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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