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At the UN, Kosovo Draft and Serbia Spam Recall Mehlis' Hariri Blooper, in Diplomatic Dog Days

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- On this final day of the United States' presidency of the Security Council, the U.S. came forward with an ostensibly re-drafted resolution on Kosovo. A sample change: instead of calling Kosovo a "special case," the new draft says it's "sui generis." Perhaps the logic is that it can easier be swallowed in Latin.

            While the Security Council was receiving a briefing from Louise Arbour, Human Rights High Commissioner, on her recent encounters with impunity in Burundi and Congo, Italy's Ambassador Marco Spatafora told three reporters that most delegations are withholding comment on the Kosovo re-draft, since Russia's objections have not been taken into account. "Operative One," there's the crux, he said. And in that paragraph, referring to Martti Ahtisaari's roadmap to independence, while the draft switches from "endorse" to "supports," it still "calls for its full implementation." And there's the rub.

              Asked why a new draft is even being circulated at this time, Amb. Spatafora said it may be explained by developments "elsewhere," not in New York. Not, of course, that there was any breakthough at the G-8 meeting. Amb. Spatafora said that the longer he works in the Council, he sees, "We are missionaries," dealing in "hope."

            Meanwhile, six days after Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson about a letter Serbia had sent -- the existence of the letter was denied on May 25, and not updated since -- on Thursday afternoon it was announced that Mr. Ban had received the letter and passed it on to the Council. Among the UN press corps, this is code language meaning that copies of the letter are available in the Spokesperson's Office. Several reporters converged, but were told that the letter "had not yet been circulated by the Council."

KFOR cuts weapons in Kosovo, May 2007

   Those in the know didn't leave. They exchanged stories, of when Hariri pre-tribunal investigator Detlev Mehlis had a document mistakenly circulated with changes and the time of each change still written on it. A first edit of the report alleged that "Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamal al-Sayyed" were behind the killing of Hariri. But in the later version, this was switched to "senior Lebanese and Syrian officials". Maher al-Assad is the brother of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

   At Thursday's noon briefing, Ban's spokesperson was asked if Ban had spoke with al-Assad about the passage of the Hariri tribunal resolution. " He was traveling," was the answer. Well now he is back, and was spotted at 4 p.m. on Thursday striding with his wife and entourage into the General Assembly to Africa Day and a fashion show. Outside in the call, Sudan's Ambassador appeared in a turban, and joked that his change of dress was caused by the U.S.'s imposition of new sanctions this week. India's Ambassador quoted T.S. Eliot poems. Georgia's Ambassador spoke on his cell phone. How deal-making on Kosovo may impact Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia issues is still not known.

  The U.S.'s Zalmay Khalilzad, the only Ambassador with two bodyguards -- the only UN ambassador with even one bodyguard, it seems -- strode through the Secretariat's lobby at day's end. "Quite a month," a reporter called out to him. He laughed, but other than the 10-0-5 Hariri tribunal vote on May 30, what is there to show?

            Finally at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Serbia's letter was produced. It was dated, as Inner City Press had asked, May 25 and is entitled "Initiative to Commence A New Stage of Negotiations on the Status of Kosovo and Metohija." It cites international law on sovereignty, and says that the Ahtisaari plan would violate the UN Charter and five of the Council's resolutions on Kosovo. It opposes "artificially imposing time limits." It concludes, in the UN style, "Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration." And it apparently sat around for six days, leading one wag -- this time, this one -- to call it Serbian spam. The Secretariat sits on a letter for six days, and the Council Presidency issues a draft just to show it can be done. This is what passes for diplomacy in the dog days at the end of May 2007.

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

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