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As UN Denies Offer to Mediate for Cambodia, Dodges on Roma, Selective Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- How does the UN choose which questions to answer, and to which publications? How should journalists know when to ask question about topics on which the UN rarely comments, like Guantanamo Bay, Chechnya, Tibet, Kashmir and many other Asian conflicts?

A week after Inner City Press asked the Spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon if he had received a letter from Cambodia asking Ban to mediate the country's border dispute with Thailand, Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq sent a response to another publication, then called its reporting inaccurate.

On August 12, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: Cambodia now says that they’ve sent a letter to the Secretary-General and the Security Council. I don’t know if it’s been received. And a Cambodian, the Prime Minister, has said that he’ll be asking the Secretary-General personally to somehow coordinate this border dispute that they’ve had for some time but that seems to be heating up, with Thailand saying that they’re going to fortify their border. Is it something that DPA [Department of Political Affairs] is watching? Have you gotten the letter and would the Secretary-General be willing to mediate?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: We’ve seen the reports. We have not received any request. And if requests are received, not just in this case, but in any case, from parties to a dispute or conflict, asking for mediation, then, obviously, the United Nations, the Secretary-General would look at that. But we have not received a request from one or either or both.

This was the last Inner City Press heard from the UN. Then on August 20 a publication in the region reported that “The deputy spokesperson for UN Secretary General, Farhan Haq, replied to an email from the Cambodian press on August 18 saying that, 'The Secretary-General is willing to mediate situation when both sides request him to do so.'”

Inner City Press asked Haq about the statement, including why it was not sent out more broadly, including to Inner City Press which had asked the question. Video here, from Minute 15:10.

Haq first said that the report that Ban was “willing to mediate” was inaccurate. Haq said that all he sent out was that Ban “stands ready to help.” But where then did the press in the region get the quote?

How are journalists at the UN to guarantee that they receive the UN's responses to questions they have previously asked, or have NOT asked because of the UN's historic unwillingness to comment on the problems of the Permanent Five Security Council members, any one of which could veto a second term by Ban Ki-moon, such as Chechnya, Guantanamo Bay, Tibet or, as Inner City Press asked earlier in the briefing, France's expulsion of the Roma to Romania. Video here, from Minute 13:51.

   Haq said the UN is monitoring it and if it has anything to say, we'll know.

  In front of the General Assembly on August 20, Inner City Press asked the French charge d'affaires and a French spokesman about l'affaire Roma, and was met with blank stares. Let us know if there is a meeting on that, was the answer. But there are rarely meetings at the UN on controversial acts by Permanent Five members of the Security Council. They can block them in the Council, and the S-G- and his spokespeople don't seem to like to ruggle P-5 feathers, with a second term on the line....

UN's Ban cozy with Sarkozy, comment on expelled Roma not shown

    If you ask, we try, Haq said more generally.

But what if you don't ask because the UN never comments? How can a reporter go on record as wanting statements about peace and security, without going down the line of all possible questions?

Someday it does fill like you go down the line, Haq said. And still we try.

But why send out responses selectively, like Haq sent his Kashmir response to other three journalists, and gave the UN's answer on the death of DSS staffer Louis Maxwell to a publication in Germany and not to Inner City Press, which had been asking about the case in the noon briefing in New York every day for a week? This, Haq did not answer. Watch this site.

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UN's Kashmir Email was Drafted by DPA from its "Morning Prayers," Watered Down by Nambiar, Blamed on Haq

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 5 -- When the UN made a statement on Kashmir, then stepped away from it and blamed it on an Associate Spokesman, there was more than met the eye. Inner City Press has inquired and finds the following: the initial response on the violence in Kashmir was produced by the UN Department of Political Affairs, in what is called it “morning prayers” meeting, chaired by DPA chief Lynn Pascoe.

  Then, even before the statement was released, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, a former Indian diplomat and intelligence operative, edited the statement, “watering it down” as one senior UN official puts it.

  After UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq emailed the statement to four journalists and it was published, the Indian Mission to the UN protested. They came to meet with the UN, Mr. Nambiar, for more than two hours. Apparently, Nambiar did not fully disclose his initial role in editing the statement.

  Next, the UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky stepped away from the statement, emphasizing that Ban Ki-moon never said it, and it was mere “guidance from the Secretariat,” and claiming that it had been misinterpreted. How?

UN's Nambiar and Pascoe, Kashmir statement and morning prayers not shown

On August 4, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to think it through: if he could walk away from this statement attributable to the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General, how can any of his future statements be taken seriously? I have said all I am going to say, Nesirky replied. Okay...

Footnote: attendees that DPA's "morning prayers" quote Pascoe, for example that "Hillary Clinton is going to Colombia, what does she think she can accomplish?"  While some attendees conclude from this that Pascoe is aligned with US Republicans who appointed him, others say it establishes his "street cred" as an internaional civil servants. But is this what HRC and Obama want? Watch this site.

From the UN's August 3 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: a controversy has arisen around a statement that Farhan Haq had put out, talking about Indian-occupied Kashmir and calling for restraint. And, basically, it says that the Indian Foreign Ministry or Ministry of External Affairs has taken issues with it, that your Office has clarified that the Secretary-General never made those comments. Have you seen that story, and what can you do to clarify the seeming discrepancy between the Indian Foreign Ministry and your Office?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Spokesperson’s Office released to the media guidance which was prepared by the UN Secretariat, and that seems to have been taken out of context. This was not a statement of the Secretary-General.

Question: What was taken out of context? This was a formal statement.

Spokesperson: Let me repeat what I just said: the Spokesperson’s Office released to the media guidance which was prepared by the UN Secretariat, and it seems to have been taken out of context. This was not a statement of the Secretary-General. That’s what I have; I don’t have anything to add.

Question: But the statement said the Secretary-General calls for restraint, and is there concern about it?

Spokesperson: As I said, I don’t have anything to add to what I’ve just said.

From the UN's August 4 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: Some think that the way that it was answered yesterday — it’s hard for them to take; what weight should statements by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General be given if they’re later characterized as mere guidance and the Secretary-General didn’t mean them. For your own purposes, how do we — is this a one-off, or does this somehow change; you get a statement today about Tanzania — is that a statement of the Secretary-General, or is it mere guidance, and from who — who gave the guidance on Kashmir?

Spokesperson Nesirky: You know very well what it said [on Tanzania]: it said “a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General”, and that clearly is a statement. But I don’t have anything beyond what I’ve already said on this topic. Okay?

  No, not okay.

 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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