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Russia Has "Tough Questions" for UN on Kosovo, for Georgia on Abkhazia

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- "I haven't heard of any proposal for a division of Kosovo," Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told the press on Monday. "If such proposal are being entertained, it is between Serbians and Albanians, if they want to involve UNMIK," the UN Mission in Kosovo.

            Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas if a partition proposal has been made to UNMIK. Yes, she said, the proposal was made to UNMIK's deputy Larry Rossin. Rossin had previously been accused of improperly leaking a diplomatic proposal that had been made to him in confidence. But now it's no longer a matter of leaking: the UN's spokesperson confirms that the proposal has been made.

            Asked about reports of the U.S. moving to arm the Pristina government, Ambassador Churkin called this provocative and said that, if true, the international military presence should confiscate such weapons.  Amb. Churkin said "we have tough questions to ask" about UNMIK's move earlier this month to re-take the courthouse in Mitrovica. Ukraine, too, has had questions, about the rules of engagement under which one of its peacekeepers was killed. The Ukrainian interior minister, Yuriy Lutsenko, has claimed that these rules were, don't shoot until you've suffered the first injury. The head of UN peacekeeping denies that. Perhaps this will be among the "tough questions" that will be asked in the Security Council.

Amb. Churkin, between China and the U.S., smiling

            Inner City Press asked Amb. Churkin about the status of Georgia's request that the UN's Abkhazia peacekeeping and observer mission be reconsidered. Churkin said that the Council has repeatedly praised the Russian peacekeepers, and that, in his view, Georgia's request is a distraction from needed negotiations with the Abkhaz. "The problem is they have been doing things, like sending military into the Upper Kodori Valley," Churkin said, rather than offering socio-economic progress. In the run-up to the NATO meetings in Bucharest, Georgia has made an Abkhazia proposal, which its de facto leaders have rejected.

             Summarizing his month as president of the Council, Churkin ran through the numbers: 16 official meetings, 13 consultations, five resolutions, seven press statements -- and, he pointed out, no official Presidential Statements, which require unanimity. Russia has table "elements" for such a Statement about Kosovo, but it seems unlikely they will pass. So too any Statement on Myanmar. Churkin said "we are not an elections board." But when the leader of the opposition is not allowed to run in an election, where is the elections board to condemn this?

            South African's Dumisani Kumalo takes on the Council presidency for April, with thematic debates scheduled on regional cooperation (expect an appearance from African Union officials) and perhaps on small arms. There's been talk of the UK tabling a resolution on Somalia. Monday morning outside the Council, French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters, "I have to go to Somalia," referring to a meeting on the subject. "Bon voyage," one journalist quipped. "Mais c'est un beau pays," Ripert said. It's a pretty country. Yes, it is, despite everything.

Footnote: Given the questions about UNMIK one wonders what Russia -- to say nothing of Serbia -- would say if UNMIK chief Joaquim Rucker were in fact to be put forward for an Under Secretary General post such as in the Department of Management. The current holder of the post wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, blaming the ever-expanding UN budget on the member states. But only $31 million in new money was approved on March 28, according to the GA's spokesman, compared to the $1.1 billion proposal previously reported on. Days after the vote, the actual resolution was still not available. Only at the UN. To be continued.

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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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