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At UN, Of Africa Days and Al Qaeda Evenings, Burundi and Bacardi Gold

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 -- With small countries in Africa dominating the Security Council's July 15 schedule, there were few reporters, fewer updates and, some concluded, no news. But it depends on how you definite it.

 Liberia is on the cusp of becoming the fifth country on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. If no member objects to a letter pending in the Council, the referral will be made.

  Meanwhile one of the four countries already on the PBC agenda, Burundi, recently had a one party election marred by tossed grenades and now the threat of attack by Al Shabab.

 Burundi has soldiers in Somalia. Inner City Press spoke this week with the UN's envoy to Burundi Charles Petrie. He put a positive spin on the one party election, saying it was not as violent as it might have been.

Petrie said the opposition is weak, and the UN must play the counter-balance that civil society and opposition parties would in other countries. He should know: he was thrown out of Myanmar by the government, then served for a time in a humanitarian role on, but not in, Somalia. He was in the French military but not, as one rumor has it, in the Foreign Legion. The Council should have heard from him but didn't.

The same might be said of the UN's new envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga. He went into the Council's quiet room on July 14, but was not heard from by the Council as a whole. He met with the Permanent Five, one by one. He stopped to speak to Inner City Press, about including Al Shabab on the Al Qaeda sanctions list under Council Resolution 1267 in the wake of the Kampala bombings.

Later on July 14, at an ill-attended UK reception on climate change in the General Assembly lobby, Inner City Press asked UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant about 1267 and the Shabab. He pointed out that they are already on the Somalia sanctions list, and who knew who is or is not truly affiliated with Al Qaeda. An Ethiopian diplomat added, not surprisingly, they are “definitely” with Al Qaeda.

Former PBC head McAskie interviewed by former UN correspondent

But the Council sticks to its schedule. Guinea Bissau was the topic for July 15. The coup leader now heads the military; the UN “took note” of it. A Presidential Statement is to be drafted in the coming days.

  Still and all, the Permanent Representatives of France, Japan and Mexico strode into the Council just after 10 a.m.. The active Number Three of the US, Brooke Anderson, was made to show her identification card to get in. The day previous, Permanent Representative Susan Rice was in the Council but left early, to go get an award from the WNBA and, the press release said, Bacardi Gold.

  Inner City Press has wanted to go and see, but it conflicted with UN press conferences. The Security Council has met every day this week. Gabon's Perm Rep meandered in at 10:25. There was only one reporter at the Security Council stake out: this one. Something, it was rumored, would happen.

* * *

In Wake of Uganda Bombing, UNSC Statement Does Not Assign Blame, Even After Al Shabab Takes Credit

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, updated -- A day after the Kampala double bombing which killed more than 60 people, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had yet to issue any kind of statement. In front of the Security Council on Monday morning, one non-permanent member's spokesperson wondered under what agenda item the Council might issue a statement: Somalia?

Another spokesperson said moves were afoot for the issuance of a press statement, later in the day. Would it say who is responsible? After the bombing of trains in Madrid, the Council issued a statement blaming it on ETA. When Al Qaeda later took responsibility, the Council's statement was never retracted.

Here, nearly all speakers including Uganda authorities are pointing the finger at Islamist Somali insurgents. They had vowed retaliation for the Ugandan and Burundian AMISOM peacekeepers' shelling of a market in Mogadishu. Others pointed out the targeting of "Ethiopian Village," given antagonism between irridentist Somalia and Ethiopia. Motive is certainly there-- and, the media pointed out, opportunity.

  As the draft text of the press statement was distributed to members, a Council diplomat told Inner City Press it did not assign blame, only the Council's "standard terrorist attack language." Might that change?

Update of 3:20 p.m. -- Nigeria's Ambassador, the Council's president for July, read out a four paragraph statement. As Inner City Press predicted this morning, it did not assign blame. But in the interim, the spokesman for Al Shabab has taken credit for the bombings, saying they were months in the planning.

  Inner City Press asked Nigeria's Ambassador on camera why blame was not ascribed, and if this might not discourage countries from sending peacekeepers to Somalia. She declined the first, and to the second question said “there is a peace to keep in Somalia.” Video here.

   Afterward, Inner City Press was told that Al Shabab's confession came after the statement was circulated and concurrence obtained. They didn't want to delay it. But wouldn't it have been stronger if more specific? An Ethiopian diplomat spoke about Eritrea. If ten Taliban are coming off the 1267 Al Qaeda sanctions list, does that mean there's room for Al-Shabab? Watch this site.

