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Amid Mali Destruction, Why'd Ban Call Qatar & Saudi Not Morocco of Sahel?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 -- When mausoleums in Timbuktu began to be destroyed, how did UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon choose to call?

  Well, "Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, and on Wednesday [July 4], His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia."

  Days later it was raised to Inner City Press: did this mean that just as Ban in the General Assembly Hall said that Al Qaeda is the "third force" in Syria, he saw a Saudi or Wahabi element behind the mausoleum destroyers?

  And why didn't Ban call for example another King, that of Morocco, which is closer to Mali and the Sahel and, rightfully despite Western Sahara, that it has more connection?

  So on July 12 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: your office announced that the Secretary-General, in dealing with the destruction of Muslim heritage in Timbuktu, had called the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. I know he can’t call everybody in the world, but for example, some people said why not call Morocco, which also has a king, but it's also closer to the region. Was it that these are viewed as the two most prominent sort of Muslim royal families? Some have said that there may be some Wahabi or other involvement in the destruction, in the movements in northern Mali, so I wanted to ask you, before going down this path, how did he choose those two? Why didn't he call Morocco, and what was his thinking in choosing those two countries to call? They’re far away from Mali, further away than Morocco --

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think, with respect, Matthew, it has less to do with geography than influence. And, plainly, even if phone calls are not made by the Secretary-General, there are contacts made by other UN officials with different Member States the whole time. So, the two are not mutually exclusive. The Secretary-General was recently in Saudi Arabia and had a very good meeting with the King and so he was able to follow up on that… that phone call in this particular context, for example. So again, don’t read too much into it. This is the Secretary-General reaching out to regional leaders of influence, and it does not preclude that other officials have been in touch with other… with Member States in different capacities. Okay? Alright?

  Well, not really alright. But we'll have more on this - watch this site.

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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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