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On Myanmar, OCHA's Holmes Gets the Memo, Ed Luck Missing in Action on R2P

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- A day after UN Humanitarian Coordinator John Holmes said that Myanmar was beginning to cooperate, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said "we're outraged by the slowness of response by the government of Burma." Inner City Press asked Amb. Khalilzad if Holmes is being forceful enough. "We'd like to have Mr. Holmes tell member states what the situation is... to urge and press" Myanmar to accept help. Video here, from Minute 6:08.

            This and more forceful private messages were clearly received by Mr. Holmes. On Thursday in a more tightly controlled briefing to the UN press corps, Holmes referred to the authorities in Myanmar as an "isolated and suspicious regime" and expressed "disappointment." It was contrary to his presentation on Wednesday, and one wondered if the change was due to watching BBC, or to messages received from the host country.To try to get this question answered, Inner City Press remained with hand raised throughout Holmes' Thursday press conference. But Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe did not allow the question. After Holmes left, she said "I cannot speak for Mr. Holmes." Inner City Press asked for Holmes' views in an email to Ms. Okabe, but the views were not provided. He will launch as a flash appeal, as the UN phrase has it, Friday afternoon. We'll be there.

Amb. Khalilzad: he throws pitch, Holmes catches it

            Ms. Okabe also declined to provide access to the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck. Inner City Press asked for Luck's view, both by email and to Ms. Okabe, but none was forthcoming.  Video here, from Minute 32:28.

Inner City Press: Can we have Mr. Luck, since he is the Special Adviser on this very topic?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:  He is the Special Adviser, but the definition of the "responsibility to protect" is outlined at the 2005 World Summit, it is a well-known document.

            But why then have a Special Advisor?  This is a question the Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative) asked, but has yet to have answered. Watch this site.

Footnote: UK Ambassador John Sawers, the Security Council president this month, acknowledged that R2P does not apply to responses to natural disaster, and told Inner City Press that a briefing has now been scheduled for next week on Somalia. Video here, from Minute 4:39. The Italian mission claims credit for setting it up.  But will it be presented by those who have offered nothing but praise for the Transitional Federal Government, even while Amnesty International says the TFG is killing civilians? We'll see.

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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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