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In Wake of Uganda Bombing, UNSC Statement Does Not Assign Blame, Even After Al Shabab Takes Credit

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, updated -- A day after the Kampala double bombing which killed more than 60 people, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had yet to issue any kind of statement. In front of the Security Council on Monday morning, one non-permanent member's spokesperson wondered under what agenda item the Council might issue a statement: Somalia?

Another spokesperson said moves were afoot for the issuance of a press statement, later in the day. Would it say who is responsible? After the bombing of trains in Madrid, the Council issued a statement blaming it on ETA. When Al Qaeda later took responsibility, the Council's statement was never retracted.

Here, nearly all speakers including Uganda authorities are pointing the finger at Islamist Somali insurgents. They had vowed retaliation for the Ugandan and Burundian AMISOM peacekeepers' shelling of a market in Mogadishu. Others pointed out the targeting of "Ethiopian Village," given antagonism between irridentist Somalia and Ethiopia. Motive is certainly there-- and, the media pointed out, opportunity.

  As the draft text of the press statement was distributed to members, a Council diplomat told Inner City Press it did not assign blame, only the Council's "standard terrorist attack language." Might that change?

Update of 3:20 p.m. -- Nigeria's Ambassador, the Council's president for July, read out a four paragraph statement. As Inner City Press predicted this morning, it did not assign blame. But in the interim, the spokesman for Al Shabab has taken credit for the bombings, saying they were months in the planning. Inner City Press asked Nigeria's Ambassador on camera why blame was not ascribed, and if this might not discourage countries from sending peacekeepers to Somalia. She declined the first, and to the second question said “there is a peace to keep in Somalia.”

Afterward, Inner City Press was told that Al Shabab's confession came after the statement was circulated and concurrence obtained. They didn't want to delay it. But wouldn't it have been stronger if more specific? An Ethiopian diplomat spoke about Eritrea. If ten Taliban are coming off the 1267 Al Qaeda sanctions list, does that mean there's room for Al-Shabab? Watch this site.

In Kampala, the Ethiopian Village - UN statements not yet shown

Incoming UN envoy on Somalia, Tanzania's former Ambassador Mahiga, spoke to Inner City Press at the UN in New York last week, including about the peacekeepers' use of “long range artillery” and the civilian casualties caused. Will Mahiga take this so-called “collateral damage” more seriously than Ould Abdallah did? Watch this site.

Footnote: Inside the Council on Monday morning, there was a minute of silence for the dead of Srebrenica. What there thought of the UN's role?

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Amid Lebanese Tales of Eggs and Tobacco, Dodges of Fadlallah Trap of UK and CNN, France Denies Camera Issues

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9, updated -- When eggs are thrown at peacekeepers in South Lebanon, the Security Council in New York is summoned into action. At the request of France, whose peacekeepers also got stoned, the Council convened on Friday afternoon to consider a draft press statement. The “H word,” a diplomat told Inner City Press, would not be in the statement.

H is for Hezbollah, just as these days F is for Fadlallah. Already, CNN editor Octavia Nasr, a Maronite Christian, has been fired for Tweeting her condolences for the death of Mister F. The UK Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy had her Fadlallah blog blocked and removed from the web.

The question, raised at the UN's noon briefing, is whether the UN will be sending anyone to pay their respects. Some wondered if the UN shouldn't have a designated lightening rod, or Liaison to Controversial Figures (LCF). Michael Williams released a short statement.

As the Council met behind closed down on France's draft press statement, in the press pen a pro-Hezbollah television journalist -- we've called him Hezbollah TV -- spoke heatedly about the French UNIFIL peacekeepers destroying fields of tobacco with their tanks, destroying a motorcycle and reportedly pulling its rider into their tank. This, he said, triggered the stoning and throwing of eggs.

UN's Ban at UNIFIL, French, eggs and Fadlallah-gate not shown

  Another Lebanese reporter, no friend of Hezbollah, nevertheless called Fadlallah a huge and “respectful” figure. Did he mean “respected”? Both. Inside the Council the consultations continued. The Council members were to receive a briefing from DPKO's head of Peacekeeping for Asia and the Middle East, Mr. WWW Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber. Watch this site.