In Kampala, the Ethiopian Village - UN statements not yet shown

Incoming UN envoy on Somalia, Tanzania's former Ambassador Mahiga, spoke to Inner City Press at the UN in New York last week, including about the peacekeepers' use of “long range artillery” and the civilian casualties caused. Will Mahiga take this so-called “collateral damage” more seriously than Ould Abdallah did? Watch this site.

Footnote: Inside the Council on Monday morning, there was a minute of silence for the dead of Srebrenica. What there thought of the UN's role?

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Amid Lebanese Tales of Eggs and Tobacco, Dodges of Fadlallah Trap of UK and CNN, France Denies Camera Issues

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9, updated -- When eggs are thrown at peacekeepers in South Lebanon, the Security Council in New York is summoned into action. At the request of France, whose peacekeepers also got stoned, the Council convened on Friday afternoon to consider a draft press statement. The “H word,” a diplomat told Inner City Press, would not be in the statement.

H is for Hezbollah, just as these days F is for Fadlallah. Already, CNN editor Octavia Nasr, a Maronite Christian, has been fired for Tweeting her condolences for the death of Mister F. The UK Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy had her Fadlallah blog blocked and removed from the web.

The question, raised at the UN's noon briefing, is whether the UN will be sending anyone to pay their respects. Some wondered if the UN shouldn't have a designated lightening rod, or Liaison to Controversial Figures (LCF). Michael Williams released a short statement.

As the Council met behind closed down on France's draft press statement, in the press pen a pro-Hezbollah television journalist -- we've called him Hezbollah TV -- spoke heatedly about the French UNIFIL peacekeepers destroying fields of tobacco with their tanks, destroying a motorcycle and reportedly pulling its rider into their tank. This, he said, triggered the stoning and throwing of eggs.

UN's Ban at UNIFIL, French, eggs and Fadlallah-gate not shown

  Another Lebanese reporter, no friend of Hezbollah, nevertheless called Fadlallah a huge and “respectful” figure. Did he mean “respected”? Both. Inside the Council the consultations continued. The Council members were to receive a briefing from DPKO's head of Peacekeeping for Asia and the Middle East, Mr. WWW Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber. Watch this site.

Footnote: after the Press Statement was read out by Nigeria's Joy Ogwu, Inner City Press asked if for example the peacekeepers' taking photographs had been raised. No, she said.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who denied connection to the "incidents" of June 29, July 3 and July 4. The pro-Hezbollah TV journalist asked about tobacco and "atrocities," leading the French spokesman to urge the UN TV microphone man to swing his boom in another direction. "Have a good weekend," another journalist said. Indeed.

* * *

At UN, N. Korea Ambassador Declares Victory, Came Late to Dark Press Area

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9 -- North Korea's Ambassador Sin Son Ho came late to the UN press area, 20 minutes after Susan Rice of the U.S. and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts had spoken and left.

  He sat with Inner City Press, asking where the other reporters were. They had left, but following tweets from @InnerCityPress and others, some returned. But there was no UNTV crew, and therefore no sound.

   Sin Son Ho sat in the penned in press area, sweating. Inner City Press offered him a fan, one handed out in June at a largely Japanese march from Times Square to the UN. “NO! Nuclear Weapons” were the words on fan. Sin Son Ho declined.

  Inner City Press asked him if he has seen the photo exhibit in the UN's entrance about the De-Militarized Zone. He nodded. “My country very beautiful,” he said. “Very beautiful.”

  Why did he come so late to the stakeout, after Ambassadors Rice, Takasu and Park had already spoken. He didn't want to mixed with them, was the answer.

  Other reporters began to arrive. Some wondered how the UN Secretariat could be treating North Korea and its Ambassador this way. The emphasis, however, was on getting him to speak and take questions before he left. Inner City Press plugged the lights in. The microphone stand was tilted.

  Finally the UNTV crew arrived, and Sin Son Ho began. He denounced the Security Council, which he said “failed to bring the correct judgment or conclusion to this case.” He said the Peninsula was now at a “trigger point” and could “explode at any moment.”

Sin Son Ho, at earlier press conference, "NO Nukes" fan not shown

  The first question was in Korean, but Sin Son Ho answered in English. This was, he said, a great diplomatic victory. Inner City Press began asking about his statement, in an earlier press conference, that he would lose his job if the Council took action.

  A reporter shouted, “Will North Korea take military action?” Sin Son Ho replied, “Thank you for coming,” and walked away from the microphone.

  A swarm of TV camera people, mostly from Japanese media, ran after him and up the stairs. A long time UN Security officer tried to stop the camera people, who surrounded Sin Son Ho as he passed through the turnstile. And then he was gone.

 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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