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As Somalia Says It OKs US Drone Strikes, Susan Rice Doesn't Confirm

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 -- The day after the acting chief of Somalia's mission to the UN told Inner City Press that his country's Transitional Federal Government has given approval to, and gets prior notification of US drone strikes against Al Shabaab, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Susan Rice about it.

  Rice said she wouldn't comment on intelligence matters, but that the US remains "extremely focused" on Al Shabaab. Transcript below.

  The Obama administration's use of drones has been a matter of controversy not only in Pakistan, which is serving on the UN Security Council with the US, but also in Yemen, whose human rights minister says she has complained to the US about particular killings of civilians.

  The acting chief of Somalia's mission, Omar Jamal, is in fact neither the Permanent Representative nor Deputy Permanent Representative -- both, Jamal told Inner City Press, are away on business. But Jamal made his comments about US drones on camera, reiterating that he spoke for the TFG.

  Last month when Amnesty International issued a report on executions, Inner City Press asked AI's representative to the UN about US drone strikes, as rationalized by Attorney General Eric Holder, and the response was that the US strikes are not viewed as judicial executions.

   Inner City Press was told that the US State Department's legal department might be responding but has yet to see such a response. Once aware of one, it will be published.

  Meanwhile, the head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous proposed in a closed door session of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping that the UN start using surveillance drones, as exclusively reported by Inner City Press then subsequently confirmed by the UN.

  A member of this C-34 Committee tells Inner City Press the word is that Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row at the top of UN Peacekeeping, already has a French company, Thales, in mind. Watch this site.

From the US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: Yesterday the Somali mission's first secretary, Omar Jamal, held a press conference, among other things here. And he said that his government, the TFG, has given permission to the U.S. to use unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to make strikes in Somalia fighting Al Shabaab. So it seems sort of-I wanted to know, is that the case? And what is the U.S.'s role itself-I understand, in your national capacity-in actually fighting Al Shabaab who has claimed credit for this national theater bombing?

Ambassador Rice: I'm not going to get into matters that relate to intelligence. I will say that the United States has been and remains extremely focused-as do all members of the international community-on combating the terrorist threat that Al Shabaab poses, as an active threat not only to Somali but to the people of the region and beyond, in particular, given its active affiliation with Al Qaeda. So we'll continue to work with partners in Somalia and beyond to deal effectively with the Al Shabaab threat.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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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