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On Eritrea - Somalia Sanctions, Slow Motion toward Action, "Lazy Eye" on Saracen

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 9 -- Alongside a drumbeat for more UN Security Council sanctions on Eritrea, the Council's committee on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions met Tuesday in the UN's North Lawn building.

  Outside Conference Room 7 sat three people waiting: a diplomat, the representative of UN system humanitarian agency, and this reporter. Out in the UN's Vienna Cafe sat a delegation from Eritrea, not allowed into the meeting.

  When after an hour the meeting ended, Inner City Press asked committee chairman Hardeep Singh Puri of India, who is also this month's Council president, what had been accomplished in the meeting. He replied:

"A lot was accomplished. There are 34 recommendations. What we are doing, we have prepared suggested actions. We are going through a meticulous exercise to see how these are resonate with different delegations, with respect to some there may be legal issues, or views that they may have. Based on this round of consult with delegations we will come up with a revised tabulation of recommendations and suggested actions."

  Inner City Press asked about the proposal, by Ethiopia and others, that new sanctions be imposed on Eritrea, including on mining and against the government's tax on remittances. Ambassador Puri replied

"No, this is not that. The Monitoring Group has come up with certain recommendations, based on its own due diligence. Theirs are only recommendations. To be acted on, the member states have to take a view if they accept."

  Eritrean Permanent Representative Desta sent Inner City Press his country's "preliminary" July 22 response to the Monitoring Group report, which asked for "adequate time to present a definitive reply."

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Puri about Eritrea's right to reply. He said of Eritrea, "They wanted four to five months. It's a 127 page report, with 300 page of annexes, made available to them, only when, some time ago."

  Afterward in the Vienna Cafe, an Eritrean representative reiterated this to Inner City Press, that they only formally got the report on July 28, it will take time to reply. But will the Council wait?

Previously, Indian peacekeepers in Asmara, Badme not shown

  Eritrea is not the only accused in the Monitoring Group report. Ethiopia itself is said to aid the anti-Shabaab militia Ahlu Sunna, without having asked committee approval. The private military contractor Saracen, about which Inner City Press has already written, is named as violating sanctions and being a threat to international peace and security.

   Last December 27, 2010, Inner City Press reported:

December 27 -- Amid growing doubts about private military contractor Saracen working for the Somali Transitional Federal Government and Puntland, the lawyer for the program, former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Pierre Prosper, spoke to a half dozen UN correspondents on December 23, ostensibly on background.

  In remarks subsequently disseminated, Prosper said that he was briefing the Group of Experts of the UN's Somalia Sanctions Committee but would not yet provide the name of the program's funder, due to concerns the UN would leak it.

  Afterward, Inner City Press on the record asked the outgoing chairman of the UN's Somalia Sanctions Committee, Claude Heller of Mexico, if he or the Committee had been briefed about the use of PMCs or mercenaries in Somalia. No, Heller said, he had only read about it in the newspapers. Video here.

  With Mexico leaving the Council at the end of the month, India is to be given the chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee, as first exclusively reported by Inner City Press. Will Saracen reach out to India? We will be asking.

    On August 9, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Puri, "Is Saracen on your radar?" Puri replied:

"I've seen some correspondence. My radar is a little diffuse. In Navy there is something called... the lazy eye -- I used to be secretary for the navy once -- if you fire a missile which is skimming the water, in air you can catch it, radar doesn't know if missile is skimming the water or play of light on the surface... The radar does a flip flip, like a lazy eye."

Earlier on Tuesday, Puri had presided over Security Council consultations on Yemen, leading to a press statement, and an "acrimonious" discussion of Libya including NATO's bombing of state television there.

"We did a lot on Libya," Puri said. "I don't chair in the normal way, I get involved in negotiating outcomes. We would never have gotten Yemen done otherwise - this is a strong Council."

  But after Resolution 1973 on Libya was adopted, over five abstentions, its use has proceeded with few brakes able to be thrown on it by the Council, despite attempts. A request for an African Union presidential statement on the AU visit to the Council came to nothing.

  Now, while Ethiopia asks the Council's three AU members to introduce new sanctions on Eritrea, including for allegedly trying to blow up the AU summit, Eritrea asks that the issues be considered at the AU, and not Security Council. We'll continue to follow this.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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.

* * *

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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