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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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As UN Spins "Expectations" For Darfur Talks, No-Bid Lockheed Contract Unaddressed

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 24 -- Now that at least seven Darfur rebel groups are boycotting the upcoming talks in Sirte, Libya, the UN on Wednesday sought to revise and even rewrite its previous statements about what to expect. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had warned Fur leader Abdel Wahid Mohammed al-Nur that he should attend the talks; he has declined, citing the delay in deploying UN peacekeepers. Wednesday Ban's envoy Jan Eliasson, speaking to reporters by video from Eritrea, blamed Abdel Wahid for now making many camp residents in Darfur not want to attend the talks.

            Eliasson mentioned two other leaders now leaning toward not attending, Ahmed Abdal Shafi  and the Justice and Equality Movement's  Khalil Ibrahim, who Eliasson said wants a one-month delay. But at least four other faction leaders, following a meeting in Juba in South Sudan, say they will not go. Abdel Karim, for example, says that Sirte may be "another Abuja," the Nigerian city at which peace was made with a single rebel group, and Minni Manawi faction. With the rebel movements splintering, at a pace of one faction per meeting, the conflict will not end.

UN's Eliasson and video screen: not Wednesday, expectation not shown

            While the UN talks expensively about things over which it has very little control, it exercises control such that it does not have to address the actions it has taken, such as its no-bid $250 million contract with Lockheed Martin. Since the Sudanese mission to the UN has repeatedly criticized the non-competitive contract award to the largest U.S.-based military contactor -- the UN essentially gave them an issue -- one assumes and would like to ask and have confirmed that the issue arose in Eliasson's meeting in Khartoum with Nafie Ali Nafie, the government's representative in Sirte. A reporter who has previously posed the Lockheed question to Ban Ki-moon, next in line Wednesday to ask Eliasson, was skipped over. Eliasson went on, spinning that when he said it was his expectation that these top rebels would attend, it didn't mean that he expected it, only that he thought it should happen. In the UN, apparently, an expectation is not what you expect, but rather an exhortation.

            On the non-bid Lockheed contract, first the UN spokesperson said that there had been competitive bidding, than acknowledged it had been "sole-source." Next the spokesperson said the contract would be public disclosed; then reversed course and said the contract would be withheld. There have been previous exhortations about transparency in contracting, but apparently it can't be expected from the UN. To be continued.

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Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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