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At UN, NPT Opens Amid Monks' Drums, Dissonant Expectations, Ahmadinejad

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 3, updated below -- With Japanese monks beating mournful drums outside the NPT Review Conference opening Monday morning, the dissonance between the aspirations of those outside and inside the UN building could not have been more clear.

  In Grand Central Station amid singing of "learn war no more," a man held a sign of who has the most nuclear weapons: Russia, the US, the other Permanent Five members of the Security Council (China, the UK and France), India, Israel, Pakistan and, the sign said, North Korea with ten.

  Inside the UN, the talk was nearly all about Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has flown in from Tehran -- former U.S. diplomat Mark Wallace wrote to the Millennium Hotel urging they tell him there was no room at the inn -- and is slated to speak late this morning in the General Assembly Hall.

  In the new UN press floor, a maze of cubicles in which no whistleblower dares speak, the Iranian press was in a frenzy. Inner City Press was interviewed by a woman with a scarf covering her head. "What do you think of my President, Doctor Ahmadinejad?" she asked.

  Another journalist for Iranian media came to make the argument that every time a small country joins NATO, it is an example of proliferation: more countries under the nuclear umbrella and, according to him, more countries paying for nuclear weapons.

  The chairman of the conference is the Philippines Ambassador. Some wonder why him; the Manila press expresses hope his role will lead to the passage of an entirely different treaty, about the rights of migrant workers. Dissonant expectations.

UN's Ban and Ahmadinejad before, May 3 scene not yet seen

  From the press gallery above the General Assembly Hall, Inner City Press called out to a few ambassadors, including Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso. He was on the Council until replaced by Nigeria. Where does nuclear proliferation fit in the scheme of Burkina's concerns? Watch this space, this will be updated.

Update of 10:38 p.m. -- from the spaceship-like it begins, with greetings to Ban Ki-moon and... Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Ambassador of Zimbabwe missed his chance to chair the meeting. Zim for Iran! There was a recent visit by A-Jod, to Harare and Uganda. It has begun...

Update of 10:55 a.m. -- Chair Cabactulan quotes as a Chinese proverb that that leader is best who is not known. At seems he may be referring to Ban Ki-moon, who is now speaking about his visit to Russia's test site. Here in press section in upper deck, there are no headphones. How will be hear Ahmadinejad?

Update of 11:21 a.m. -- New IEAE chief bemoans DPRK, Syria and Iran. BKM praised Indonesia for saying it will ratify

Update of 11:29 a.m. -- while waiting for Ahmadinejad, UN email comes in: Hillary Clinton will speak to Press at 5:20. But when's the Ahmadinejad presser?

Update of 11:39 a.m. -- the General Debate begins, with Marty of Indonesia speaking for NAM. Groups get 8 minutes, nations only five. Ahmadinejad next?

Update of 11:59 a.m. -- after Marty of Indonesia went over his time, Ahmadinejad starts up. He takes on Ban Ki-moon's statement about the uranium deal. We accepted that, A-jod says. Puts on glasses.

Update of 12:21 p.m. -- after Inner City Press ran down to press conferene auditorium, having not yet received any response to its 12:11 email to the UN Spokesperson and Deputy asking when the briefing would begin, the room was already locked. Briefing held 12:05 to 12:10, no questions. They have delayed noon briefing in deference to stakeouts by the U.S. Permanent Representative. Not for the President of Iran?

Running back up to the GA Hall, Inner City Press is barred from 4th floor, but shunted to the press booths on the third floor. Three stories directly above Ahmadinejad, who is still speaking, now on the "Zionist regime."

Update of 12:32 p.m. -- Ahmadinejad has been going for half an hour, now reciting the names of famous Iranians. "there will be no room in the future for bullying."

Update of 12:43 p.m. -- as Luxembourg drones on, Ahmadinejad comes back into GA Hall, takes Iran's seat and sits grinning.. Apparently he wants to see if the Luxembourg's of the world will attack him to his face. These are prepared texts, so it seems that they will.

Update of 12:51 p.m. -- with Ireland speaking, Ahmaninejad leaves with entourage. Already the hall is half empty, the press area in the upper deck entirely empty.

* * *

In Anti-Nuclear March, "Free Palestine" Chants Trigger Questions of Iran, Ahmadinejad in Wings

By Matthew Russell Lee

TIMES SQUARE TO UN, May 2 -- In the anti-nuclear march to the United Nations from Times Square, scene last night of a bomb scare, there were chants incluing "Free, Free Palestine!" A teenage girl held a sign saying "Israel," cut out in the shape of a skull.

  To a UN correspondent covering the NPT, one wondered of the place of Iran and its nuclear program to these protesters. Among the Western powers in the Security Council, Iran's nuclear ambitions have become the focus, to the exclusion of death in Sudan and the Congo.

  Many of those so eager to target Iran are not against nukes at all. They are against Iran, and to a lesser extent North Korea, getting nuclear weapons. These marchers, on the other hand, see defending the rights of Palestinians against Israel as part of their movement. And of defending, as some would have it, Iran against Israel?

Marching skull (c) 2010 M.Lee

  There were marchers from upstate New York, and a slew of Japanese handing out origami birds. There was a contingent from France, with their own "ca pu" chant. There were few to no Latinos. A lone woman lobbied to amend New York's wrongful death statute. But there were few to no signs about Iran. This will not be true for the rest of the week, or NPT. Inner City Press has been invited to cover Ahmadinejad's press conference. Watch this site.

Update of 5:26 p.m. -- UN correspondents for Iranian media tell Inner City Press that Ahmadinejad is slated to land in New York in half an hour. They think, but even they are not sure, that he will stay in the Millennium Plaza hotel across from the UN. Might he intersect with the anti-nuke marchers, still on 47th Street?

 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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