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At UN, High-Level Friends of Myanmar Meet But Few Speak, As Cambodia Is Urged to be Quiet

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 23 -- Even before Cyclone Nargis, "the Gambari mission produced very little concrete results," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad told the Press on Wednesday as he left the closed-door Friends of Myanmar meeting attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his envoy to Yangon, Ibrahim Gambari. Khalilzad said that a focus group of China, Indonesia and India has been formed, and that post-cyclone "reconstruction has to be tied to political progress... time-bound negotiations, elections in 2010 and the release of prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi." He said there will by a Security Council discussion on July 24, and "maybe something by the Secretary-General."

   As the meeting broke up, with Ban Ki-moon still in the room, Gambari set up by the door and shook Ambassadors' hands. The level of representation from the Permanent Five members of the Security Council was telling. The UK like the U.S. and Russia sent its Permanent Representative, as did Singapore, among others. France was represented by its Deputy, Jean-Pierre Lacroix. China's representation may have been at a more junior level.

  When Ban Ki-moon emerged, he told the three reporters waiting that "a statement will be issued," that he was in a rush. Gambari too, declined to speak with the reporters, saying that a statement will be issued "today or tomorrow." Perhaps he too was in a hurry, or perhaps he had been advised, against his recent and laudable instinct to openness, not to talk with journalists. Practically, in this case silence meant that while the U.S. criticized Gambari performance, or what he has emerged from his previous trips to Myanmar with, there was no response.

UN boat in Cambodia, 1993, Myanmar in 2008, and exchange rate, not shown

   Is the U.S. wrong for issuing statements upon leaving a still-ongoing meeting? Or is the UN wrong for declining to speak, and allowing bureaucracy to delay for a day even the issuance of a bland summary of a meeting? On July 21, it took the Secretariat five hours to issue a statement hailing the arrest of Radovan Karadzic. How many approvals were required?

Forward-looking footnote, for now: on another Asian country now approaching the Security Council's agenda, Cambodia, Inner City Press was told Wednesday by diplomats that informal consultations will be held on Thursday regarding the format of the meeting that Cambodia has requested about what it calls Thailand's "grave threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia" in connection with the now UNESCO-listed World Heritage site at Preah Vihear. Click here for Cambodia's letter, which Inner City Press is putting online.

   An ASEAN diplomat told Inner City Press "we were all very surprised Cambodia made that request, when there are still bilateral channels available to solve the dispute." Another diplomat and wag, referring to Gambari and the "scant results" of his previous trips to Myanmar, said if no commitments are made by the Than Shwe government this time, Gambari "should just stay there." It could get expensive -- click here for Inner City Press' most recent story about the money the UN loses to the Than Shwe government due to currency exchange through Foreign Exchange Certificates. Watch this site. And this --


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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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