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At UN on AIDS, Egypt Named for Obstruction, Uzbeks for Arrogance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- In the run-up to today's HIV / AIDS summit at the UN, member states have been meeting on the second floor of the North Lawn building to negotiate an outcome documents. Outside, civil society and medical groups complained to Inner City Press about the politics and prejudice inside the closed UN room.

  On June 6 at a press conference sponsored by MSF / Doctors Without Borders, Inner City Press asked the Chair of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign Nonkosi Khumalo which countries had been the most problematic.

  While so often in the UN being diplomatic means not naming names, and therefore reforming nothing, Ms. Khumalo to her credit named Egypt, Uganda and Malawi as the most retrograde, while chiding Swaziland as chair of the African Group for not speaking up enough.

  Inner City Press asked if Egypt's position hadn't gotten any better after the outer of Mubarak in what's called the Arab Spring. No, Ms. Khumalo said, Egypt's position hadn't changed, leading her to wonder out loud from whom Egypt's delegation to the UN is receiving its instructions.

Ban Ki-moon & Mubarak: with one gone, roadblocks remain the same

  On June 7, the head of UNAIDS Michel Sibide was scheduled for a 12:15 press conference. The moderator announced that he would not appear, as he was still in the Security Council. Inner City Press ran there and asked him, what about anti-AIDS activist Maxim Popov, arrested by Uzbekistan for distributing an AIDS education pamphlet funded by the UN?

  Thanks for asking me again, he answered. He said he continues to work on the case, but that the Uzbek government does not engage in dialogue.

  Inner City Press asked, with the NGOs?

  Nor with us, he answered. Inner City Press also asked about Ukraine's harassment of NGOs who work on AIDS, picking over their finances with a fine toothed comb. He said he'd heard of it; his colleague blamed this on Ukraine being uncomfortable with harm reduction and methadone programs. And so it goes at the UN.

Footnote: NGOs are complaining that they are Banned from the UN's North Lawn building from Wednesday through Friday, because the UN Department of Safety and Security considers this a summit. Will that mean that all NGOs are barred? We'll see.

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France Pitching Lagarde for IMF Called “Not Incompatible” with Leading G-20

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 3 -- For the second time during France's presidency of the Group of 20, a French minister has come to the UN and held a closed door briefing, excluding the press, about how open the Sarkozy administration's leadership of the G-20 is.

  But when Labor and Health Minister Xavier Bertrand came on June 3, something had changed. Dominique Strauss Kahn had lost the top post at the International Monetary Fund after being charged with sexual assault on a maid at Sofitel in New York, and fellow French minster Christine Lagarde is globetrotting to procure a vote this month to replace DSK.

Inner City Press asked Bertrand, flanked by French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud and his spokesman, about a complaint by South Africa's minister of finance Pravin Gardhan that the fast moves for Lagarde breach some commitment by the G-20 for a more open process.

As Bertrand rolled his eyes even before the question was finished, Inner City Press asked if there might be a conflict of interest in France leading the G-20 while pushing for Lagarde to replace DSK. Might a G-20 with a developing world president speak and act differently during this period?

After saying he hadn't come to speak about the question of the IMF, Bertrand emphasized that Lagarde has support “beyond France, even beyond Europe.” He said that while “certain [people] take into account nationality,” Lagarde's experience goes beyond that.

He claimed that France's leadership of the G-20 is “collective,” and is “not incompatible,” with pushing Lagarde.

Bertrand and Lagarde, June 10 court decision & G-20 not shown

  Inner City Press did not mentioned DSK, having noted that Bertrand has even come to the defense of fellow French official Georges Tron, also charged with sex abuse. Innocent until proven guilty, Bertrand has said -- without referring to the upcoming June 10 court decision on Lagarde's role in the payment of a large governmental settlement to Sarkozy ally Bernard Tapie. Watch this site.

Footnotes: while some in France ascribe Agustin Carstens counter candidacy to l'affaire Cassez between Mexico, others tell Inner City Press that if Lagarde's candidacy survives the June 10 court decision, and if she replaced DSK, it would not be for a full term, and a stronger commitment would be made that her successor would not be European. We'll see.

   At Bertrand's closed door G-20 pitch, Singapore's Permanent Representative Vanu GGopala Menon on behalf of the Global Governance Group (3G) urged France to “allow greater involvement of non G-20 countries in work groups” of the G-20. Inner City Press asked Bertrand about this as well; he responded that Singapore is invited, France's G-20 is not a club. Watch this site.

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In French Month Atop UN Council, Araud's 3 Stakeouts Hit New Low, Of Misstatements to Press & "Hostile Acts"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- France's month as president of the UN Security Council ended with a whimper on Tuesday when a meeting on Sudan had no outcome, not even a Press Statement. French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud did not go to the stakeout and deliver any summary of the discussion, or any closing statement for his generally unsuccessful and untransparent month atop the Council.

  A review of the UN Webcast Internet site reflects that of the past eight presidents of the Council, France's Araud did the least press stakeouts during his month. His output was doubled by Brazil in February, Colombia in April, and the UK last November.

  At one of Araud's listed stakeouts, on May 11, he took no questions at all. He read a statement about Sudan in French, then left a translator at the stakeout to read it out in English, after he said, smirking, “Since I speak no English.” Click here to view.

  Araud's last stakeout was on May 27 at 7:30 pm, with only three reporters present, click here to view. Araud came late, having not been able to find his way into the UN building. “He doesn't even know how to get in here,” one UN staffer marveled.

  When Araud finally arrived, Inner City Press asked him why the statement he read, only in English, about the arrest of Ratko Mladic had been delayed from 10 am, when the French mission told UN TV to set up a camera, until 7:30 pm. Araud said he would not explain, and added despite France's bragging to the contrary that “we are not ready” and not promising on Syria.

  On May 9, Inner City Press asked Araud if the trip he was leading to Sudan would go to Abyei, if Sudan had agreed to that. He said yes, there is no problem, they have agreed, there are only logistics. Click here to view.

  But as Inner City Press reported at the time, Sudan's Deputy Permanent Representative repeatedly said that Khartoum has not agreed to the Abyei visit, which ultimately did not happen as fighting broke out there.

  This was not the French mission's only misstatement in the month.

Araud as President in May, talk to press & results not shown

 At the beginning of the month Araud claimed, in French, that he wanted to make the Council less formal. But then another Council member told Inner City Press that Araud had gone back on a reform from November, and now required countries to sign up in advance to speak in the Council's closed door consultations.

  When Inner City Press asked, at a Friday reception hosted by Italy, France denied this. But then another Council member said that on that Sunday, France emailed to other members to reverse the policy they had just told Inner City Press they didn't have.

  The French Mission to the UN's public relations appear to have less to do with the truth than with what they view as power politics.

  When for example this year Inner City Press obtained and published documents from the Mission and the French military about French policy in Cote d'Ivoire, including the NYC Police Department arrest document for a French Mission diplomat, Romain Serman, accused of attempted purchase of cocaine and resisting arrest, the French Mission approached Inner City Press and called the publication “a hostile act.”

  (Since then, the normal ways one uses to get a Mission's answers don't work, but will continue to be tried, not least in fairness to the Mission, which apparently doesn't like to be asked questions.)

  Later, the French Mission asked pointedly that the Romain Serman arrest document be taken off line -- although it precisely the type of document widely published concerning the arrest, for example, of French political figure Dominique Strauss Kahn, around whom impropriety and corruption scandals swirl, not unlike at the Mission here reviewed. The negative impacts may have been (slightly) more on display during France's now concluded month atop the Council, but will continue. Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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