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UN's Myanmar Response Muffled, "No New Needs," Weakened Council Statement, Seeming Cover-Up

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 9 -- The UN's response to the crackdown in Myanmar appears to weaken by the day. Even issuing a Presidential Statement is taking days of negotiations. A Security Council diplomat told Inner City Press that from Monday to Tuesday, positions hardened and the gaps between the positions of the U.S. and China, for example, grew wider.

  Meanwhile, the UN's head of humanitarian coordination John Holmes, in response to Inner City Press' question about access in Myanmar, says that aid delivery has not been impacted and "there are no new needs," and even no significant refugee flows. Whatever the technical accuracy of these statements, someone in the UN system should be keeping the pressure on, not dissipating it. Since the UN's spokesperson on Monday had responded to questions about reports that Burmese authorities demanded access to UN computer files, which UN staff then deleted, by saying "I cannot confirm that information this morning," Inner City Press asked the question again on Tuesday:

Inner City Press: Do we have any more on that story in the Times of London about the Government of Myanmar either asking for satellite phone licenses or ... that the UNDP staff had been deleting files so that the Government couldn't get them, has there the Times story false, or...?

Spokesperson:  I already said yesterday everything I had to say about that.

Question:  Okay, no, I guess you'd said I can't confirm that this morning, or today, or whatever...

Spokesperson:  No, I said I cannot confirm that there was such a thing, that there was any deletion of, hurried deletion of files because of that.  I said there was no formal request, I said yesterday, to the UN to give out its computers or turn its computers over to anyone for that matter.

            But the UN's own transcript of Monday's briefing states:

Inner City Press: on Myanmar, the Times of London story about the computer?  It says that there are UN employees in Yangon started, you know, or deleting in expectation that the computers would be taken started deleting names or information.  Is that part of this, that UN now denies that?

Spokesperson: I cannot confirm that information this morning.

            That the information couldn't be confirmed Monday morning is why Inner City Press asked about it again on Tuesday afternoon. Unless the Times of London simply made up the information about UN staff deleting files, something happened. But now the UN not only doesn't answer, but apparently seeks to dissuade follow-up questions.

   Tuesday evening in the UN headquarters lobby, Inner City Press asked Ibrahim Gambari about the stalled Security Council presidential statement. "Ask them about it," Mr. Gambari answered, not incorrectly in this case, before reminding Inner City Press that he served in the Council in the past.

Gambari at the UN in 1984, years of Burmese suffering yet to come

            And here is the most recent draft UN Security Council Presidential Statement, note the brackets at the end, as circulated:

"The Security Council welcomes the recent mission by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser to Myanmar Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, and his briefing of 5 October 2007, at the request of the Council.  It reaffirms its strong and unwavering support for the Secretary-General’s good offices mission as endorsed by General Assembly Resolution 61/232, and expresses its appreciation for the personal engagement of the Secretary-General, including his decision to dispatch Mr. Gambari to Myanmar, and for the efforts of Special Adviser Gambari.

The Security Council strongly deplores the violent repression by the Government of Myanmar of peaceful demonstrations, including the use of force against religious figures and institutions, and welcomes Human Rights Council Resolution S-5/1 of 2 October 2007.  It calls on the Government of Myanmar to cease all repressive measures, including the detention of protestors, and urges full access by the ICRC and international humanitarian organizations.  The Security Council calls on the Government of Myanmar to work with all parties concerned towards a de-escalation of the situation and a peaceful solution.

The Security Council stresses the need for the Government of Myanmar to engage without delay in a dialogue with leaders of all political and ethnic groups towards an inclusive national reconciliation process, with the direct support of the United Nations.  It calls for the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The Security Council recalls the recommendations Mr. Gambari first conveyed to the Government in November 2006, and notes the additional proposals submitted during his most recent visit to Myanmar.  It encourages the Government of Myanmar to seriously consider those recommendations and proposals, and to implement the measures necessary for democratization.  The Security Council also calls on the Government of Myanmar to take all necessary measures to address the political, economic, humanitarian, and human rights issues that are the concern of its people and emphasizes that the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of all of its people.

The Security Council welcomes the Government of Myanmar’s public commitment to work with the United Nations and, noting with interest the recent statements by the Government of Myanmar, supports the establishment of an inclusive dialogue without conditions as the basis for national reconciliation and, in this regard, takes note of its appointment of a liaison officer with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  It acknowledges that the Government of Myanmar had invited Mr. Gambari to Myanmar and underscores its support for his early return, in order to facilitate concrete actions and tangible results.  The Security Council urges the Government of Myanmar and all parties concerned to cooperate fully with Mr. Gambari and to respond positively to his requests during his visits.

The Security Council welcomes the important role played by the ASEAN countries and by Myanmar’s neighbors in urging restraint, calling for a peaceful transition to democracy, and supporting the good offices mission.  It notes that the good offices mission is a process, and encourages the sustained support and engagement of the international community in helping Myanmar.

The Security Council confirms its intention to remain actively seized with the matter [and to consider further steps as the situation warrants]."

  Note again the brackets... Watch this site.

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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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