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As Darfur Goes Quiet at UN, US Rep on China Guns, Gration and Gambari of 1 Mind?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 13 -- After the UN Security Council held a meeting about Darfur on February 11 -- it was rushed according to Sudan, leaving only UN Peacekeeping's number three official to brief -- the press stakeout remained empty.

  The French presidency of the Council did not come out and summarize the closed down discussions. The US Mission to the UN did not come out and speak, a pattern of silence some reasons for which the Mission does not want reported. But a Sudanese diplomat gave his version of the background to the meeting, and U.S. Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) spoke exclusively to Inner City Press, calling for more to be done, including about weapons flooding South Sudan, "coming in from China," he said.

  Rep. Smith told Inner City Press, "We should be doing more. We had Gration speak, but it has to become a front burner issue. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is at risk if there is no agreement in the North."

  Rep. Smith recounted meeting President Omar Al Bashir, "before going to Darfur. All he talked about was lifting sanctions."

UN troop in Darfur camp, G and G not shown

  Inner City Press asked Rep Smith if he favored or opposed the U.S. joining the International Criminal Court. "I'm not against it, but I'm not yet for it," he said. He said the General Wesley Clark had be "charged with crimes against humanity" due to bombs dropped from U.S. planes flying "over three thousand feet."

  A Sudanese diplomat, meanwhile, told Inner City Press that the Security Council's meeting would have made more sense later, with new UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, but "France wanted to rush it, before Gambari -- so they ended up with only Mr. Titov [the #3 in UN Peacekeeping] and not even Le Roy."

  Meanwhile, while the UN Mission in Darfur UNAMID flies around a delegation from the Arab League, for resettlement of IDPs, U.S. envoy Scott Gration prepares to visit. At the UN, little is being said for now on the record: it's only Sudan, and visitors. Watch this site.

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At UN, US Official's Pitch, like Obama's Speech, Omits Darfur, Congo, Anti-Corruption

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- Forty days into 2010, a self-described "United States official" gave a background briefing to select UN correspondents about the achievements of the U.S. at the UN in 2009, and its priorities for 2010. In the half an hour session, there was no mention of the word "Darfur," or even Sudan or any country in sub-Saharan Africa. Were the region's problems all solved in 2009, or are achievements hard to come by?

  The US official emphasized two 2010 priorities -- Iran and Haiti -- and spoke proudly of President Barack Obama's day presiding over the UN Security Council. The official argued, when asked, that recent criticism of the Administration's performance at the UN in 2009 came only from those who do not like engagement or the year's achievements.

  The Save Darfur Coalition, following President Obama's State of the Union speech last month, issued a press release expressing disappointment that Darfur had not been mentioned, contrary they said to the Obama campaign's statements before getting elected.

  This is not merely word- or bean-counting. The trend of speaking less about Darfur has extended from the US Mission to the United Nations itself, as Inner City Press has reported on, here. In context, the US official's failure to mention Darfur even in opening remarks to UN correspondents was surprising, news and note-worthy.

  NGOs like the Enough Project and Global Witness speak about the impact on civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere from the unregulated exploitation of natural resources, by rebel groups and even units recently integrated into the Army with which the UN Mission, MONUC, works.

  The US official, in half an hour including 11 questions, did not mention the Congo, or resource exploitation. Nor were Asian human rights issues like Myanmar and the war crimes in Sri Lanka mentioned.

   During 2009, Sri Lanka was blocked from the Council's agenda by China and Russia, which just lent Sri Lanka $300 million to buy more weapons. At the UN, the US said very little about this as tens of thousands of Sri Lankan civilians were killed in 2009. And Monday it was not mentioned by the US official.

  While the US Mission controls who to invite and who to call on, after the session a rosy reporter who was called on agreed that no sub Saharan Africa issue was mentioned, but blamed it equally on the press corp. Only Western Sahara and Polisario were raised, he said. Not Sudan, nor the Congo, Zimbabwe or even Somalia.

US President Obama at Save Darfur Now -- when? Where? UN not shown

   Others, including Inner City Press, noticed the lack of claims, much less questions, about trying to root out corruption and mismanagement and abuse in the UN. The US used to be the only country doing this, and now it has stopped.

  For example, the head of the UN's mission in the Congo, Alan Doss, has supposedly been getting investigated for eight months now about a six line e-mail in which he asked the UN Development Program to "show leeway" and give his daughter a job. No accountability, and not a word from the US Mission.

  Likewise a recent decision harshly criticizing the performance of another UN Under Secretary General, Shaaban Shaaban. The UN's own Dispute Tribunal has ordered the UN to pay $20,000 -- perhaps by Shaaban personally -- but the Ban Ki-moon administration has simply said it will appeal. No word from the US Mission.

  The US official said that the new team doesn't disagree just for the sake of disagreeing. But on issues ranging from Darfur to anti-corruption in the UN, what were the accomplishments or even attempts in 2009? Contrary to what the US official said, the critique is not only from the right. The seeming lack of focus, and more importantly accomplishment, on Darfur, Congo and Somalia, is a concern that is growing from the Left as well. Watch 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 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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