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As US Susan Rice Says UN Must Move Freely in Syria, Why Not in Western Sahara?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 18 -- Some comparisons have to be made, even as they are resisted. On Wednesday in front of the UN Security Council Ambassador Susan Rice said:

"From the U.S. point of view.... we think that any UN Mission, including any UN Mission in Syria, needs to be able to operate with the independence, the freedom of movement, the freedom of communications-all of the traditional freedoms that are necessary for an effective and neutral UN presence anywhere in the world."

  But currently before the Security Council, of which Ambassador serves as President this month, is a report about the UN Mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, which even as watered down details how these UN peacekeepers are monitored, do not have freedom of movement, and have had their communications compromised.

  Paragraph 46 of the twice-modified MINSURSO report states that

"the Moroccan police presence outside the compound discourages visitors from approaching MINURSO in an independent capacity. There have also been indications that the confidentiality of the communications between MINURSO headquarters and New York has, at least on occasion, been compromised."

  Some conclude, now based on Ambassador Rice's statement about Syria, that the US must acknowledge that MINURSO as constrained is NOT "effective" and cannot be seen as "neutral." Accepting this, and even covering it up, has undermined the UN. Rice continued on Wednesday:

"we can't accept a set of circumstances in Syria that we wouldn't accept anywhere else or that violates 65 plus years of UN best practice and principle."

  But the UN and US both did accept these restrictions in Western Sahara. That should end. So should the UN's cover up. At the April 17 noon briefing Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey:

Inner City Press: there is in the report of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara, it says that the Moroccan Government has informed MINURSO that it cannot open any office in Dakhla, which is a place where there was violence last September, where the Special Envoy, Mr. Ross, has expressed a desire to have a presence of the UN political officers. Does the Secretary-General think that in the same way that he is calling for freedom of movement in Syria, that this blockage is a problem and does he think that the UN should be able to go to this place, Dakhla, in Western Sahara?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has always called for freedom of movement for United Nations missions in Member States and that stands to reason.

Inner City Press: So, what is MINURSO actually doing about it in terms of actually getting freedom of movement to go there?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, they are in discussions with the Moroccan Government. Yes?

[The Deputy Spokesperson later noted that paragraph 27 of the Secretary-General’s report on Western Sahara stated that “The military component remains deployed at nine team sites and at liaison offices in Tindouf and in Dakhla.”]

While the UN inserted this into the transcript, the report in question states, in Paragraph 45

"The Moroccan authorities ...advised the Mission that no MINURSO office presence could be established outside Laayoune."

  Inner City Press asked envoy Christopher Ross, who forthrightly said that the Moroccans do not want political affairs office(rs) in Dhakla. So why would Ban's spokesperson's office be trying to say everything is okay, even as disproved by the report that Ban and his head of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous allowed to be watered down for Morocco and France?

  On Saturday, April 14 Inner City Press asked Morocco's Permanent Representative Loulichki to contrast freedom of movement in Western Sahara from that being called for in Syria. He said he would answer, but has yet to.

  After the question was asked, at least one Permanent Representative and an involved Deputy Permanent Representative, standing to the side of the stakeout, took note and even laughed.

  But how to explain Ambassador Rice's statements Wednesday about Syria, and the pending report and resolution on Western Sahara? We would welcome a public explanation of this, and will publish it whenever, now or until action on the MINSURSO resolution before the end of April and the US Presidency of the Security Council. Watch this site.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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