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UN Security Council Is Too "Overstretched," President Admits, For No-Bid Contracts, Aid Blocks

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 4 -- The Security Council, according to its president for December, should "closely follow" events in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo without "micromanaging" the conflicts, and even no-bid UN contracts as large as $250 million. This was the message of Italian Ambassador Marcello Spatafora to the UN press corps Tuesday as he assumed the Council's rotating presidency for the month of December. Inner City Press initially asked Amb. Spatafora about two UN Peacekeeping missions, in Darfur and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Russian Federation has complained that when the Council voted on July 31 to create the Darfur mission, UNAMID, it was not told that there were already moves afoot to give Lockheed Martin a $250 million no-bid contract for infrastructure. Amb. Spatafora said it was "not raised in the Council;" in his national capacity, he added that the Council is "near to being overstretched" and that "other bodies have to deal with that." Video here, from Minute 42:20.

            Regarding the Congo mission, MONUC, UN spokesperson Michele Montas had earlier on Tuesday told Inner City Press that the Security Council decides when UN peacekeepers can transport weapons and ammunition for a government military action, as is taking place in North Kivu in the DRC. "The Security Council decides," she said. "The Security Council, and the mandate that is given to every peacekeeping mission, the Security Council decides what the parameters are." Amb. Spatafora said that the Council is following MONUC developments closely, "to know if we have to downside or increase." He quickly added that there are no moves to downside MONUC, citing the example of a too-early disengagement from Haiti. (He could have added Timor L'Este.)

            Inner City Press asked about Somalia, in light of reports that the UN-supported Transitional Federal Government is blocking the landing of ships of food in the port of Merca, putting the area "under embargo."  Amb. Spatafora said "I fully appreciate what you say," but that while "we must impact on the ground, that does not mean we have to micro-manage one boat."

Amb. Spatafora seated with book, Somalia work to be seen

   But when the boat is full of food and humanitarian relief, is protected by French warships, but is blocked from landing by the UN-supported government, the Council might want to take note...

            Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Amb. Spatafora two further questions. In a previous interview with Inner City Press, the departing head of the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate Javier Ruperez said that the Council should act to extend the CTED mandate well before the end of 2007, when it expires. Now, Amb. Spatafora says, there will be a three month extension, in part so the new director Mike Smith can get his feet wet and then come and brief the council.  On Guinea-Bissau, Amb. Spatafora responded that the months-old request to refer it to the Peacebuilding Commission will now be acted on, "definitely." He added, in his national capacity, that "the atmosphere is favorable."  We'll see.

* * *

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

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