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On Sri Lanka, UN Split on Visit by Ban, Russia Lends an Ear, Monday Not Council

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- On whether UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should go to visit Sri Lanka, "the House is quite divided," a senior Ban advisor told Inner City Press late on May 8. He said many think that a Ban visit would be "most useful after the dust has settled," apparently referring to a final assault by the Sri Lanka military. Ban's office has spoken with, among others, British Tamils and urged them to call for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to let out all civilians who want to leave. "They just can't do it," the Ban advisor said.

  Inner City Press pointed out that if Ban waits to go until after the final assault, it might become a tour of a dead zone. The advisor agreed, saying, "people will be locked in concentration camps for five years." Some say that if the UN knows that the camps they are funding are concentration camps, perhaps a change is needed. They say Ban should go now, taking the Press, and demand entry into the conflict zone.

  The UN adviser mused that the LTTE leader may already have escaped. It would be good if he died, the adviser said, "there's a list of leaders who could emerge." He said the British Tamils were pushing for an airdrop of food and supplies into the conflict zone; the UN, he said, cannot act like a cowboy.

UN's Ban with pilots, Sri Lanka visit not yet shown

  Human rights groups, meanwhile, briefed the Russian mission on Friday. Russia's deputy permanent representative, they said, was surprisingly interested in hearing arguments about why the carnage in northern Sri Lanka is a threat to international peace and security, the technical standard for UN Security Council involvement. Just because it's an island, the human rights groups argued, and people die trying to leave on ships, doesn't mean it's not a threat.  The groups have yet to meet with China. And so it goes at the UN.

Footnote: there was a Tamil protest Friday before Japan's mission to the UN. "Shame on Japan," people chanted. Envoy Yosushi Akashi assured the Sri Lankan government of continued support. Monday's session on Sri Lanka at the UN is "not even a Council meeting," Russia's Vitaly Churkin told the Press. It will probably be in the basement. New lows are hit every day.

   On May 6, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson about a widely seen piece on Britain's Channel 4, filmed in an IDP camp with allegations, on camera, of the disappearance and rape of young women. Video here, from Minute 17:42. "You know I do not comment on press reports," the spokesperson said. "I haven't seen it, and I don't think the S-G has seen it either." Well maybe he should:

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time weeks later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. On April 21, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman the following day cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." But they are still detained as of this writing. As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on 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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