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With Camps Ablaze in Western Sahara, Letter Given to Silent UN Council

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- As thousands of Western Sahara residents are cut from from food and water in camps outside the towns of El Aaiun, Smara and Bojador, a Polisario Front representative delivered a letter of protest to the UN Security Council Monday morning.

Afterward he told Inner City Press that a meeting had been set up for 12:15 with the head of UN Peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, who is in charge of the UN's strangely silent mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO.

 With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Morocco, it is unclear if he or the UN Secretariat will say anything at all.

According to the letter, delivered to October's Council President Ruhakana Rugunda, “more than 7,000 Saharawi citizens, including entire families, settled last week in tents [a] few kilometers from the occupied cities of El Aaiun, Smara and Bojador to protest against the acute deterioration of their social and economic conditions.”

To some, it is reminiscent of the hunger strike which put issue of Western Sahara and its long promised but not held referendum back on the Council's front burner. Since then, silence as returned, with Morocco's King at his Throne Day earlier this year saying that “no a single inch” of Western Sahara will be given up.

When Sudan Omar al Bashir says this, regarding South Sudan, reaction from such countries as the United States is fast, including the threat of increased sanctions. Why is one agreement, some wonder, deemed so much more worthy of Council enforcement that another?

Long road to Bojador / Boujdour: UN &
Pessoa not shown (but see below)

In 2011 South Africa, known to still favor a Western Sahara referendum, will rejoin the Council. But the Permanent Five members can block anything.

The letter continues that “the Moroccan government has decided to resort to inhumane means by impeding the arrival of provisions of water and food to the larger camp settlements and by setting the smaller ones on fire... this exodus of civilians would have devastating consequences on the current mission of Mr. [Christopher] Ross,” the UN envoy.

From the Council, so far, a silence as vast as Western Sahara's desert. If and when there is a formal response from Morocco we will report it here. Watch this site.

Footnote: the literary minded may remember Fernando Pessoa's line in "Mensagem,” that "Who wants to pass beyond Bojador, Must also pass beyond pain." (Quem quer passar além do Bojador, Tem que passar além da dor.) But what will the UN's Alain Le Roy or Christopher Ross say?

* * *

At Morocco's Throne Day, W.Sahara and Kosovo Contrasted, Non-Recognition by India and Romania, Diplomats Pay Cut

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- On Morocco's Throne Day, the talk was of sovereignty. In Rabat, King Mohammed VI broadcast that "Morocco remains committed to its sovereignty" over Western Sahara and "will not cede an inch of its Sahara.”

In New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Moroccan Ambassador to the UN Mohammed Loulichki greeted guests by the 18th floor entrance to the Skylight Room. Inside there were musician, carved lamb, sweet tea and a slew of diplomats, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his wife.

Inner City Press wanted to ask about this “won't give one inch” statement, in light of the long standing obligation of the UN to run a referendum on independence for Western Sahara. While this might have to wait, surprisingly what other Ambassadors approached Inner City Press about was another sovereignty dispute, that of Kosovo.

While Serbia, with out without a throne might feel like the Moroccan king, earlier this month the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion largely upholding Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. Kosovar foreign minister Hyseni told the Press he is staying in New York to meet with non-recognizing states.

But just for example, two such states told Inner City Press on Friday night they have no intention of recognizing Kosovo, even after the ICJ opinion. Romania's Permanent Representative Simona-Mirela Miculescu told Inner City Press that for “historical reasons” her country will not recognize Kosovo, and the European Union can't force it to. She called the EU like a family, in which some can disagree.

(Ambassador Miculescu also told Inner City Press that the surviving parts of the austerity measures required for an International Monetary Fund facility to Romania have resulted in her salary being cut by fifty percent. Click here for Inner City Press' previous coverage of the IMF and Romania.)

UN's Ban and
Loulichki, Sahara vote, 2bl standards and lamb and tea not shown

India, too, will not recognize Kosovo. Hyseni has asked to meet with them, but it appears this will be a waste of the Kosovars time. And with the world's largest democracy, and country with the world's second largest Muslim population, not recognizing your state, is independence complete?

Things turned decidedly more philosophical as the night wore on. As others left, citing the lack of alcohol, Inner City Press was regaled with tale after tale of Morocco's openness, to Moshe Dayan in Ifrane in the 1970s and before that those fleeing for Spain, to Morocco standing up to Vichy France.

The synthesizer and sweet tea were packed away, and Throne Day was over. Watch this site.

* * *

On W. Sahara, Council Word Games Trigger 15-0 Vote, Retreat to Greentree

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 30 -- After hours of wrangling over Western Sahara, the UN Security Council past five o'clock on Friday passed a resolution for the annual extension of the mandate of the MINURSO mission there, without the contentious phrase "human rights" being included.

As Inner City Press reported throughout the day, in the Council's consultations room France and its former colony Gabon drew a line in the sand on Western Sahara. Hovering outside the consultations was Morocco's ambassador, as well as a representative of the Polisario Front. After twists and turns, posturing and the calling of bluffs, a compromise was reached and voted on.

  There were only three changes to the draft resolution issued by the so-called Group of Friends, made up of France, the US, Russia, UK and Spain. The euphemism "human dimension" wasn't changed, but a reference to the roles of the UN system was added, which some argued meant human rights.

  The word "reaffirms" was added to the first paragraph -- very tough -- and the word "existing" was added near the end. That was it, but it was enough for Uganda and Nigeria, and also Mexico, to remove their threats to abstain.

Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Morocco's Ambassador whether he understand the existing mandate of MINURSO to include holding a referendum with independence as an option, and why his country had so vehemently opposed any reference to human rights. He ignored the human rights questions, and said that rather than independence, a political process had begun.

Finally, after repeated dodges, Inner City Press got to ask him again about human rights, and whether Morocco's exploitation of the resources of Western Sahara is illegal. He said Morocco is against the misuse of human rights, and that he would provide figures showing how few resources of Western Sahara Morocco takes out. We'll be waiting.

France's Araud, raprochement on human rights with China not shown

Inner City Press asked Uganda's Ambassador what he thought of the Group of Friend's process. He said it was outmoded, and that next time an African Union country should be included, and maybe on from Latin America. (This apparently referred to Mexico's position.)

At the end, Polisario's representative came out, and openly denounced France. Inner City Press asked what natural resources are being exploited. Phosphate and fish, was the answer.

Afterwards Christopher Ross joked about Inner City Press' previously description of him as genial (as well as looking strangely like UN top political advisor B. Lynn Pascoe, who it was announced Friday is shortly to go on a delayed trip to Sri Lanka.) Several delegations re-confirmed to Inner City Press its report of China's quip that while it was usually described as with Russia, now French had joined it in its position on human rights.

French Ambassador Araud, who should have answered on this, was long gone, on his way to the UN's Greentree retreat about peacekeeping. A Council member told Inner City Press that Araud off the record had said the French position on Sahara was not necessarily his, but was decided from on high. Nicolas Sarkozy was in China. The annual showdown on Western Sahara now over, the UN breathed a sigh of relief and prepared for the NPT and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday. 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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