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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At UN, Budget Games Stretch from Baghdad to Basement Bazaar, Procurement Task Force Down to Wire

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 17 -- Two days before the UN's budget is supposed to be voted on, its proposed $185 million expenditure for a new headquarters in Iraq was introduced Monday for the first time in the UN's budget committee. Japan's representative Ken Mukai criticized the late submission of the budget proposals for special political missions like that to Iraq, suggesting that at this late stage these proposals should be separated from the rest of the budget, which optimists still say will be approved by consensus by the Fifth Committee on December 19, and by the full General Assembly on December 21.

            The GA President's spokesman reiterated this timeline at Monday's noon briefing:

"Over the weekend there were more informal consultations and these continue and will continue until the 19th. The hope is that by the end of the day on the 19th there's going to be some agreement reached on the budget... It's very difficult to ascertain whether we're heading for a deadlock or whether there are positive developments.  At the moment everybody is engaged and there's genuine consultative work going on with the intention of agreeing on a budget by the end of the 19th."

            Monday morning in an open meeting about the UN's Procurement Task Force, Singapore's Deputy Permanent Representative Kevin Cheok asked "who watches the watchers?" Of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, Cheok riffed that "surely we cannot blindly accept anything they do simply because they are investigators... The Spanish Inquisition once operated under similar premises... Why not have an investigation into the behavior of the investigators?" Why not, indeed.

Egypt's Perm Rep, and GA Affairs chief: heading to Dec. 21 showdown?

            Monday night down in the UN's basement, meetings continued, with a group of eight men in dark suits huddled around a single laptop. Later, a delegate told Inner City Press that while there's "hope," there's still much trading, the Group of 77 pushing for development, and the U.S. lying in the weeds. Fifth Committee staff said things are on track. But upstairs, Angola's Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martens told Inner City Press there are still unanswered questions, including about the UN's $250 million no-bid contract with Lockheed Martin for Darfur. Amb. Gaspar Martens raised questions about the lack of competition, on behalf of the African Group. Now Egypt's Ambassador is said to also be demanding answers. Whether they will be given, and be made public, remains to be seen.

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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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540