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With Kouchner at UN, No Africa in Questions, Airport Diplomacy and France

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 7 -- French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner swept through the UN on Monday, meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and then briefly taking questions from the press. While he said he and Mr. Ban discussed both Sudan and Guinea, neither was addressed in Kouchner's remarks nor in the questions taken by his staff.

  Rather, he faced repeated questions on whether France considers Jerusalem occupied territory. Kouchner replied that Jerusalem should be the "capital of two states." Afterwards, still relatively new French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud asked Kouchner to clarify, since reporters hadn't understood him to affirm Jerusalem as occupied territory. Of course it is, Kouchner said and headed for the door.

  Inner City Press asked him, "What about Gambari for Darfur," a shorthand way to ask if France supports Ibrahim Gambari as the UN's and African Union's envoy for Darfur. Yes we discussed that, Kouchner answered. "But what about what some call his weak record in Myanmar?" But Kouchner was gone.

  Out in the hall, reporters asked France's spokesman if there was any more time for questions. He has a plane in one hour and thirty five minute, the spokesman answered. Could Ambassador Araud stay and answer? The spokesman shook his head. Araud was going with Kouchner.

  Another French UN official told Inner City Press that one reason Araud's predecessor Jean Maurice Ripert lost his job was he was late to the airport to pick up President Nicolas Sarkozy. Maybe that explains both diplomats heading for the airport.

  On Guinea, the question would have been whether France agrees with ECOWAS' call for the military junta to step down. Dictator Moussa Dadis Camara was shot and taken for surgery to Morocco. Another question might have been what if anything France is doing for Western Sahara human rights activist Ms. Haidar. France has long opposed the UN's mission in Western Sahara having any human rights component.

UN's Ban and Kouchner, answers to press on Africa not shown
  Yet another would be why France announced an embassy in Kyrgyzstan only days after that country barred a human rights activist from Tajikistan, click here for that. What ever happened to les droits de l'homme?

Footnote: Prior to his briefing Q&A with the media, Kouchner stood beside Ban Ki-moon before two microphones in Ban's 38th floor suite: a "press encounter" with no press allowed to be present. Earlier on Monday, Ban's new spokesman Martin Nesirky was asked why Ban wouldn't take questions. He said he would find out, as well as providing answers including about Gambari. Watch this site.

* * *

As Guinea's Shot Strongman Spirited to Morocco, Saharan Questions, Few UN Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 6 -- Guinea dictator Moussa Dadis Camara, who took power in a coup and oversaw the slaughter of at least 157 opponents in September, has himself been shot and seriously wounded. Sources tell Inner City Press that Lt Aboubacar Toumba Diakite, the chief of his presidential guards and an active participant in the stadium mass murder, has been concerned that while he may be held accountable, Dadis Camara would get away scot free.

  Dadis Camera was flown for medical treatment to Morocco. In October, Inner City Press reported Morocco's involvement in Dadis Camara's close protection security. Now, he's flown there for surgery. Why is Morocco so close with Guinea, and Equatorial Guinea for that matter?

  The answer is that while it is the African Union position that the people of Western Sahara, which Morocco claims, deserve a referendum with independence as an option, Morocco has been trying to pick off AU members with offers of military and financial aid.

UN's Ban and Guinea's prime minister, coup de feu and coup not shown

  Meanwhile the UN, which as Inner City Press reported has advised Burkina Faso president Campoare that Dadis Camara should remain in power in the interim, was on Friday asked about the shooting:

Inner City Press: it’s widely reported that Colonel Moussa Dadis Camara of Guinea has been shot and taken out of the country to Morocco. Is there, either Said Djinnit or whoever in the UN is dealing with that, can that be confirmed, and do they have a statement on the assassination attempt against the de facto leader?

Spokesperson Marie Okabe: I don’t have any reports today directly from Mr. Djinnit on this incident, but the Secretary-General is aware and following the situation. The latest violence underscores the urgent need to move towards the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea in a peaceful and consensual manner. The Secretary-General calls for calm and reiterates the need to avoid violence and to respect the rule of law. And he has instructed his Special Representative for West Africa [Said Djinnit] to remain actively engaged with national and regional stakeholders in the search for a solution that provides the people of Guinea an opportunity to elect their leaders in a democratic manner. And that’s what I have for you…

Watch this site.

* * *

On Darfur, Gambari To Be "Vigilant," U.S. Belatedly Says, No Comment on Blackmail or Myanmar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- Two days after Inner City Press exclusively reported it, on Wednesday morning a Security Council member confirmed that a letter nominating Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria as the UN's and African Union's Special Representative to Darfur has gone to Council members.

  Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, for the second time, about Mr. Garbari for Darfur, given that the U.S. criticized his predecessor Rodolphe Adada for being too soft on Khartoum. Ambassador Rice said Gambari should play an "active and vigilant role... to halt attacks on civilians." Video here, from Minute 11:41.

  During his time as UN envoy on Myanmar, Gambari was criticized by human rights groups for being too close to the military government of Than Shwe. Gambari's response, privately and then publicly, was that if the "Western powers" didn't give him benefits to offer to Myanmar, he could accomplish little because the country has natural gas and oil which China and India want.

