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At UN Council's Change of Guard, Press Access Doubted, Japan We Hardly Knew Ye

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 28 -- Three of the five Ambassadors leaving the Security Council, and one of the five coming on, did press conferences at the UN this month. Some wonder if this portends even less transparency by the Security Council and its elected non-Permanent members.

  The Ambassadors of Austria, Mexico and Uganda briefed the dwindling ranks of UN correspondents in December. Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria focused on his chairmanship of the Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions committee, making much of small increases in due process.

  Inner City Press asked him about another committee he chaired, on Sudan sanctions, and the report on Chinese bullets in Darfur. Mayr-Harting forthrightly replied that he forwarded the report to December's Council president, the United States, and it was up to the US to release the report.

 An inquiry with a US Ambassador led to a promise of a response from the US Mission's spokesman, which has yet to come.

  Claude Heller of Mexico briefed on the morning of December 23. His sanctions work involved Somalia; he is known to have waited for days in the Frankfurt airport after the Icelandic volcano's explosion, waiting to fly to Eritrea. He never spoke publicly at the time of the outcome, saying he had to first brief the Council.

   For news purposes, this timing doesn't work.

  Inner City Press asked Heller if he thought the Security Council's few informal meetings about the bloody fighting in Sri Lanka in 2009 had any effect. Like Mayr-Harting, Heller claimed that the basement sessions may have saved some lives. Could more than 40,000 people have been killed?

   Mexico's role has been clearer in the recent press statement on Cote d'Ivoire, referencing an earlier Mexican drafted statement about the safety of UN personnel.

  Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, later on December 23, took questions from two correspondents on wider African issues, saying the UN should do more against the Lord's Resistance Army and should finally hold the promised referendum in Western Sahara.

  Rugunda said the Cote d'Ivoire's Laurent Gbabgo should be given a “comfortable” way to leave that country.

  Inner City Press asked if comfortable meant immunity, even impunity. Rugunda shook his head, and asked to substitute the word “safe” for comfortable. The unstated backdrop was Nigeria's decision to hand over Charles Taylor to the Sierra Leone Tribunal in the Hague.

  Days after a grenade attack on a Kampala bound bus in Kenya, Inner City Press asked if Rugunda would be seeking some Council action. He said an investigation of the blast continued, but it was hard for him to believe that hand grenades are normal baggage for such a trip.

   As a final question, Inner City Press asked about President Museveni's brother's involvement in Saracen, a company working murkily as a private military contractor in Mogadishu and in Puntland. Rugunda, in defense of his President, said that the brother is a retired general and of course such people must find something to do.

  Rugunda said Saracen's programs have “nothing to do with AMISOM,” the UN supported African Union force in which Ugandan soldiers are the majority.

  In something of an encore swansong, Austria's Mayr-Harting appeared at an ill attended stakeout on a relatively obscure but not unimportant point: the International Criminal Tribunals' residual mechanisms, which some call “Fall Back for Mladic.” At least Mayr-Harting spoke.

But what of Turkey's Apakan and the relatively new Japanese Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida? Apakan is a pleasant man who patiently speaks to journalists outside the meetings of the North Korea sanctions committee he's chaired. But he predicts what the press will asks and dodges the questions in advance. While he scarcely explained his country's vote on Iran sanction, on Cyprus he was more forthcoming.

   Japan was rarely heard from, at least in English, after Ambassador Yukio Takasu left, now to return for an ill defined UN position on Human Security. Nishida, we hardly knew ye. Even with Japan leaving the Council, a return to the briefings at the Mission for non-Japanese reporters, previously held by then Deputy Permanent Representative Takahiro Shinyo, is recommended.

Scrum of Council members, press access not shown

  Of the incoming members, India's Ambassador did a sit down on the record lunch for much of the UN press corps. Afterward he complained of being misquoted, got one correction, and asked Inner City Press whether it is worth it to do it again in the future.

    The answer is, yes.

   Half of the Permanent Five members' Ambassadors do regular briefings for at least some of the press corps. The half is the US; the French, as Inner City Press not without controversy reported, explicitly excluded all reporters from Lebanon, at least for a time. China and Russia should speak more is the consensus position, at least to understand them.

Germany's Ambassador gave an interview about his country's Council plans, but only in Germany. South Africa has an able team at the UN but has yet to speak. (Their last public statement was to explain in the General Assembly voting for protection of homosexuals language that they had voted against in the Third Committee.)

Portugal, which conducted a notable but at least for this year unsuccessful fight to try to chair the Council's Working Methods committee, has yet to speak publicly to correspondents, although the door of Jose Filipe de Moraes Cabral seems open. Of Colombia little is known, although President Santos did attend the recent ICC State Parties conference in New York.

One of the remaining five, Bosnia, will preside over the Security Council in January, with what at least at first looks like a light agenda, other than Sudan. We'll be there -- watch this site.

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In UN Council, Bosnia's January Light Except Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire a Footnote

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, December 22 -- The UN Security Council in January, when Southern Sudan's secession referendum is scheduled, will be chaired by Bosnia - Herzegovina.

A confidential copy of the Program of Work, obtained by Inner City Press, shows a month with at least three briefings on Sudan including Darfur (on the 6th, 17th and 26th), one on Central Asia (on the 13th), an open meeting on post conflict institution building (on the 21st) and explosive Cote d'Ivoire in a footnote, to be brought up if necessary.

Many close observers of the Security Council deem it a surprisingly light schedule. Also, in the assignment of chairman positions for the Counncil's subsidiary bodies in 2011, Bosnia has been given only one working group, that on Working Methods.

