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On W.Sahara, UN Blind As Probe Is Called For in Uganda Paragraphs, Mexico YouTube

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 16, updated -- As the Security Council started meeting about Western Sahara on Tuesday afternoon, all sides had and spread only limited information.

  At 4:15 p.m., Uganda's Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda told Inner City Press that his country has proposed a full Press Statement calling for an investigative team to be send to Western Sahara. "Very sketchy," he called the information the UN provided.

  Inner City Press asked on November 12 and 16 if the UN has any first hand information about the murders in the Gdeim Izik camp in El-Ayoun. No, acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq replied both times.

  On what basis then was the UN's number two peacekeeper Atul Khare rushing into the Council eight minutes late? What possible information could he provide?

   Inner City Press has heard and reported that the UN Department of Political Affairs prepared its first statement about the violence while watching YouTube videos. And DPKO?

  Due to the lack of information, several delegations said they intended to ask for an investigation team. If DPKO has no information, one said, that is not normal, something will have to be done.

  Others, including one member state joining the Council in January, said this added force to the request to be made again in April for a human rights component to the MINURSO peacekeeping mission.

  But that's four months away, and things may have changed by then. A member said that language for a proposed “elements to the press” was being floated by Uganda, but that France would strongly oppose it. The US, too, was said to not favor any outcome to the meeting.

Khare previously with Yukio Takasu, now in line for DPKO job?

Two representatives of the Polisario Front spoke to the Press during the morning, while the Council met about Sudan. They spoke of a mass grave with 34 corpses, of MINURSO peacekeepers confined to their bases, under Moroccan surveillance, using vehicles with Morocco plates.

Inner City Press at the day's noon briefing asked Haq if MINURSO had visited the seen. We have no first hand knowledge, Haq said once again. He said he didn't know about MINURSO's licence plates, nor presumably the bugging. (Bed bugs were also asked about, and Inner City Press' exclusive report of fleas in the UN was confirmed.)

One country on the Council with a particular interest is Mexico, in part because it has one of its nationals, Antonio Velazquez, hiding in the area, posting evidence to YouTube. Mexico took the lead in asking for the meeting, but doesn't want to be seen out front. If Uganda proposes something, they are prepared to support. And Austria? Watch this site.

Footnote: In other DPKO news, Inner City Press reported by Twitter on November 15 that former Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu is in line for a job as Peacekeeping Advisor at the UN. On November 16 Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Haq, video here.

Update of 4:02 pm -- with the Council in closed consultations, the buzz such as there is at the stakeout involves quotes from the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch Peter Bouckaert, ranging from “We have so far only been able to confirm the death of two civilians” to “The civilian hospital in El-Ayoun was guarded by police who beat up wounded Sahrawis who came, and even Moroccan taxi drivers who brought them to the hospital.”

  Polisario says that because people were afraid to go to the hospital, the number is under counted. Proponents of the number, on the other hand, say it is hard to hide dozens of bodies. Is this round and round debate being echoed in the closed door consultations? We will try to find out.

At 4:15 p.m., Uganda's Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda told Inner City Press that his country has proposed a full Press Statement calling for an investigative team to be send to Western Sahara. "Very sketchy," he called the information the UN provided.

Update of 4:43 pm - outside the Council chamber, a non Permanent member's Perm Rep tells InnerCityPress, of Uganda's draft Press Statement on Western Sahara, “I don't think it'll come out that way.”

Update of 4:55 pm - with closed door consultations continuing, at the stakeout a video asked about by the Moroccan side, and found: (beware: violent)

With the highlighting of “bladed weapons” and abuse, it's reminiscent of the video of the violence on the Gaza flotilla. Technology and war crimes, while the UN closes its eyes.

Update of 5:09 pm - the consultations are over, there WILL be "elements to the press," not the full press statement proposed by Uganda.

Update of 6:08 pm -- Mark Lyall Grant of the UK came to the stakeout and read out the “elements to the press” reproduced below. Then as Inner City Press asked about MINURSO's lack of first hand information, Lyall Grant said “no more questions” and walked away. But as has become a pattern this month, he took not a single question.

