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At UN, Ban and the Myanmese People, Food as UNRWA's Friends Party

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 5-- Returning from two weeks away from UN Headquarters, Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon on Monday took eight questions from the media. Two concerned the rise in food prices, a topic on which BAN and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization are convening summits. But Senegal's President Wade had called for the disbanding of FAO, despite its director Jacques Diouf also being Senegalese.

   Along with the mystery of the Senegalese, we have BAN Ki-moon's disappearing reference to the "Myanmese." He used the word three times, video here from Minute 6:12, but the transcript removes this new word, substitute "Myanmar people" and "Myanmarese."  

            The serious underlying is whether that country's government will take steps to allow in UN and other assistance in the wake of the cyclone which has killed at least 10,000 people. U.S. First Lady Laura Bush has said the U.S. will give no more than $250,000 until observers are let in. UN sources on Monday off-the-record took a not dissimilar position; a more senior UN official questioned whether Myanmar will go forward with the planned referendum on its controversial constitution. Similar questions exist about the run-off election offered in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe, about which Ban was also asked.

BAN's rostrum, two competing views below, photo (c) M.Lee 2008

            BAN was asked two sets of questions about the Middle East -- Resolution 1559 and the work of the Quartet. Later on Monday, Ban spoke at an event of the "Friends of UNRWA," a new U.S. charity headed by ex-Ambassador Richard Murphy. At the ensuing reception, Inner City Press interviewed the Arab American Forum's Aref Assaf, who said that Murphy "has connections, but not the right connections." Some say the connections are Saudi. But that's for another column.

Footnote: a hot spot getting hotter that Ban was *not* asked about on Monday was Abkhazia, into which Russia has moved hundreds of new troops, and where two more Georgian drones were reportedly shot down over the weekend. Georgia had scheduled a press conference at the UN for 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, then abruptly cancelled it. We will continue to follow the story.

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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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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