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For Gambari, From Iraq Swan Song to Darfur on Thursday, UN in Transition

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- With the UN in transition, its Ibrahim Gambari's losing his job in Iraq. Monday was the swan song, in a standing room only conference room in the UN's new North Lawn building.

  The Press was invited to attend, but was then told it had to leave after Gambari's speech. "Good turn out," Inner City Press complimented the staff. The response, delivered with pride, was"Seventy Ambassadors!"

Well placed sources say "they had to call around to get the Ambassador to come." Several came late, and UN staff asked non Permanent Representatives to give up their seats. The Palestinian Observer, for example, displaced a lower ranked Asian. The Observer swept in half an hour later, with his Egyptian counterpart. Presumably the walling off of Gaza was not being discussed.

  Gambari recounted how Iraq's leadership came to resent the International Compact with Iraq, to feel it was a test whose questions had to be answered. Iraq's Ambassador said he wished Gambari had added that Iraq had passed the test.

  While Inner City Press and a TV station filming were told they had to leave, a source who remained in the meeting says that after the Deputy Special Representative spoke about good governance and human resources, Iran's Ambassador called his foreign minister's visit to Baghdad historic.

  Both the EU and UK spoke, which after the Lisbon Treaty seems strange. According to the source, Lebanon's Ambassador erred and called for better relations between "Iraq and Iraq." Presumably he meant Iran, representing as he does Beirut's Hariri faction.

Afterwards in the hall Inner City Press stopped Mr. Gambari and asked two questions about his new job in Darfur. A staffer says Gambari's Darfur bound on Thursday. The rebels are calling for the UN to protect civilians in North Darfur. Gambari'd yet to hear about it.

UN's Ban and Gambari on ICI, focus on Darfur not (yet) shown

  The question's been put to UN Peacekeeping, along with one about Chad's statement that MINURCAT's mandate should not be renewed in March. And they said Darfur and its spill over were a major priority. Perhaps Gambari's role in Darfur is to shut UNAMID down. Come and visit, Gambari gamely said. Time will tell.

   There is, sources tell Inner City Press, a connection between the end of Gambari's job with the Compact with Iraq and him being assigned to UNAMID. Part of his salary came from Iraq, and part from Myanmar. When the Iraq stream stopped, something had to be done. With Nigeria clamoring for one of its nationals to take over UNAMID, after their Martin Luther Agwai was replaced by a Rwandan as force commander, it was two birds with one stone. But the Secretariat has yet to describe Gambari's salary structure, or whether Bob Orr's ASG position legally exists and how it's funded.

Footnotes: the Temporary North Lawn Building is looking better. The Great Wall of China, from the old Delegates' Lounge, now hangs on the first floor. Contractor Aramark tells Inner City Press that, following requests and complaints from diplomats, it is looking more likely that a bar will re-open in the new building. A Delegates' Lounge in exile has been tried, but not the same. On this, watch this site.

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UN's Holmes Hasn't Heard of Mercenaries, Haitian Staff Records Only in Hotel

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- Fresh back from Haiti, top UN humanitarian John Holmes told the Press on Monday that fuel is coming in from the Dominican Republic, and that towns outside Port au Prince will soon be served by the UN, which has a facility, "though not humanitarian," in Jacmel.

  Inner City Press asked for Holmes' and the UN's reaction to reports that private military contractors, also known as mercenaries, are offering their services to NGOs and others in Haiti. I haven't heard that, Holmes replied.

  But what do you and the UN think of it? Holmes said, it depends on what services are being offered. Video here. A lawyerly answer, though perhaps surprising from a UN humanitarian coordinators after the events in Baghdad (and the U.S. court system).

  Since last week the UN did not include its national Haitian staff in its counts of UN staff, Inner City Press asked Holmes if finally the UN had checked in on its national staff. Holmes said that the funds, programs and agencies have -- for example, WFP, UNICEF and UNDP -- but that for the UN Peacekeeping MINUSTAH, the work is still ongoing.

  Holmes attributed this to all personnel records have been destroyed in the Christopher Hotel. But are these records computerized, and a copy stories somewhere else other than in the physical headquarters?

UN's Holmes speaks on Haiti, staff records and mercenaries not seen

  Holmes also denounced what he called a CNN report that UN peacekeepers ordered a Belgian humanitarian and search team to stop working, due to unrest. That's false, Holmes said. He was asked, what about a similar report in French media? I haven't seen it, Holmes replied.

  A wire service scribe asked when the troops and police requested by Ban Ki-moon could start to arrive. Holmes said, we already have 9000 there. So why the rush to vote to increase the number, except to show the UN's doing something? Click here for Inner City Press' coverage of the Security Council meeting and politics of aid. Watch this site.

Footnote: despite, as simply one example, coordinated attacks throughout Kabul, the UN has apparently canceled its Monday noon briefing. In its place will be a four p.m. briefing by Peacekeeping, on Haiti only. There are other questions. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, It's "All Hail" to US in Haiti, Elsewhere France and Brazil Critical

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- As the UN Security Council emptied out Monday at noon, sources told Inner City Press that in closed consultations, the U.S. said that to strengthen the mandate of the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, would "send the wrong message... that the Haitian government is weak."

  Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, who represented the U.S. in the meeting and spoke afterwards to the Press, said that the U.S. is supporting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's request for a vote authorizing 2000 more troops and 1500 more police for MINUSTAH.

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Wolff if it is true that the U.S. thinking strengthening the mandate would send some wrong message. Wolff replied that the UN, including chief Peacekeeper Alain Leroy, has not identified any deficiency in the mandate.

  As Brazil's Ambassador left the Council, Inner City Press asked her about public quotes from Brazil that MINUSTAH's mandate should, in fact, be bolstered. She, however, called the mandate "sufficient."

  When asked about any difficulties Brazilian NGOs have had getting into Haiti through the airport, now run by the U.S., she said there have been "no such problems."

  French Ambassador Gerard Araud, too, was over the top in his praise of the U.S., telling the Press that "we live here." Inner City Press asked if, as reported, France supported Medecins Sans Frontieres complaints about having planes blocked by the Americans from the Port au Prince airport.

French Ambassador Araud, ministers' critiques of U.S. not shown

  Araud quickly answered that the Americans are doing a good job, that the airport is small by international standards, and that "we live here."

  In fact, French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet made a complaint about the blocking of MSF's plane. And Araud's boss Bernard Kouchner has said the airport has become an "annex or Washington," according to France's Ambassador to Haiti Didier Le Bret.

   So what is France's position -- these two statements, or Araud's? Watch this site.

Footnote: Since the Security Council has other matters on its agenda, Inner City Press tried to ask this month's Council president, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, if and when he expects the Council to address Afghanistan. But having been asked if the Chinese search and rescue team stopped after finding the Chinese delegation who'd met with Hedi Annabi, Zhang Yesui just walked away. Who will replace him as China's Ambassador is not yet known.

 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 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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