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After UK Open to Press, US Moves to Cut Horizon, Feltman on the Way?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- The UK's month atop the UN Security Council began with Welsh cheese and ended with cocktails, but in between was more dogged transparency than is usually seen at the UN stakeout.

  UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant and his Deputy Philip Parham appear to have set the record for Q&A availabilities, summarizing closed door consultations and even answering questions in their national capacity except when about "specific individuals," even Yemen strongman Ali Saleh.

  The UK's main recent reform, the so-called horizon briefing by the Department of Political Affairs, faces a second erasure from the United States, which takes over the Council in April.

  The UK began the innovation in November 2010; the US didn't follow in December. But after that all Council member held one, a session in which DPA can bring up topics of interest even if not on the Council's formal agenda. These have included piracy and the Sahel and here today, gone tomorrow coups d'etat like Mali's may turn out to be. But the horizon briefings are useful.

  Thursday at the UK's End of Presidency reception Inner City Press learned that, at least for now, the US has not included any horizon briefing on its agenda for April. It's strange, since the US controls the Department of Political Affairs, for now through its former Ambassador to Indonesia Lynn Pascoe and prospectively, as first reported by Inner City Press, by Jeffrey Feltman its Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East.

Inner City Press was first on that story, and got much feedback on it in the course of Thursday night's reception. "A perfect election year appointment," one Ambassador told Inner City Press. A red flag for at least some in the Arab and Persian world, said another.

There was also feedback on Inner City Press' story of only a few hours previously, how Ban Ki-moon lost control on Syria to his predecessor Kofi Annan. "If you appoint someone like that," a well placed Permanent Representative told Inner City Press, "what do you expect?" Indeed.

Drones too were discussed, including with regard to procurement. Herve "The Drone" Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping, blithely proposed them in the C-24 committee. Members complained to Inner City Press, including on who would get the information, beyond DPKO and France? So far the questions have not been answered.

  Members of the UK Mission commiserated that only two resolutions were adopted under their presidency. OK, if that's the measure -- but there were some of the longest Presidential Statements ever, including one on Afghanistan measured at eight minutes in length. Anyway in terms of transparency to the press and thus the public, the UK's number of stakeouts blew away for example France, whose Permanent Representative Gerard Araud did only three during his last month as President.

There was some push back, frankly, for having reported that Araud rather than speaking openly held a confidential or background briefing earlier on Thursday. But the French mission has played thug not only with UN media but with its own Francophone advocates for the indigenous. We repeat what one of the complainants said: when one reads propaganda attributed to a "Western diplomat" tomorrow, you will know where it is from. Watch this site.

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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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