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Among UN P-5, France and UK Talk Secret, US Fetes New Diplomat, Russia Dubious on Yemen, China Flew in 3 Hours

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- Amid the Haitian earthquake emergency, attacks on Kabul, in Yemen and in Darfur, the US Mission to the UN on Tuesday night welcomed a diplomat into the fold, on the 42nd floor of the Waldorff Towers.

  As U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff put it in his introduction, Rick Barton has represented the US in 30 countries in ten years. And on his family vacation, he went to post-Katrina New Orleans to build homes.

  The well attended reception, complete with miniature grilled cheese sandwiches and brownies, began with somber statements for Haiti. In the crowd, many asked Inner City Press if the coverage of the UN was too negative, unfair, sensational. CNN's Anderson Cooper showed looters; the Washington Post's new Turtle swung for the fences dubbing Haiti "Ban's Katrina."

  At a UN Foundation luncheon on Tuesday, Ban Ki-moon took that author to task for several minutes, publicly. This, apparently, is the new take-charge Ban, more general than secretary, at least for now. From Haiti via video link Ban's former spokesman Michele Montas also said the media is being too negative. Ban envoy Edmond Mulet called the Press irresponsible.

  The Missions to the UN of the UK and France take a different approach to the media. Each has an off the record briefing scheduled January 20 for selected reporters. The two used to hold such briefings on different days, but then even the "Western diplomat" moniker was too transparent.

  Now they hide behind each other, only because few file stories between the UK's early morning briefing and France's 5 p.m. follow up. Call them the taciturn twins. One knows what was said but it not supposed to report it. What then is the point?

  Here's one the UK Ambassador should be asked: is it true, as Middle Eastern sources say, that the UK is trying in the Security Council to bring up the conflict in Yemen, specifically targeting Iran's support for some parties?

UK's Lyall Grant and US in Council, Yemen and secret briefings not shown

  In this account, the Russians balked, saying as Missourians do, Show me. Or at least wait until the conference on Yemen in London on January 27.

  Before that, on January 25 in Montreal, there's a conference on Haiti. France's Ambassador Araud -- who initially put the date at February 25 -- took a decidedly different stance on the U.S. in Haiti than did his foreign minister and Cooperation minister. 

  The ministers questioned U.S. domination, while Araud stepped back and said, we are grateful, we live here. But what will he say behind closed doors?

  A French journalist, while suggesting to Inner City Press that Araud was being diplomatic -- imagine that! -- also lambasted the Obama administration's resurrection of the Monroe Doctrine. "They have spoken with the Brazilians and the Canadians," he said, "as if that is enough."

  So the US hardly briefs anymore, and the UK and France do so mostly on deepest background. What has happened, some wonder, to these P-2, P-3, even P-5? Chinese Ambassador Liu on Tuesday night told Inner City Press that China had its search and rescue team in the air to Haiti three hours after the earthquake. He asked, of disaster forecasting, "But why didn't they have notice?" Why indeed.
  Ironically the Chinese mission can be more open than the UK or France. With decided irony, a Chinese diplomat told Inner City Press that the Council first Press Statement on Haiti was only unobjectionable because of the UN presence there. Otherwise, he said with a wink, it would be an internal matter.

  Meanwhile the UN Missions of the UK and France, while espousing free press, play a more elite game, casting aspersions on background, what some call a secret club of slander and others call diplomatic. They want their positions put in a positive light, but provide only selective illumination.

  Tuesday night Rick Barton, after a stirring speech of the type that perhaps should have been deployed earlier in Massachusetts, ended with a folksy tale from his childhood. He lived in Bronxville -- connected he said to world affairs by one who died with Dag Hammarskjold in his Central African plane crash -- and visited the UN. His mother ran across First Avenue, causes taxi after taxi to screech to a stop.

   "Hey lady," the last cabbie shouted, addressing his mother as he had never heard before. "Next year, the Olympics!" Barton related this challenge to his UN work, a marathon of plenary speeches. But that's only the on the record part. Watch this site.

