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At Libya & Egypt Stakeout, ICP Asks of Others' Help, Shoukry on Solidarity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18, more here -- The UN, after ousting Tarek Mitri as envoy in favor of Bernardino Leon, has been promoting its good works in Geneva and in the country.

  On February 18, speaking before the foreign ministers of Libya (Tobruk) and Egypt, Leon again cited his own work, see below.

 After the meeting at a stakeout by the foreign ministers of Libya and Egypt, Inner City Press asked if they wanted other countries' military help. Some video here.

 Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry replied that they want "solidarity," and "consistency" with the approach against ISIS taken in Iraq and Syria. (Those are two different approaches, of course.)

 The lifting of the arms embargo imposed on the Libyan government in 2011 is being proposed. Qatar may be against that - but what about Security Council member(s)? We'll have more on this.

In the meeting, Leon said: "given the sense of urgency, I have called for the next meeting of the political dialogue to finalize discussions initiated in Geneva on the formation of government of national unity and security arrangements to pave the way for a formal and comprehensive cessation of hostilities.”

  At the Security Council stakeout before the Jordan-requested meeting began, UK Ambassador Lyall Grant said the meeting would provide a chance to hear from Libya and Egypt; he said he hadn't yet seen the draft resolution. (Another non-Arab Permanent Representative said they HAD seen the draft.)

 After Leon, Libya's foreign minister said he is not requesting an international intervention, only wants Egypt's help.

 Egypt's Foreign Minister Shoukry, citing the killing of the US Ambassador in Benghazi, said that too little was done after the parliament was chased to Tobruk. He said he is counting on Jordan to distribute the draft resolution. Some of the Council say they have a different line of thinking. Watch this site.

At the UN Security Council's meeting on February 15 -- about Yemen -- nothing was said about ehte Egyptians in Libya. But hours later a Senior US State Department Official issued this:

"Secretary Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry today in the aftermath of the horrific video showing the murder of twenty-one Egyptians. The Secretary offered his condolences on behalf of the American people and strongly condemned the despicable act of terror.  Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Shoukry agreed to keep in close touch as Egyptians deliberated on a response."

 Bernardino Leon, as Inner City Press exclusively reported, was installed as head of UNSMIL after then-head Tarek Mitri declined to make the UN mission a mere appendage of European / UK diplomacy. Is it working?

  UNSMIL's former deputy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania has been moved to head UNMEER, the UN's Ebola mission. Sources in Yemen say Ould Cheikh Ahmed was the UN's “designated security official” when a UNICEF staffer was taken hostage while traveling to the Sana'a airport without the required (and needed) security detail. Some say Ould Cheikh Ahmed was distracted, in Yemen and later in Libya, by side business interests.

  But a check of Ban Ki-moon's Public Disclosure website, where his officials are supposed to make rudimentary disclosure of the finances and outside business interests, does not even list Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (while numerous other Deputy SRSGs are listed). His is not in the most recent database, for 2013 - and may escape any disclosure by become an Under Secretary General with a mere nine month stint at UNMEER. Then what? We'll stay on this.

  When the UN Security Council met about Mali on January 6, it was Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, and not UN Peacekeeping official Herve Ladsous, who distributed his speech and came to take Press questions. (Ladsous has a policy against it, here and here.)

  Inner City Press asked Diop about the Mali talks in Algiers, and about the impact of Libya. On the latter, Diop said that “in 2012 the Mali crisis started when the war started in Libya and many Malian elements who were part of the Libyan army decided to come back home with the arms and ammunition. This started the destabilization of Mali.”

   Diop added, "In the southern part of Libya there is a group that has declared allegiance to the Islamic State.” (When asked to name the group he could not or would not.)

    A Greek ship near Derna was bombed -- Inner City Press on January 5 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric by whom; he said the UN does not know.  The Free UN Coalition for Access has asked UN Peacekeeping why the speeches of Ladsous, unlike other UN officials, are not made available.

