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UN Now Rations Questions, Passes Buck on Nepotism, of Kosovo and Double Standards

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 6 -- The new UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky on January 6 told the Press, "You can ask one more question, your choice." Even when he could not or would not answer the question asked, about the UN's continued losses to Myanmar strongman Than Shwe in forced currency exchange, he did not allow a second question, about the UN in Kosovo. Video here, from Minute 26:47.

  Inner City Press asked, Is there some limit? Is there a new system to ration or apportion questions being instituted? Earlier in the day's noon briefing, Nesirky had engaged for a full seven minutes with one correspondent, telling him "I'm enjoying this as much as you are." Video here, from Minute 9:36 to 16:36.

  Nesirky's stated rationale for rationing further questions was that the "Secretary General is going to speak at the stakeout and I have to stand next to him." But Nesirky disallowed simple and short factual questions before 12:30, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not arrive at the Security Council stakeout until after 12:45.

  Mr. Nesirky said he would keep a list of questions asked, to ensure that they were answered. But, while still early in his tenure, Nesirky has taken to only selectively answering questions. Since last week, a question has been pending with his Office of Ban Ki-moon's son in law and what has been called nepotism not only by Inner City Press but also the Washington Post.

  Some surmise that Nesirky's seeming double standard -- seven minutes allowed to a correspondent from a British daily who may or may not even use the answer this week, while disallowing questions from an online publication which covers the UN for better and worse every day -- reflects a certain media elitism.

  Nesirky previously worked for the UK-based wire service Reuters, covering among other capitals that of South Korea, Seoul. Some are watching out for favorable treatment to Reuters, but the January 6 noon briefing reflected at best bad time management skills, and functionally, a form of media elitism.

  While providing questionable answered about the entry into Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's residence of a person neither invited nor even a UN staff member, Nesirky told Inner City Press, "This is not a story." Perhaps within Reuters he could make that judgment. But as another correspondent pointed out at the January 6 briefing, it is not the UN Spokesman's role.

  Increasingly, when Nesirky does not want to answer a question in the briefing he says that it was answered elsewhere, then refuses to repeat the answer. On January 5 he did this with regard to the UN's position on Al Shaabab in Somalia demanding that humanitarian workers there not promote democracy or human rights.

  Nesirky said that Peter Smerdon of WFP in Nairobi had answered the question. Had he? Previously Nesirky said Smerdon answered with regard to Al Shabaab trying to charge $20,000.

  On January 6, Inner City Press wanted to ask Nesirky for the UN's reply to Al Shaabab's statement in Mogadishu that they never tried to charge WFP $20,000. But Nesirky said, no more questions.

  The Kosovo question that he half-heard and then cut off concerned a request from Serbian president Boris Tadic to the "international institutions" in Pristina, presumably including the UN, to arrange a visit to Kosovo.

  Did the UN receive the request? What does it think of it?  The question was cut off and disallowed. Ban Ki-moon was previously criticized for dodging the question of whether Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence complied with international law. This is the UN's job. And to take and answer questions is the UN Spokesperson's job.

UN's new spokesman, who some now call "NeSmirky," a work in progress

   When he can't say that a question has previously been answered, Nesirky will defer to a future answer which may never be given. On January 6, Inner City Press asked him to confirm that Ibrahim Gambari's salary was paid by a mixture of the UN's funds for Myanmar and for Iraq, a post Gambari lost. Nesirky said, you can asked USG for Management Angela Kane tomorrow.

  Inner City Press has other questions for Ms. Kane, including some unanswered by Nesirky's office. Nesirky said he couldn't guarantee that Ms. Kane could be asked, or would answer, the question. Inner City Press tried to ask another question, and Nesirky cut in, "No you don't." Video here, from Minute 21:53. The total elapsed time was less then two minutes, versus the previous seven minute colloquy.

  Even when questions are put to his Office in writing, not only about Mr. Ban's son in law but also other nepotism questions, referred to the UN in Cote d'Ivoire and never answered, and simple questions about the UN's work in the Bakassi Peninsula, Cameroon and Nigeria. Mr. Nesirky has said he would keep a list of questions asked, to ensure that they were answered. That list is getting longer, while it is still early in his tenure. Watch this site.

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At UN, Kai Eide's Swansong and Ban's Prerogative, Afhgan Veto in Wings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 6 -- As outgoing UN envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide spoke in the Security Council Wednesday morning, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin slumped next to him, non-plussed. Eide fell under fire not only for allegedly covering up President Hamid Karzai's election fraud in 2009, but also from Russia and others for being, in their view, too willing to talk with the Taliban.

  The question of who will replace Eide has already been decided by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a senior Ban advisor told Inner City Press on the evening of January 5. Publicly, it's between Staffan de Mistura, favored by the U.S. and Ban, and Jean-Marie Guehenno, favored by France (and pronounced by the Russian mission as "Gavno," or excrement.)

  The self-styled Paper of Record slammed both Kai Eide and de Mistura's "low key style" and "bureaucratic instincts." The UN's response, seeming decided on at a meeting Monday morning and crystallized in talking points, was to question why the paper chimed in with an editorial at this time.

As the Security Council's gabfest on Afghanistan came to an end, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon what he made of the New York Times editorial. He said he had read it, but that choosing the replacement of Kai Eide is his "prerogative." But what about Hamid Karzai's veto?

 As to the origins of the Gray Lady's editorial, while the U.S. State Department is pushing de Mistura, there are other views in Foggy Bottom, with direct access to Times Square.  The finger points at Richard Holbrooke, and as the actual author the retired op-ed writing Robert Unger. Last time, Holbrooke lobbied Ban to get Peter Galbraith appointed. Given how that worked out, the theory goes, Holbrooke couldn't lobby Ban directly, but rather had to work through the Times. But Ban has in essence shot it down.

UN's Ban, Kai Eide moving out of focus, Karzai veto

   Left unanswered for a week now are questioned posed to spokesman Martin Nesirky about Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee, hired by de Mistura in Iraq, later promoted by Jan Mattsson at UNOPS in Copenhagen, in both cases reportedly to gain favor with Mr. Ban. On January 6, Nesirky for the first time cut off questions, saying at 12:30 that Ban was about to speak at the Security Council stakeout. But up to 12:50, Ban had still not appeared.

  Others muse that Ban Ki-moon's call for NATO to name a civilian / humanitarian czar is a fall back position. If de Mistura is vetoed by Karzai, he could go for the UN-urged NATO position. It would be nice to get more of these questions answered, but at this UN it is not happening. Watch this site.

Footnote: as the Council meeting broke up Mona Jul, Norwegian Deputy Ambassador, and lambaster of Mr. Ban, waited and greeted Kai Eide. In her anti-Ban memo, the only SRSG she praised was... her paisan Kai Eide. Eide will hold a press conference at the UN on January 7. We'll be there.

 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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