Footnote: after the Press Statement was read out by Nigeria's Joy Ogwu, Inner City Press asked if for example the peacekeepers' taking photographs had been raised. No, she said.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who denied connection to the "incidents" of June 29, July 3 and July 4. The pro-Hezbollah TV journalist asked about tobacco and "atrocities," leading the French spokesman to urge the UN TV microphone man to swing his boom in another direction. "Have a good weekend," another journalist said. Indeed.

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At UN, N. Korea Ambassador Declares Victory, Came Late to Dark Press Area

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9 -- North Korea's Ambassador Sin Son Ho came late to the UN press area, 20 minutes after Susan Rice of the U.S. and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts had spoken and left.

  He sat with Inner City Press, asking where the other reporters were. They had left, but following tweets from @InnerCityPress and others, some returned. But there was no UNTV crew, and therefore no sound.

   Sin Son Ho sat in the penned in press area, sweating. Inner City Press offered him a fan, one handed out in June at a largely Japanese march from Times Square to the UN. “NO! Nuclear Weapons” were the words on fan. Sin Son Ho declined.

  Inner City Press asked him if he has seen the photo exhibit in the UN's entrance about the De-Militarized Zone. He nodded. “My country very beautiful,” he said. “Very beautiful.”

  Why did he come so late to the stakeout, after Ambassadors Rice, Takasu and Park had already spoken. He didn't want to mixed with them, was the answer.

  Other reporters began to arrive. Some wondered how the UN Secretariat could be treating North Korea and its Ambassador this way. The emphasis, however, was on getting him to speak and take questions before he left. Inner City Press plugged the lights in. The microphone stand was tilted.

  Finally the UNTV crew arrived, and Sin Son Ho began. He denounced the Security Council, which he said “failed to bring the correct judgment or conclusion to this case.” He said the Peninsula was now at a “trigger point” and could “explode at any moment.”

Sin Son Ho, at earlier press conference, "NO Nukes" fan not shown

  The first question was in Korean, but Sin Son Ho answered in English. This was, he said, a great diplomatic victory. Inner City Press began asking about his statement, in an earlier press conference, that he would lose his job if the Council took action.

  A reporter shouted, “Will North Korea take military action?” Sin Son Ho replied, “Thank you for coming,” and walked away from the microphone.

  A swarm of TV camera people, mostly from Japanese media, ran after him and up the stairs. A long time UN Security officer tried to stop the camera people, who surrounded Sin Son Ho as he passed through the turnstile. And then he was gone.

* * *

At UN, Korean Ship Attack But Not Attacker Condemned, Faster Action on Lebanese Rock Throwing

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 8 -- At the UN Security Council, it's hurry up and wait. The sinking of the Cheonan ship was suddenly put on the agenda for consultations Thursday afternoon at 4:30. Some media reported that a statement condemning the sinking, and presumably North Korea, would be issued that same afternoon.

But Council sources told the Press that the meeting was only for the purpose of finally distributing the draft Presidential Statement to the other members of the Council, beyond the P-5 Plus Two. At least for appearance's sake, the pretense of non P-5 agreement must be kept up. Therefore no statement will issue until Friday.

And when it does, it will not squarely blame North Korea-see below

"the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking"

Also slated for Friday is a “quick and dirty” press statement in support of France's peacekeepers, heroically fighting rock throwers in South Lebanon. France has drafted what it wants, and thinks it will get agreement.

Cheonan, responsibility not shown

Even though UN staff were barricaded into their offices in Sri Lanka by a mob led by a government minister, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was burned in effigy, belatedly blamed it on the government, the Security Council has not, and in all probability will not, take up the issue. Until a ship gets sunk. And yet then.... Watch this site.

Update of 5:01 p.m. -- the draft, as obtained by the Press, does not squarely blame North Korea. Nevertheless, US Ambassador Susan Rice said it speaks for itself. No, one wag mused, it speaks the Council's new (post) flotilla language.

 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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