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Inner City Press Podcast --

At the UN, Senators Talk Darfur, Boycott Is Disfavored, N. Korea Audit Is Not Raised

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 21 -- The UN's approaches to Darfur, which are many and sometimes conflicting, were on display on Monday. Just before noon, a trio of U.S. Senators called for action without the consent of president al-Bashir in Khartoum. Then at the UN's noon briefing, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson acknowledged that the Secretary-General has not spoken with al-Bashir in "two or three weeks." 

            Sudan's ambassador told Inner City Press that their last talk was in Doha, which would be April 23. And the UN's envoy for Sports for Development and Peace, Dr. Djibril Diallo, when asked by Inner City Press to comment on calls for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics in China, said that is not the UN way. All this took place in the span of an hour, after which one wag mused that if Mr. Ban is making Darfur his personal test-case, the grade's at best incomplete.

    [So too is the grade for the UN's write-up of Dr. Diallo's press conference, which while purporting to summarize the content of the (two) questions-and-answers, omits any reference to the Darfur / Olympics boycott question. Compare the UN summary to the video, click here to view.]

            The U.S. Senators who met with Mr. Ban were from Delaware, Maryland and Tennessee. Joe Biden issued a pre-meeting press release, naming Darfur as the issue. A country forfeits its sovereignty, he said, when genocide occurs. The Bush administration has backed off calling it genocide, as has, apparently, UN envoy Jan Eliasson. UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow, on the other hand, speaks of China's "genocide Olympics." Dr. Djibril Diallo on Monday said that no one in the UN has made a boycott call. Ms. Farrow's status with the UN is perhaps not entirely clear. But she has been to Chad and to the Central African Republic.

            Sen. Biden, too, mentioned his visits to "the camps" at the stakeout Monday morning.  He also alluded to "UN reform," without providing any specifics. When Inner City Press asked Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) if the reform talk had included the audit of the UN Development Program in North Korea, Sen. Corker said it had not. What then is reform? Apparently it consists of partisan fighting on Capitol Hill about how to pay for UN peacekeeping.

Senators at the stakeout; Amb. Khalilzad present but "not holding press conference"

            During the Senators' stakeout, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad stood to the side and did not take any questions. At day's end, after a Council session on Burundi attended by few of the Permanent Reps, the U.S.'s Jackie Sanders told questioning reporters that she would "defer" to her Perm Rep, who she said would come out soon. He never did; guards said he was not inside and one opined that Ms. Sanders would have known that. We choose to look on the bright side, that after repeated promises of availability from the U.S. mission, there must be a doozy coming up, at least at long as the UN's John Holmes' stakeout interview on Monday, 19 minutes on just Somalia and Uganda. Click here for that story. We'll be waiting....

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

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