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At UN, Sri Lanka Briefing Chased Into Basement by China, Swede's Exclusion Raised

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 29 -- With the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka that even he has called “disappointing,” many Security Council members thought it obvious that he would provide a briefing, if only in the “informal interactive dialogue” format under which the two previous Council sessions have been held.

   Inner City Press was told by Council sources that the Holmes briefing, to include the government's reneging on a pledge to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's envoy Vijay Nambiar to allow a UN humanitarian assessment team into the conflict zone, was slated to occur on Thursday, April 30 after a Cyprus agenda item, under the rubric “Other Matters.” To some, that seemed the least the Council could do, although one wondered if the Council would adjourn and move down to the basement, to drive home the point that Sri Lanka is not on its formal agenda.

On Wednesday morning, however, well placed sources told Inner City Press that opposition, led by China, has put even this stealth briefing into question. “It's not that China is not as humanitarian” as the others, Beijing's Ambassador argued. But they insist that no matter how many people are killed, the conflict in Sri Lanka is an internal matter.

With Russia slated to take over the Council presidency on Friday, May 1, it will become less likely that the Council will receive any briefings about Sri Lanka.

Chinese delegation huddles in Council, map to basement not shown

   As of 11:42 a.m. on April 29, at least two Western countries, a Permanent and a non-Permanent member, believe that the Holmes briefing on Sri Lanka is on tap for Thursday, under other business. A better placed source said this is not agreed. At deadline it appears that following China's objection about location, Holmes may brief in the basement. Location, location, location. Watch this site.

Footnote: while Sri Lanka's refusal to grant a visa to the foreign minister of Sweden, the incoming president of the European Union, has apparently not been raised in the Council as such, one European Permanent Representative raised it to Ban Ki-moon. Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban about Sri Lanka outside the Security Council Wednesday morning. He responded, you have a briefing from John Holmes this afternoon. And about the Council, tomorrow afternoon? Watch this space.

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time two weeks later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. On April 21, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman the following day cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." But they are still detained as of this writing. As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on 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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