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UK Favors Sending Myanmar to ICC, China Says It's Sovereign, UN's Ban Defers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- Amid calls to refer the military government of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, like Sudan was referred, UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the Press on Wednesday that his country would support such a referral. But, he said, the Security Council lacks the unanimity necessary for such a referral. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked China's new Ambassador to the UN Li Baodong what his country thinks of the Council discussing Myanmar's election laws. "General elections in a country is a matter of sovereign states," he replied, "and should be respected." This principle, he said, applies to Myanmar. Video here, from Minute 2:50.

  When Lyall Grant emerged to speak about Myanmar, or Burma, Inner City Press asked him about China position. We disagree, he said, noting that Myanmar is on the agenda of the Security Council, that it can instability that is a threat to international peace and security.

  But when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the media, Inner City Press asked him about Aung San Suu Kyi's call on her National League for Democracy to not register for the upcoming elections, given how flawed the election laws are.

  "Let me answer tomorrow afternoon," Ban Ki-moon told Inner City Press. Video here from Minute 7:34, UN transcript below. There will be a meeting of Ban's Group of Friends on Myanmar, to be addressed by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. We'll be there.

UN's Ban and China's Li Baodong, Friends on Myanmar

Footnotes: On March 23, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman to confirm or deny that Ban proposed a former Indonesian foreign minister to replace Ibrahim Gambari as his envoy to Myanmar, but that Than Shwe vetoed it. Nesirky said, "that's the first I hear of it," despite the report being included in an article Nesirky said was the only story alleging that Nambiar secretly traveled to Myanmar earlier this year.

Inner City Press asked the UK's Lyall Grant if the UK believe that a permanent replaced for Gambari should be named. His reply noted that Nambiar is only in the position on an "interim" basis. As Inner City Press has previously reported, the U.S. has said it prefers not naming a permanent replacement until after the elections, so that the person is "not stained" by the elections.

From the March 24 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask in the run-up to this meeting with the Group of Friends of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her party, the NLD [National League for Democracy], and other opposition parties, shouldn't even register for the poll, that the election laws are flawed. I'm wondering; you convened the meeting, what's your thinking of what the UN can do, given that the main opponent now wants to boycott it?

SG Ban: let me answer tomorrow afternoon after I have convened the meeting of the Group of Friends of Myanmar. I need to discuss this matter with the ambassadors participating in that meeting. I will have a clearer answer, if you excuse me.

* * *

As London Calls for Myanmar Elections Meeting, UN Denies Nambiar Trip, His Replacement Vetoed?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 16, updated -- Responding to the election laws proclaimed by Myanmar's military government, excluding Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisons from running for office, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he has requested an emergency meeting at the UN in New York. But what kind of meeting?

  As the UK's Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant walked into the Security Council on Tuesday morning, he was asked about his prime minister's statement: would the UK be asking for a Security Council meeting? He paused, then replied, "Uh, no comment on that, I'll get back to you."

  While one might expect the UK Mission to the UN to be able to, and to be eager to, explain a letter to the UN from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, further inquiry by Inner City Press indicates that Brown's request is for a meeting of the Group of Friends of the Secretary General on Myanmar, which includes among others former Council member Indonesia.

  A former UN correspondent now in Washington reports that "the Burmese military junta is understood to have 'vetoed' the name of Noer Hassan Wirajuda, the former Indonesian foreign minister, as the new UN Envoy for Burma." The UN has denied another portion of this report.

Update: at the conclusion of his March 16 press conference, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon if he had received a letter from Gordon Brown requesting a meeting of his Group of Friends on Myanmar. There may soon be a meeting of the Group of Friends, Mr. Ban answered, but said twice that he has not received a letter from Gordon Brown.
  The UK-MFA press release quotes Gordon Brown that "I have today written to the UN Secretary General to call for an urgent meeting in New York to discuss these developments." So can the UK not deliver a letter?

  Some said that Brown, if and when his letter is delivered, has only requested a meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose chief of staff Vijay Nambiar has replaced previous UN envoy on Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari, at least on an interim basis. On March 15, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: did Vijay Nambiar travel to Myanmar? There are some reports that the letter described by the Secretary-General some time ago at his stakeout was in fact delivered by Mr. Nambiar. Can you confirm or deny that?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I have seen one report, not some reports. I’ve seen one report, and I have been in touch with Mr. Nambiar, and he says it’s not true.

  At a reception for the press corp in Nesirky's office Monday evening, Mr. Ban and his deputy chief of staff Kim Won-soo appeared, but not Mr. Nambiar.

Gordon Brown in NY by TV, UK Mission and Nambiar not shown

Footnotes: Talk at the reception turned to the Non Aligned Movement's letter to Ban chastising him for announcing he will appoint a panel to advise himself about accountability for possible war crimes in Sri Lanka, a topic on which we hope to have more later today. [Update: Inner City Press asked Ban, click here.]

  And perhaps on the UK request, too. Just after 11 a.m., with the Security Council still meeting about the stage leaks Somalia Sanctions report, the UK's Lyall Grant left the Council, deep in conversation with an aide about "the letter." Did the UK Mission to the UN not get the memo?

  Finally, some note long standing reports that the UK is either dissatisfied with Mr. Nambiar's performance or wants the chief of staff post it previously occupied via Mark Malloch Brown, or both. But, the reasoning goes, to move Nambiar out of the chef de cabinet post but keep him as (India's) Under Secretary General, he would need the Myanmar envoy post. If it is being filled by another, how might this game of musical chairs end? Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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

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