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At UN, Kouchner Speaks On Sri Lanka to Select Reporters, IMF and Tariff Views Not Known

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 11, updated -- In the face of the weekend's bloodbath on the beach in Sri Lanka, the UN Security Council had its more throw-away meeting yet on the topic, not even an informal Council session, without members such as China and Russia, the Council's president this month. In April, the Council met in the UN basement in informal interactive sessions, with all 15 members present and a common statement at the end. Monday, only some members went up to a meeting room booked at the last minute on the UN”s 33rd floor.

  The basement “wasn't available,” a Permanent Five member's spokesperson told Inner City Press. No list of the NGOs participating was available. Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice about Sri Lanka. She said she would be attending the meeting. Inner City Press asked if she would speak publicly on the topic after the meeting. Maybe, was the answer. As of 3 p.m., it had not happened.

   After the meeting, the foreign ministers of France, the UK and Austria came down to the microphone in front of the Council. Inner City Press directed a question at France's Bernard Kouchner, whether he would use the expiration of the European Union's favorable tariff treatment for Sri Lankan textiles, the so-called GSP Plus, as a way to try to protect civilians from government bombing as took place over the weekend.

   The answer came from the UK's Miliband, that “Sri Lanka does not want to isolate itself from the international community... Sri Lanka depends to some extent on trade with the European Union [so] the human rights aspects of the discussion are taken seriously, by the European Commission at this stage.” Only then did Kouchner answer, that “Benita Ferrero-Waldner has been involved.”

   After the stakeout was over, Kouchner was spirited to one side of the stakeout, and security officers let some reporters through and not others.

France's Kouchner behind men in suits, excluded press not shown

Inner City Press was blocked, physically, by French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert. “You just had him,” Ripert said. “He can talk to the French press, can't he?” Inner City Press nodded. Behind Ripert were numerous non-French reporters and publications, from New York, London, Tokyo and elsewhere. Some Ripert had reached into the crowd and pulled in. “I don't want you to use that,” Ripert insisted, pointing at the recorder Inner City Press was holding. “We work well, right?”

   Kouchner was heard to say, Devant nous, des milliers -- “right in front of us, thousands,” presumably meaning civilians, killed on or near the beaches of north east Sri Lanka. At this same location, Ripert had told the Press that while the American want to play with the IMF loan, France wants to stop the violence. That hasn't worked. Now the UK is on record tying the IMF loan to the conflict, and speaking about the EU tariffs. And France? Watch this space: when we are informed of France's views, they will be published on this site. The French mission suggests

 On Thursday May 7, Inner City Press asked Associate UUN Spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about this invitation that’s been made to the Secretary-General to visit Sri Lanka. First I wanted to ask if on Monday when he met with the Ambassador of Japan, whether he was briefed on a visit by Mr. [Yasushi] Akashi to Sri Lanka and was urged by Japan that he should take this visit. And I also wanted to know whether he would be in New York 11 May for the Middle East debate, and 15 May to meet with the Chinese diplomats, that in fact this is one reason that he is considering not going, as I have been told by senior Secretariat staff.

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, we don’t announce the trips of the Secretary-General until they are close to occurring. And in that regard, I don’t have anything to announce about a trip to Sri Lanka at this stage. At the same time, as Michèle told you yesterday, and is still true for today, if the Secretary-General believes that visiting Sri Lanka can have an impact in terms of saving lives there, he will certainly try to go. So he is considering that. But part of what he is studying is what the impact of a potential trip would be.

Inner City Press: But if he had that belief, that would be without regard to attending the 11 May Middle East thing or the 15 May meeting with the Chinese diplomats? I am told that’s a major factor in his planning.

Associate Spokesperson: Scheduling is a separate issue. What we’re talking about is the decision of whether or not to go. And certainly if he can make a difference and can save civilian lives, which is what his priority has been on this case, then he will go. At present, we don’t have anything to announce at all in this regard, though.

Question: Just one last one on that. I wanted to know, can you at least confirm that he met with Ambassador Takasu on Monday in his office inside the Security Council? Can you give a read-out of that meeting and say why it wasn’t on his public schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: I can confirm that he met with the Permanent Representative of Japan. He did that, yes. It was in his office in the Security Council. We don’t provide readouts of meetings with ambassadors.

Question: And why wasn’t it on the schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: It came up all of a sudden when he had a bit of free time in between other appointments on a fairly hectic day.

  While Ban Ki-moon is working on his issues as a trip to Manama, Bahrain, after a news-less trip to Malta, the killing of civilians accelerates in Sri Lanka. On Friday May 8, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:

Inner City Press: On the invitation by the Government of Sri Lanka to the Secretary-General to visit, is there any progress in thinking? In the alternative, is the Secretary-General, is he considering invoking Article 99 or responsibility to protect or making some other move of some type on the situation in Sri Lanka?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what we’ve been saying from this podium this week on Sri Lanka, including what the Secretary-General himself has said earlier this week.

   What Ban said did not involve calling for a cease-fire, did not respond to the invitation to visit Sri Lanka, or the accelerating rate of civilians death over the weekend, during which no statement issued about Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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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