Next came Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, who said his country and the African Union are in favor of an investigation by the UN or an “independent force.” nner City Press asked who -- he didn't specify -- and about MINURSO's failure to go to the site. He said, “That should be answered by DPKO” - we'll be asking. The Polisario representative called MINURSO a “virtual mission... captured by Morocco.”

Morocco's Ambassador came next, speaking in Arabic. Inner City Press ran to the UN's North Lawn building for a stakeout about the G-20, at which French Ambassador Gerard Araud and his deputy were already standing, tending to their minister. Inner City Press asked about Chinese yuan, US Federal Reserve pouring out $600 billion and about IMF reform -- what that's another story. Watch this site.

These are the “Elements to the Press” read out by Mark Lyall Grant on November 16, after which he said “no more questions” --

The members of the Security Council have been briefed by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Atul Khare, on the recent incidents in Western Sahara.

Council members deplored the violence in El Aaiun and Gdaim Izyk camp, and expressed their condolences over the deaths and injuries that resulted.

They reaffirmed their support for MINURSO and its mission.

The members of the Security Council also heard a briefing by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy Ambassador Christopher Ross. They offered their full support for his ongoing efforts and urged the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution.

* * *

On W. Sahara, UN “Has No Firsthand Knowledge,” Used YouTube to Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 12 -- With the death count in the camps in Western Sahara unclear, and the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations scheduled to give a report to a closed door session of the UN Security Council on November 16, Inner City Press on November 12 asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq what the UN knows about the deaths, on a Spanish national and others, and the barring of foreign media.

  Haq said the UN “has no first hand information,” and that this had been “made clear when we made the statement on Monday.” Video here, from Minute 28:41.

  Inner City Press asked what the UN's MINURSO peacekeeping mission has been doing. In October, the UN and Security Council were told of the impending attacks on the camp by Moroccan forces. Did MINURSO do nothing, not only to prevent, but even to observe the carnage?

The burning camp, MINURSO not seen

   In fact, Inner City Press is told by sources in the UN Department of Political Affairs that on Monday, November 8 they were watching YouTube videos of events, just before that day's noon press briefing, in order to figure out what statement to issue.

Now, sources in Rabat, Morocco tell Inner City Press of a European Union diplomat there bragging about access to MINURSO's report to be delivered (or read from) on Tuesday, saying that it takes Morocco's side. Watch this site.

* * *

On WSahara, As UN Council Weighs Early Briefing on Morocco Violence, France Claims Not Political, Ross Without Agenda

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 10 -- As Morocco has attacked demonstrators' camps in Western Sahara, the Security Council has been silent. On November 9 in a closed door session, non Permanent Council member Mexico finally made a push for a briefing on the violence. (Click here for note by Inner City Press.)

   This month's Council president, Mark Lyall Grant of the UK, was charged with asking UN envoy Christopher Ross if he would brief the Council now on the current violence, or wait until the previously scheduled November 23 session. This morning Lyall Grant is to report back to Council members, again in a closed session, on what Ross prefers.

  Inner City Press asked a concerned Permanent Representative on the morning of November 10 when the Western Sahara briefing would be.

  “Late this week or early next,” the Permanent Representative replied. But this was before Lyall Grant's slated report-back to the Council. Major Morocco supporter France may have something to say about the timing.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud when the briefing on Western Sahara and the violence would be. Araud said with the talks in Greentree ending, Ross was being asked if he wanted to come to the Council earlier than November 23.

  Araud said that next week is busy for the Council, with a debate on Sudan on Tuesday, November 16, a day off for Eid on November 17, and a retreat with new Council members (including South Africa, which on Western Sahara stands on the opposite side from France). Araud called it a matter of “agenda, not politics.”

Christopher Ross, agenda and briefing not shown

  Afterward another Council source told Inner City Press that Lyall Grant will be calling Ross for the second time on this afternoon of November 10. The first time, he said skeptically, Ross “did not have his agenda” or schedule with him. Now Ross will be asked if he can come brief the Council on Friday November 12 or Tuesday November 16, after the Sudan debate. Watch this site.

* * *

  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.

* * *

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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