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US Opposes Eritrea President Meeting Security Council, Rice Tells Press Why

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 3 -- Facing sanctions, the President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki has asked to meet with the UN Security Council. Going beyond Inner City Press' initial exclusive story, several Council members on Thursday told the Press that the United States -- one said "only the US" -- is opposed to Afwerki speaking to the Council.

  By contrast, South Africa's Permanent Representative Baso Sangqu stopped and told Inner City Press "I don't there anything wrong with hearing from the President" of Eritrea. China said it supports Afwerki's request to address the Council.

  Under Nigeria's presidency in October, Nigeria wrote back to Afwerki and said that the request was received and was being discussed. Now it's said it will be the subject of a closed door Security Council consultation, under the heading "Any Other Business."

  Late Thursday morning Inner City Press asked USUN:

"what is the US Mission position is on Eritrea's President's request to speak to the Security Council? Several Council members I've spoken with support the request, and not only if all of Eritrea's neighbors are also included in the particular session. What is the US position and why?"

  Five hours later US Ambassador Susan Rice stopped to answer when Inner City Press asked "is the US against the idea of the President of Eritrea briefing the Council?"

  She paused and then told Inner City Press, "We had the foreign ministers come in July. That was sufficient drama for my taste. I think if one comes, they'll call come. I'm not sure what we'll hear that's much different. I think any time you bring together leaders at that level with the degree of tension that exists between them. It's not going to promote improved relations or greater peace and stability. So I think we have to be very cautious about it and thoughtful about it."

  The answer is appreciated. But some point out that generally if a head of state asks to address the Security Council, particularly one which is facing, as first reported by Inner City Press, a new round of sanctions from the Council, the head of state is or should be heard. Now Ambassador Rice has made an argument why, in this case, the request could or should be denied because, she says, it does not "promote improved relations or greater peace and stability."

  The July drama to which Susan Rice referred took place a closed door meeting in the UN's North Lawn building exclusively reported by Inner City Press. (Click here for Inner City Press interview with Afwerki's adviser Yemane.)

Susan Rice takes position in UNSC, Afwerki not shown

  As the Security Council broke up late on Thursday, Inner City Press asked November's Council president Portuguese Ambassador Cabral for his view. Passing the media pen outside the Council he said that if a country which is on the Security Council's agenda asks to be heard, it should be. You can discuss the format, he said, but the country should be heard.

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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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