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At UN, It's "All Hail" to US in Haiti, While Elsewhere France and Brazil Are Critical

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- As the UN Security Council emptied out Monday at noon, sources told Inner City Press that in closed consultations, the U.S. said that to strengthen the mandate of the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, would "send the wrong message... that the Haitian government is weak."

  Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, who represented the U.S. in the meeting and spoke afterwards to the Press, said that the U.S. is supporting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's request for a vote authorizing 2000 more troops and 1500 more police for MINUSTAH.

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Wolff if it is true that the U.S. thinking strengthening the mandate would send some wrong message. Wolff replied that the UN, including chief Peacekeeper Alain Leroy, has not identified any deficiency in the mandate.

  As Brazil's Ambassador left the Council, Inner City Press asked her about public quotes from Brazil that MINUSTAH's mandate should, in fact, be bolstered. She, however, called the mandate "sufficient."

  When asked about any difficulties Brazilian NGOs have had getting into Haiti through the airport, now run by the U.S., she said there have been "no such problems."

  French Ambassador Gerard Araud, too, was over the top in his praise of the U.S., telling the Press that "we are living in the US after all." Inner City Press asked if, as reported, France supported Medecins Sans Frontieres complaints about having planes blocked by the Americans from the Port au Prince airport.

French Ambassador Araud, ministers' critiques of U.S. not shown

  Araud quickly answered (video here) that the Americans are doing a good job, that the airport is small by international standards, and that "we are living in the US after all."

  In fact, French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet made a complaint about the blocking of MSF's plane. And Araud's boss Bernard Kouchner has said the airport has become an "annex or Washington," according to France's Ambassador to Haiti Didier Le Bret.

   So what is France's position -- these two statements, or Araud's?

From the French Mission's transcription, of question dubious, of answer less so:

Inner City Press: Médecins sans frontières complained that its planes couldn’t get in to the airport and blamed the Americans. Does France confirm that?

Amb. Araud: Of course, no. I think we are extremely grateful and personally I said it in the Council, extremely grateful for what the US government is doing, and especially managing the airport. You know, frustrations are understandable. You have a small airport, in international terms, which was devastated by the earthquake and you have hundred of planes which want to land. So it’s totally normal that there are delays, but I think that the situation has dramatically improved. Yesterday, you know, it was possible to have sixty planes landing and today it will be one hundred planes landing. But the most important will be to work on the port. We have to rehabilitate the port where we can bring most of the aid.

Once again, we are living in the US after all, and we want to express our gratitude for the mobilization of the US administration and the US people.

  From the US Mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: Someone said on this idea of strengthening the mandate that the U.S. had a concern that this would send a message somehow that the Government of Haiti was too weak. I just want to know whether you think there is a danger in that type of message being sent. And also whether the U.S. will be participating in the UN's Flash Appeal that was announced on Friday, whether the $100 million announced by President Obama in any way is related to that or should be counted towards that.

Ambassador Wolff: I'll get back to you on the later question, I want to make sure I have the right information for you, exactly how that $100 million fits into that, into the Flash Appeal.  As to the mandate issue, there is no indication, indeed neither the Secretary-General nor Undersecretary-General Le Roy mentioned any deficiency in the current mandate. And so, if the UN is satisfied and the troop contributors are satisfied and the force commander is satisfied then we should focus on what we need to do under the current mandate. Of course, as you indicate, we will need to look and evaluate over the longer term, as we assess the long term impact of this tragedy on the country and on the UN's ability to function, and whether the requirements for the UN have to be adapted in any way.  That is something that we do with any mandate and we will obviously do it with particular attention in this case.

Watch this site.

Footnote: Since the Security Council has other matters on its agenda, Inner City Press tried to ask this month's Council president, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, if and when he expects the Council to address Afghanistan. But having been asked if the Chinese search and rescue team stopped after finding the Chinese delegation who'd met with Hedi Annabi, Zhang Yesui just walked away. Who will replace him as China's Ambassador is not yet known.

 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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