Cynics said the Permanent Five members had chosen Bosnia over Portugal for this potentially reforming post precisely because they do not want reform.

  Bosnia's Permanent Representative Ivan Barbalic has to date always been genial, though most in the UN press corps haven't yet heard much from him or his Deputy. That should chance this month.

In wider Balkan - Security Council news, the youth video from Serbia initially selected for one of the final four by the US Mission was vetoed as not being sufficiently tied to the Security Council's agenda, as it was about natural resources.

UN's Ban &
Barbalic, arriving Jan 09 - 2 years later, his month not yet shown

  A diplomat remarked that the Serbian youth who made the vetoed video was particularly well spoken: a new Vuk Jeremic, it was said.

Footnote: in yet more Bosnia video news, concerning the protests to UNHCR by Bosnian rape victims of Angelina Jolie and her new movie, Inner City Press this month asked the UN's expert of Sexual Violence and Conflict Margot Wallstrom for any guidance on the controversy. Though Wallstrom had just been in Bosnia, she said she didn't understand the protests. We'll see.

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Susan Rice Denies Being Told Sudan's Bashir Stashed $9B, Despite WikiLeak

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 20 -- Contrary to a cable released by Wikileaks describing Susan Rice the US Permanent Representative to the UN being told by International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo about Sudan's Omar al Bashir “stashing” $9 billion in “illegal accounts,” Ambassador Rice on December 20 told Inner City Pres that “I don't have a recollection of that being told to me directly.” Video here, from Minute 4:18.

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice about the cable and what she and the US Mission to the UN had done after Moreno Ocampo told her and her then Deputy Alejandro Wolff being told about Bashir's $9 billion.

  “I'm not going to comment on cables,” she began. After denying any recollection of being told “directly” about Bashir's billions, she said “I don't know if it was said to anyone else.”

   The cable begins that ICC “Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Ambassadors Rice and Wolff on March 20 [2009] that Sudanese President Bashir needed to be isolated. Ocampo suggested if Bashir's stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at possibly $9 billion), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a 'crusader' to that of a thief. Ocampo reported Lloyd's Bank in London might be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money.”

Susan Rice & Wolff & UK's Lyall Grant, Bashir's "$9B in Lloyds" not shown

   As Inner City Press reported earlier on December 20, “in January 2009 US authorities fined Lloyds $350 million for concealing the origins of wire transfers from Sudan, Iran and Libya in violation of US sanctions against the countries... Lloyds' so recent fine, for concealing the source of money from Sudan, would have given Rice and the Obama Administration leverage to get Bashir's accounts confirmed or denied by Lloyds at that time. At issue is not only corruption by a leader indicted for war crimes and genocide: under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, oil profits were to be split between North and Southern Sudan. Southerns have alleged that the Bashir government had improperly kept and hid revenue. Could this have been the money? What did the US Mission to the UN, State Department and Obama administration do to find out?”

   Expecting to receive some sort of answer to this question, Inner City Press later on December 20 asked Susan Rice, as transcribed by the US Mission to the UN:

Inner City Press: there's a report that Ocampo of the ICC told the U.S. Mission or yourself that Bashir had $9 billion taken from Sudan and put in London, Lloyd's of London, is what he mentioned. And I just wondered, it's one of these cables, I don't want to talk about the cable aspect of it, but I just wanted to know what do you think of that? Is that something Ocampo met with you and Ambassador Wolff and said, and if case, what did the U.S. do to find out if it's true?

Ambassador Rice: I'm not going to comment on cables. I don't have a recollection of that being told to me directly, and I don't know if it was said to anybody else.

   But see the cable:

Tuesday, 24 March 2009, 22:17

C O N F I D E N T I A L USUN NEW YORK 000306 EO 12958 DECL: 03/23/2019



Classified By: Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, for reasons 1.4 b/d

1. (C) International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Ambassadors Rice and Wolff on March 20 that Sudanese President Bashir needed to be isolated. Ocampo suggested if Bashir's stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at possibly $9 billion), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a "crusader" to that of a thief. Ocampo reported Lloyd's Bank in London might be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money. Ocampo suggested simply exposing that Bashir had illegal accounts would be enough to turn the Sudanese against him, "as with Pinochet."

2. (C) Ocampo said Bashir invents conflict to create a better negotiating position, and thought Bashir was using the expulsion of the NGOs to divert attention away from his arrest warrant. Ocampo suggested the U.S. and the international community also needed to push for Bashir's arrest to isolate him. Ocampo likened Bashir's situation to "a bleeding shark being surrounded by other sharks," with no loyalty, only greed, motivating those competing for power. By promoting the possibility of Bashir's arrest, Bashir would be further marginalized within Sudan's ruling elite, Ocampo thought.

3. (C) Ocampo suggested it would be beneficial to reassure China that its access to oil would not be jeopardized. If China believed Bashir was becoming a destabilizing influence, Ocampo said China might be more open to his removal as long as his replacement would guarantee support for China's economic interests.


   Lloyds' January 2009 fine of $350 million, for concealing the source of money from Sudan, would have given Susan Rice and the Obama Administration leverage to get Bashir's accounts confirmed or denied by Lloyds at that time.

   From the ICC in the Hague on December 19, Moreno Ocampo issued a statement that he did and does have information about the $9 billion. The unprosecutorial briefing of Rice and Wolff described in the cable may cause Moreno Ocampo some problems at the ICC.

   But in light of his December 18 statement, on top of the cable, Ambassador Rice and those above her may wish to provide some further explanation. 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.

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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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