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As JPM Chase Cuts Off UN Missions, US Says Bailed Out Banks Are Free

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 13, updated -- When JPMorgan Chase wrote to countries' Missions to the UN and told them accounts would be closed in March 2011, several countries complained, to the UN and to the “host country,” the United States.

Thursday US Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy came to the UN in New York to speak to countries' Ambassadors about Chase's move. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Kennedy if he -- or Hillary Clinton or Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, both of whom Kennedy said were involved -- had spoke with JPMorgan Chase.

  "We have had discussions with the major banks," Kennedy answered, later confirming that yes, this included Chase. But what was the response of Chase, whose CEO Jaime Dimon is often rumored to be a line for an appointment by the Obama administration?

Kennedy told the press that “we cannot tell a bank what to do.” Inner City Press immediately asked, What about the banks which took bailouts and still owe TARP money to the US and its taxpayers? "Could the government use its leverage?"

  Kennedy said he was not “technically competent to get into that level of detail," and told Inner City Press to ask the Treasury Department official who had also come to the UN. Video on Inner City Press YouTube channel here.

While the US Mission later said this Treasury Deparment official was Mark Poncy of the Office of Strategic Policy, Poncy never came to speak to the Press.

Inner City Press asked Kennedy if he thought the UN should go forward and re-rent space inside the UN under its Capital Master Plan to JPMorgan Chase, when this bank was turning its back on Missions of the countries which make up the UN.

Ask the UN,” said Kennedy, who has responsibility at the State Department for Management, including at the UN. At the US Mission to the UN in New York, the Management position has remained with only an interim person, the genial but part time Professor Joseph Melrose.

At the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press did ask Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky if the UN would give space to JPMorgan Chase in the Secretariat building when it re-opens.

Ask Chase,” Nesirky said. But Chase is already in talks with the UN as to which space to get in the repaired building -- not, apparently, the fourth floor space it previously had, but some other location.

Nesirky now said that he would not comment on negotiations. But is Chase's closing of UN Mission's accounts, Inner City Press asked, even part of the negotiations? Nesirky seemed to say he would look into this.

  JPMorgan Chase is not only interested in re-entering the Secretariat building when it re-opens: Chase also has a branch on the first floor of the DC-1 building which houses the UN Development Program. Many countries' Missions to the UN opened accounts at Chase because they were thus inside the UN. Will the UN allow this to continue?

At UN, Patrick Kennedy, spokesman Mark Kornblau & Joseph Melrose: where's Chase?

  After the meeting with Kennedy, Inner City Press asked Iran's Permanent Representative as he came out if he thought Chase should continue to remain in UN buildings. No, the Ambassador said, UN space should go to banks which will deal with UN Missions.

  He spoke of the UN Federal Credit Union -- currently embroiled in a dispute about the account of the UN Staff Union -- and was asked if the UN should withdraw its own funds from a bank which in effect redlines Missions, like Chase.

Egypt's Permanent Representative told the Press about “transfer fees” while Turkey's Deputy Permanent Representative shrugged that “there are Turkish banks in New York.”

   Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin, asked in front of the Security Council about JPMorgan Chase's move, laughed and said "the ruble is a very strong currency," when you have the ruble you don't need anything else. But the others? Watch this site.

Update of January 14, 2011: the following arrived:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 8:05 AM
Subject: Your questions on Chase Bank
To: Inner City Press

We can say the following in reply to your questions at the noon briefing:

Some ambassadors emerging from the US briefing about their accounts being shuttered think the UN should withdraw all its accounts with Chase. Has this been broached with the administration? Being weighed at all?

We understand that this was raised by one Member State delegate in the briefing with Ambassador Kennedy. The UN Secretariat has not been approached in this matter.

Will Chase open an office in the UN building after the CMP?

Under the CMP, the new UN building design includes space provision for banks. No agreements have been entered into with any banks for this space.

* * *

UN in Sudan Didn't Ask Security Council As Flew War Criminal Haroun to Abyei

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12 -- After Inner City Press got the UN to confirm on January 11 that its UN Mission in Sudan provided transportation and logistics help to indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun to organizing nomadic tribes accused of murders in Abyei as in Darfur, reports went out and criticism of the UN rolled in.

  Inner City Press asked several UN Security Council ambassadors laste on January 11 about UNMIS' assistance to Haroun and they expressed surprised, that the Council had not been told anything.

  On January 12, Inner City Press again asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky about the UN's transport of International Criminal Court indictees or indictee: had UNMIS checked with the UN's Office of Legal Affairs, headed by Patricia O'Brien, who rarely speaks to the press?

  Why did UNMIS think it should not check with the Security Council, which sets the Mission's mandate?

   Nesirky did not say whom UNMIS had checked with.

   Inner City Press asked Nesirky, “since what he’s alleged to have done in Darfur is to actually work with such nomadic tribes — at least it’s alleged in the ICC – to bring about war crimes against more sedentary populations, you don’t see any contradiction then in calling him an organizer, as sort of a uniter of such tribes?”

   Nesirky protested, “I haven’t used that word, Matthew. This is the Governor of Southern Kordofan, and this was critical to help to bring the Misseriya leaders to the meeting with the Nur Dinka people — to try to ensure that the further clashes could be avoided.” We'll see.