 Back on November 4 when the UN Security Council met about Libya behind closed doors, the Press outside at the stakeout was repeatedly told that Leon would come and take questions at the stakeout.

 This is what the replaced Tarek Mitri did, each time he briefed the Security Council. With Leon being criticized inside Libya it would seem he'd have all the more reason to speak.

  But he did not. When he came out he barely broke stride -- Inner City Press took a photograph, blurred -- while saying the new Security Council Gary Quinlan of Australia would speak later. When Quinlan did, it was a bland "Press Elements."

  Still the scribes churned it. At 8:15 pm Agence France Presse bragged that it had "obtained" a French-drafted request to put Ansar al-Sharia, Benghazi and Derna, on the Al Qaeda sanctions list.

"A copy of the French-led request to the Al-Qaeda sanctions committee was obtained by AFP." Wonder how...

   Reuters issued a breathless report with unnamed diplomats at 8:19 pm. Both have tried to get smaller investigative Press thrown out of the UN - see documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, here and here - and this request by Reuters to censor one of its complaints to the UN from Google's Search.

  Back on August 27 amid airstrikes in Libya, when outgoing UN envoy Tarek Mitri briefed the UN Security Council, the airstrikes weren't even mentioned in his more than six page prepared text distributed by the UN.

  Inside the Council chamber, improvising but only a little bit, Mitri mentioned the strikes, but not who did them. Back on August 19 and once again since, Inner City Press asked the UN if it knew anything about who was behind them:

Inner City Press: Who did the air strikes?  General Haftar?  What's the UN, either Mr. León or Mr. Mitri or whoever is currently in charge, what's their sense of who's doing air strikes in Tripoli?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't… I think we reported back with the Mission yesterday, if there's anything more I'll share it with you.

  But in the days since, the UN has said nothing. Now the Libyan Dawn group  has taken over the Tripoli airport despite the airstrikes and alleged that the strikes have the involvement of Haftar's (or Hiftar's) supporters, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. What does the UN -- or now Bernardino Leon -- know and say about that? Watch this site.

On Leon: To try to counter Libya's lawless power struggle, the UN engaged in one of its own.

  And unlike most of the member states that make up the UN, and most other inter-governmental organizations, this UN does not answer questions, at least not directly.

  After Inner City Press repeated asked about it, including at the UN's noon briefings on August 11 and 13, on August 14 the UN said Bernardino Leon will take over as its Libya envoy on September 1.

  When Inner City Press asked if that is really Leon's starting day, given that he's said he'll go to Tripoli as early as next week representing the UN, Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Leon is merely "familiarizing" himself with the work he will be, and Mitri remains in place until September 1. Really?

  Ignoring the previous questions and the power-play, wire services like Reuters merely retyped ("reported") the UN's August 14 announcement that Leon will start September 1. And now?

 Back on August 1, Inner City Press exclusively reported that UN envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri was being "pushed out" of the post, including by UK envoy to Libya Jonathan Powell, and cited his brother Lord Powell's extensive business in Libya through Magna Holdings.

  The UK mission, usually responsive, did not provide comment on written Press questions on this; at UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant's August 4 press conference Inner City Press asked about Powell's and Mitri's relationship, without direct answer, see here.

  Then the UK's Ambassador to Libya Michael Aron has announced, on Twitter no less,  that Mitri is out and Ban Ki-moon has installed a new UN envoy, former Zapatero diplomat Bernardino Leon Gross.

  The UN, at least at its August 8 noon briefing and in emails since, has not announce anything about replacing Mitri, much less by whom.

  Ban Ki-moon's office said that for August 9 and 10, "Spokesperson on call:  Mr. Farhan Haq." So Inner City Press wrote to Farhan Haq, as well as to lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Hello. Now that the UK Ambassador to Libya, and others, have announced that Ban Ki-moon has appointed Bernardino Leon to replace Tarek Mitri as Ban's representative to Libya, head of UNSMIL, this is a request on deadline - today - that your Office confirm that this appointment or nomination has been made.

