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With UN Silent on Fowler, Ambassador Whispers, "He's Alive" in Niger

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- With the UN's silence about the disappearance of its envoy to Niger, Robert Fowler, growing stranger by the day, Inner City Press on January 29 made inquiries in and out of the UN. Outside the Security Council chamber, Inner City Press asked outgoing Council president Jean-Maurice Ripert of France if Fowler and his colleagues were raised in that morning's closed-down session on international humanitarian law including the protection of UN personnel, or earlier in the month. "Not publicly," Ripert answered.

   Later, at a reception a block from the UN, Inner City Press and a  colleague asked the lead Ambassador of a Permanent Five member of the Security Council about Fowler's status. He was asked, "is Fowler alive?"

  "Yes," the Ambassador answered.

  "How do you know?"

  "You asked, and I answered. I cannot say more. But we do not have immediate fear for Mr. Fowler's safety. But no one speaks about it. It's quite extraordinary."

[Ed.'s note: the above was quickly picked up, without attribution and therefore double UNsourced, here.]

   Inner City Press has asked about Fowler at the UN's noon briefing a half a dozen times. Responses have ranged from "please respect the privacy of his family" to "we have nothing new to report." See December 19 video here, from Minute 10:45. Afterwards off-camera, a senior UN official told Inner City Press to stop asking, it might make "insurance problems."

UNDP sign in Niger, Fowler's 4 by 4 and mission not shown

  The UN Development Program, whose driver Soulmania Mounkaila along with Louis Guay was also abducted, has refused comment, including on why no UN security accompanied the trio on their way to and from a Canadian-owned gold mine.

  There are theories about French nuclear power deals in Canada and Nigerois uranium; some point to President Manadou Tanya's crackdown on anyone thought to be in communication with the Tuareg "Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice" (MNJ). The Permanent Five ambassador who told Inner City Press on January 29 that Fowler and presumably his colleagues are alive said, "it's complicated." But the UN is not making it any better.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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