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At UN, Few Press for Sri Lanka, Squeeze on N. Korea, Qazi Won't Talk

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- The UN on Friday was a study in priorities, or said otherwise, hierarchy. With 6432 killed in Sri Lanka since January 20, when Security Council president Claude Heller of Mexico came out of the Chamber to make belated "remarks to the press," he found no reporters there.

   Most were down in the basement, waiting for news from the North Korea sanctions committee. So Heller and his UK counterparty John Sawers strode into the UN's briefing room, and in less than a minute the refugee agency expert who was speaking was taken off the podium. Heller spoke and then was asked, by Inner City Press, are you asking for a ceasefire? No, the answer came.

  Even if Heller had spoken at the stakeout, there might have been problems with the sound. The outside contractor which runs UN Television, the Venue Services Group, has fallen so far that it did not meet payroll this week. The technicians were working without getting paid. When Inner City Press first asked about and reported on the firesale of VSG's assets, the UN said it was being taken care of. Now what?

  Earlier, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin stopped to ask the Press, where is the Ecosoc chamber? Some say this organ, as they call it, was supposed to be as strong or stronger than the Security Council. But when a major power's ambassador doesn't even know what it is, it says a lot. Then again, a Security officer asked to see Churkin's i.d. card to let him into the Council.

   On the Council's agenda Friday morning was the routine three month update on UN Mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, with the feline name MINURCAT. A major development during the reporting report was the killing of a Togolese UN peacekeeper by a French legionnaire serving under the European Union's EUFOR mission' flag. Inner City Press is told that Ban Ki-moon's office on the 38th floor had prepared a statement on the killing, until it was pulled back at the past minute. It was the first time, some said, that the killing of a UN peacekeeper went unremarked by the Secretary General.

Japan's Takasu at stakeout, Sri Lanka and VSG meltdown not shown

  The previous afternoon, the Press had been promised a stakeout Q&A with the head of the UN Mission in Sudan, Ashraf Qazi. Fighting in South Suden recently killed 200 people; Qazi was quoted -- misquoted he said -- that the UN Mission provided evidence to the International Criminal Court leading to President Bashir's indictment. One expected, then, Qazi to want to talk. But he took a look outside the Council, and then took off down the hall. Billion dollar mission and no time to talk to the press.

  Uganda's diplomat, on the other hand, at least stopped to laugh at his own delegation's draft Presidential Statement. It expresses concern about coups d'etat in Africa, without naming any of them. Madagascar? Mauritania? Why not Fiji, further afield? Inner City Press asked about the status. "We're very close," was the answer, accompanied with laughter, so fit for the UN.

  The UN day ended, where else, in the basement, where right at the deadline the North Korea sanctions committee named three entities for an asset freeze. North Korea's deputy permanent representative Pak Tok Hun took to the microphone and spoke of the right to explore outer space. If the Security Council is not reformed and democratized, he said, we expect nothing from it. The same was expressed earlier by a Western Sahara diplomat, who said they wouldn't join the Council even if, through a series of long shots, it were offered.

  Because they were first to release an e-mail statement, we'll give the last work to the UK's John Sawers, followed by a still unanswered question.

John Sawers, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, said: "The UN Sanctions Committee on the DPRK has today adopted, as agreed in the Security Council's Presidential Statement of 13 April [PRST/2009/7], a list of goods and entities to be designated under Security Council resolution 1718.

"The Sanctions Committee agreed that UN Member States shall freeze the assets of Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), Korea Ryonbong General Corporation and Tanchon Commercial Bank. KOMID is the DPRK's primary arms dealer and main exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles, with offices in a number of foreign countries. Korea Ryonbong General Corporation plays an integral role in the DPRK's import and export of military goods and equipment. And Tanchon Commercial Bank is the DPRK's main financial agent for the sale of conventional arms and ballistic missiles. 

"The Committee has also agreed to update the list of goods whose import to and export from the DPRK are banned, to bring it in line with current international best practice.

"Unanimous agreement among all Security Council members to these measures, which are legally binding on all UN Member States, represents a major step forward in terms of international action to disrupt and deter the DPRK's WMD and ballistic missile programmes. The UK will continue to urge DPRK to re-engage with the Six Party Talks."

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 nine days 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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