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At UN, Misdirection on Census in Iraq and Congo, of Kirkuk and the Kivus

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 25 -- The UN helps countries like Iran, Liberia and the Congo conduct their census, but glosses over the tough questions. On February 25 Inner City Press asked Nuha Al-Sharma, Executive Census Director of Iraq's COSIT, if the October census will take into account the two or more rounds of ethnic cleansing around Kirkuk and its oil fields, regarding Kurds. Video here, from Minute 42:45.

  "There is no ethetic data," she responded. This seemed to mean no "ethnic" data. But after the briefing, UNFPA's Mr. Luay Shabaneh confirmed that the census will ask if a person is Kurdish, Turkenman or Arab. He said a curfew will be announced, then people counted in their homes, with fingerprinting is necessary. So why wasn't that said during the briefing?

  When Inner City Press asked the DR Congo's Gregoire Kankwanda Ebuleland is the census there will count FDLR rebels from Rwanda, he bristled that "outsiders" often "do not have good information." He insisted that there are only "pockets" of resistance in the Congo.

  Inner City Press asked Paul Cheung the director of the Statistics Division of UNDESA if the UN would be helping Haiti with a census, given the current failure to even register the birth of children. No, he said, Haiti has not asked for help.

UN flies census materials, Sudan 2008: straight answers not shown

  Mr. Cheung was listed as the moderator of the press conference, but no one seemed to have organized anything. The Liberian representative Edward Liberty droned on for fifteen minutes -- who could stop him?

  The DRC's Gregoire Kankwanda Ebuleland spoke only in French, although no translation was provided. After he finished -- and Inner City Press asked its question in French -- Mr. Cheung asked, does anyone need translation? It was classic UN -- unrealistically upbeat, badly organized, barely covered and thus unaccountable. And yet here is this report.

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On Iraq, UN's Melkert Silent on Blackwater and Black Balling of Baath Candidates

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 16 -- What does the UN's top envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, have to say about the acquittal and impunity for the mercenaries of Blackwater now Xe who killed Iraqi civilians? "That is a specific case," Melkert told Inner City Press on Tuesday at the UN, "we don't advise on specific cases." Video here, from Minute 11:34.

  Inner City Press asked Melkert about a range of human rights issues in Iraq, from honor killings to executions to freedom of the press. Melkert said his Office, UNAMI, issues human rights reports every six months, "critical on several of the issues you mentioned." Video here, from Minute 6:03.

  But how can the UN be critical if, as Melkert claimed about Blackwater, the UN "doesn't advise on specific cases?"

  Melkert's main job right now is, like Kai Eide's was in Afghanistan, to try to make national elections appear credible. Inner City Press asked him about barred candidate Saleh Mutlak, who has been told he cannot run for office because he was a member of the Baath party. Mutlak says he quit in 1977, and was only goaded into saying he was still a member.

  Melkert called the grounds for exclusion "legitimate," and said the UN only advocates for transparency in the application of the rules, citing Iraq's "Accountability and Justice Law of 2008." While speaking about reconciliation, Melkert said that excluding former Baath party members is similar to what happened in Europe "after the Communist regimes."

 While Melkert told Inner City Press that the UN "has a permanent position against the death penalty" -- one that Ban Ki-moon backtracked on during his first day in office, on the subject of Iraq -- when Melkert was asked about the execution of former Baath party members, he replied, "I could not take your point on that, the way you formulated it, so I could not comment further."

Melkert and his less than democratic guards in Baghdad

  As Melkert walked away from the microphone, Inner City Press asked him if he now agrees with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's call that senior UN system officials make some minimum public disclosure of their finances. Melkert laughed and said, "You see that I" -- then signed his name in the air. "What is good is that you don't forget."

  When he was the Associate Administrator of UNDP, he came out publicly against Ban's call for financial disclosure. Video here, from Minute 37:55 through 44:41. He also said, on UN reform, "you ain't seen nothing yet." Inner City Press recounted this history for a Dutch television station tailing and filming Melkert for the day. Another correspondent criticized Melkert go along [to] get along performance in Iraq, wondering what next job he might have his eye on.

  Many in the UN grumble that Melkert "chased" fellow UN official Ibrahim Gambari out of Iraq. Now it's his show, for better or worse. 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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