Has the letter been sent to the Security Council?

Is Leon already confirmed?

If not, how it is appropriate that P5 countries are saying he already has the job? On deadline, today.

Given many of the ongoing Afghanistan leaks are about UN DSS and UNAMA, not UNDP, there will be further questions. But the above is on deadline for today. Thank you in advance.

  But more than four hours later, by "close of business" in New York, the "spokesperson on duty" had not answered, had not even acknowledged receipt of the question.

  What does it mean to be the UN's "spokesperson on duty"?

   Isn't it for Ban Ki-moon to make this announcement? In fact, in 2011 when France had already gotten its Jerome Bonnafont in place to replace its Alain Le Roy atop UN Peacekeeping, Bonnafont's bragging about it in India, where he was French Ambassador, led to Ban rescinding the "offer."
  France countered with three time loser Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press reported each step -- including Bonnafont in July 2011 being tapped for the post, and even congratulation cards to Bonnafont, here, and threats from AFP then the UN Correspondents Association -- and the rest is, well, a type of history (coverage in UK New Statesman, here).

  Ladsous refuses all Inner City Press questions, video compilation here; Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq on August 8, alluding to Ladsous and now UNDP, said it is because of "people skills." Or reporting?

  So Ban has accepted or done nothing to stop this P3 power grab to oust Mitri. But can "his" successor be pre-announced and Ban accept that too?

Footnote: Inner City Press is exclusively informed that UNSMIL deputy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed also has business, literally: fisshing business. Ban and those in control of this play accept that too? Watch this site.

Background: Inner City Press on August 1 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric what UN envoy Tarek Mitri is doing; Dujarric said he was not aware but would check.

  Inner City Press had reported that Mitri, unlike the other UN international staff who relocated to Tunis, went back to his native Lebanon. Sources in the region exclusively told Inner City Press that Mitri had been hoping for a government post in Lebanon, describing him as less than committed to remaining with the UN.

   Now we can report more. These knowledgeable sources say that Mitri is being "pushed out," mostly they say by the UK's envoy to Libya, former Tony Blair aide Jonathan Powell.

  "Mitri was expected to take on a mostly support function," one source told Inner City Press. "He stood up and said no, headquarters didn't back him up and now he's being pushed out." We'll have more on this.

  It was nine days after Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz at the UN Security Council stakeout told the Press his country wanted international help to protect oil fields and ports, including airports, that the US announced it had relocated its Tripoli embassy staff out of the country to Tunisia.

  Inner City Press asked, where is UN envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri? He briefed the Security Council from Beirut -- sources tell Inner City Press he has been on vacation there, and this deputy, too, was out of the country.

  Back on July 17 when Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz emerged from the UN Security Council to take questions from the media, Inner City Press asked him to be more specific about what type of “support” force he is asking for.

  Mohamed Abdel Aziz replied that the request is not for a “military” force -- but then went on to say say the force should protect oil fields and ports. If that's not military, what is it?

  Inner City Press also asked Mohamed Abdel Aziz for Libya's current position on the US arresting Abu Khatallah. Compared to the complaints of others, Mohamed Abdel Aziz said that even though under international law it is unacceptable, since Libya can't protect witnesses, maybe it is okay.

  Given the current state of affairs, what is “Libya's” position?

  Meanwhile on July 17 the UN's envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri told the Security Council -- by video from his native Lebanon, while other UN international staff are in Tunisia -- that the fighting has “cast a shadow over the election on 25 June of the 200 member Council of Representatives.” Ya don't say.

 Mitri said that barely forty percent of the 1.5 million registered Libyans went to the polls. He said 12 seats will remain vacant; 41 candidates were disqualified under the post-Gaddafi Law on Political and Administrative Isolation. Final results are supposed to be announced on July 20. Watch this site.


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