From the UN's January 11, 2011 transcript:

Inner City Press: I just wanted to... ask you to confirm it from here, that UNMIS flew Ahmed Haroun, the ICC [International Criminal Court] indictee who was the governor of south Kordofan, flew him in a UN helicopter to Abyei and facilitated his travel. I wanted to know, if that’s true, what’s the UN’s policy on the transporting and facilitating the travel of an indicted war criminal?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: ...On the question of Governor Haroun, the Mission is mandated to provide good offices to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement parties in their efforts to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiations, and I can tell you that the UN Mission in Sudan has been working with the parties, including local authorities, to contain any potential violence that may escalate. As you know, there have been clashes in Abyei, and these clashes were actually threatening to escalate into a wider war. And so Governor Haroun was critical to bringing the Misseriya leaders in southern Kordofan to a peace meeting in Abyei to stop further clashes and killings. And, in accordance with its mandate, the Mission will continue to provide the necessary support to those key players in their pursuits to find a peaceful solution.

Inner City Press: So, they did transport him? I mean, I just want to make sure I’m not reading between the lines.

Spokesperson: Correct. [Video here, from Minute 13:48.]

UN Security Council in Sudan w/ Gambari, 10/10 (c)MRLee

Inner City Press: I guess I just wanted to know, have they transported Ali Kushayb, the other indictee, and did they check with OLA [Office of Legal Affairs]? I mean, I understand the rationale of transporting someone if necessary. But it makes you wonder, like, Joseph Kony, I mean, where’s the line drawn, and was this checked with Headquarters before it was done?

Spokesperson: What I can tell you is what I’ve already told you. It’s in accordance with the mandate to provide support to key players. Clearly, as I also said, Governor Haroun was critical to bring the Misseriya leaders in southern Kordofan to this meeting that had been arranged in Abyei.

Inner City Press: Doesn’t the Government of Sudan have its own Air Force? I mean, they fly patrols, and bomb in South Sudan, why weren’t they able to transport their own leaders?

Spokesperson: This is something that was being brought together with the help of the Mission. In other words, this was a mediation effort — and this was a part of that mediation effort.

From the UN's January 12, 2011 transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Sudan. After your statement yesterday about UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] transporting Ahmed Haroun, some human rights groups have been pretty critical of it. And I’ve spoken to a couple of Security Council ambassadors, who said they weren’t aware that UNMIS was transporting these ICC [International Criminal Court] indictees…

Spokesperson Nesirky: Indictee.

Inner City Press: Okay, indictee. So, two questions. One, did UNMIS – who did UNMIS check with before engaging in this? I understand there’s a 2006 OLA [Office for Legal Affairs] guidance. But was this the kind of thing that they would try to check with the Security Council or OLA? And also, is there anything more that you want to say, given – the Save Darfur Coalition and others have said that this was irresponsible and sends all the wrong messages to the people of Darfur when an indicted war criminal is transported by the UN elsewhere in the country.

Spokesperson: I think I was fairly explicit yesterday on the reasons why this was done. And as you pointed out, there is a standing instruction that dates from 2006 that spells out the way that one should interact — and namely that it should be done when it is necessary. And clearly, in this instance, the Mission felt, given what was happening in Abyei, and given that there was a risk that this could escalate into wider conflict, it was deemed necessity — necessary, critical, for Governor Haroun to be able to bring the Misseriya leaders in Southern Kordofan to this meeting in Abyei. And this is in line with its mandate, which is to provide good offices for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and is, as I say, meeting the criterion of necessity. This was a necessity to ensure that the two sides that were fighting could be brought together to stop that, to prevent further clashes.

Inner City Press: Just because, since what he’s alleged to have done in Darfur is to actually work with such nomadic tribes — at least it’s alleged in the ICC – to bring about war crimes against more sedentary populations, you don’t see any contradiction then in calling him an organizer, as sort of a uniter of such tribes?

Spokesperson: I haven’t used that word, Matthew. This is the Governor of Southern Kordofan, and this was critical to help to bring the Misseriya leaders to the meeting with the Nur Dinka people — to try to ensure that the further clashes could be avoided.

We'll see.

  Earlier on January 11, Inner City Press asked representatives of non-governmental organizations active on Sudan about the UN's transport of ICC indictee Harun. David Abramowitz, the Director of Policy and Government Relations of the group Humanity United, said that he wasn't aware of the reports of Harun being transported, "I have not seen that report."

  Nor has the US administration, including its Mission at the UN, yet spoken on the matter. Some wonder whether they were consulted, even whether, in light of the offer to delink Darfur from the offer to remove some sanctions on Sudan in exchange for the South Sudan referendum, if the US agreed.

  Sam Bell, the Executive Director of the Genocide Intervention Network / Save Darfur Coalition, said he hadn't seen the report confirmed, but either way it did not send a good message to the people of Darfur, where Harun was indicted for war crimes: "already Darfuri are suspicious of UNAMID and UN personnel."

  In fact, Harun was indicted for working with and organizing the type of nomadic tribes which are accused of the killings in Abyei, and now in South Kordofan state as well.


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.

* * *

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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