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UN's Kosovo Mission Sings of Serbs' Freedom of Movement While Evasive on Investigation

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- While the UN Security Council on Wednesday afternoon buzzed with diplomats including Serbian president Boris Tadic, the outcome of the day's proceedings, which ended near seven o'clock, was a whimper and not a bang. Kosovo is ready to declare independence, its prime minister Hashim Thaci said smugly at the stakeout. Informed sources predict the Unilateral Declaration of Independence either early February immediately after the second round of Serbian elections, or Spanish election in March. In fact, it was for the Serbian elections, an Ambassador of a Permanent Five Council member told reporters, that Boris Tadic spoke, a form of election commercial. He was asked, What about the Russians? He replied, "what about the Russians?" Call it cultural.

            Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, after leaving the press corps waiting for twenty minutes, took to the microphone and spoke... in Russian. Afterwards Inner City Press asked him about the UN report's statement that "no crimes related to freedom of movement were reported to the police during" late 2007. Churkin asked rhetorically, freedom of movement if they are accompanied by convoys? Video here, Minute 12.

            UN envoy Joachim Rucker disagreed, answering Inner City Press' identical question by referring to religious festivals joyously attended, and criticizing Serbia for not recognizing license plates from Kosovo. Inner City Press asked him to respond to reports that UNMIK, he and his just-department deputy Steven Schook are under investigation by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services. Rucker again dodged the question, declining to comment because OIOS "does not have to tell you the nature of the investigation" nor its cause. Video here, from Minute 5:13. "Ask headquarters here," Rucker advised.

Kosovo 2007, couch taken from Security Council

            Forty eight hours before the meeting, there had still been a dispute in the Council about who would be allowed to speak, and in what format. Serbia's ambassador to the UN, Pavle Jevremovic, submitted a letter reiterating Tadic's request to participate. In it, the argument was made that Kosovo representatives "could be present at Security Council meetings only as members of the UNMIK delegation without the right to make a statement."

            On the other hand, Thaci submitted a letter asking to take part, "in order to present the views of the people of Kosova... especially following our serious engagement and involvement in the negotiations." Thaci asked for "an early response." But Monday's closed-door discussion did not reach a conclusion. Diplomats told Inner City Press that in the consultations, Russia insisted that the previous format, with UNMIK's Rucker speaking for Kosovo, be adhered to. There resulted the compromise, Thaci speaking, but only behind closed doors. The U.S., these sources said, likewise did not want Serbia to be able to speak in an open meeting, which would be broadcast back in Serbia prior to the upcoming elections. So those of us there on Wednesday were essentially extras in a pre-scripted drama. And so it goes at the UN Security Council.

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These reports are 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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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