  Darfur, of course, also has oil which China wants and is obtaining. So what benefits, what "carrots instead of sticks," will the U.S. through Ambassador Rice allow Gambari to offer?

  At the UN's noon briefing, the day after Inner City Press had asked acting Spokesperson Marie Okabe about Gambari, she read a statement about his nomination.

  Inner City Press asked her to respond to the statements, including by an African Ambassador who withheld his name from consideration for the post, that Nigeria "blackmailed" Ban Ki-moon by threatening to pull its troops from Darfur if a Nigerian didn't get the post.

  Ms. Okabe declined to respond, saying it is now with the Security Council. Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Rice about the Nigerians threat to pull out of Darfur. Video here, from Minute 13:23.

  "I can't comment on that," Ambassador Rice said as she walked away from the stakeout microphone. Why not? Some say Nigeria was miffed at the Obama administration for visiting Ghana rather than Lagos. We'll see.

Susan Rice as President, Darfur process and Myanmar successor not shown

Footnote: Ambassador Rice also declined to provide the U.S. position on what should be done with with the UN good office post on Myanmar that Gambari has been filling.

  "I'll let the UN address that question as to what his relationship with MYanmar will continue to be, if any," she said. Inner City Press was told by an involved Ambassador that the UK -- and the U.S.? -- wanted Gambari out of that post for being too soft on Than Shwe. Is Darfur less important? Has it become just a footnote?

From the U.S. Mission's transcript, video here from Minute 7:27 -

Inner City Press: On Darfur? I wanted to ask you, it’s known that…

Ambassador: Hold on, can we continue on Afghanistan?

 Later, video here from Minute 11:41 --

Inner City Press: I want to ask you on Darfur, it’s… it’s thought or known that the US had concerns about Rodolphe Adada when he was SRSG of the UN for UNAMID. Now that Mr. Gambari’s been nominated in a letter sent to the Council does the US, you know… do they… do you feel that his approach will be different than that of Adada what do think he should do as SRSG and relatedly what’s going to happen with Myanmar for the UN? Is he going to cover both?

Ambassador Rice: I’ll let the UN address that question as to what his relationship to Myanmar will continue to be, if any. We have significant appreciation and respect for Ambassador Gambari and we look forward to working with him as he takes over the role of SRSG for Darfur. We think it’s vitally important that UNAMID come up to full strength; that the impediments to its movement and access are immediately eliminated; and that the SRSG play a very active and vigilant role in ensuring that both sides adhere to their obligations to halt attacks on civilians, to adhere, we hope, to a lasting cessation of hostilities. There is great work to be done as we discussed the other day in the Council on the political front, but there’s a vital need to ensure that UNAMID, whose mandate it is to protect civilians, is fully able to accomplish that and that’s what we will look to Ambassador Gambari as SRSG to accomplish.

  And then the question about Nigeria's reported blackmail to get the post for Gambari is not included in the U.S. Mission's transcript.

* * *

Darfur Post to Gambari Confirmed, US's Kurt Campbell and UK's Burma Shave

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 1 -- That the UN is giving its top Darfur post to Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari was an open secret Tuesday night at the UN, although so far only Inner City Press has reported it, repeatedly, four times in the last 36 hours. A top UN peacekeeping official told Inner City Press that Nigeria made a strong play for the post, citing its high number of peacekeepers in Darfur.

An involved Ambassador told Inner City Press that the cynical explanation is that the United Kingdom wants someone more strident to be the envoy to Myanmar, Gambari's current job, and so agreed to move him to Darfur. But why did the U.S. go along?

Inner City Press approached Gambari himself, for the second time in 12 hours, at Thailand's national day reception on Tuesday night. "No comment," Gambari began, laughing. He said he had met in Washington with the the State Department's Kurt Campbell. As before, he argued that his strategy of engagement with the Than Shwe military government in Myanmar is now being adopted by the U.S. -- why not in Darfur? Scott Gration may be only the beginning.

UN's Ban and Garbari, Western views on Myanmar and Darfur not shown

An official of the UN's half moribund Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, a post Gambari used to fill, confirmed that Gambari is going to Darfur. A person already offered a job in Darfur by Gambari said the Nigeria's new president likes Gambari. As reported, even UN Peacekeeping acknowledges that Nigeria used its peacekeeping presence in Darfur to win the post.

  During the reception, Lynn Pascoe he UN's head of Political Affairs, another job Gambari previously held, exchanged pleasantries with Gambari and then left. Then Gambari left. "Darfur here I come," someone said, still wondering why he took the job. But take it he did -- you heard it here first. Watch this site.

* * *

Offering Darfur Jobs, UN's Gambari Returns from DC, Link to UNDP Post?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 1 -- In the lobby of UN headquarters on Tuesday morning, the UN's envoy - designate to Darfur Ibrahim Gambari told Inner City Press, "I was in Washington yesterday." Over the weekend, Gambari began asking certain UN staff to work for him in Darfur.

  Several Darfur focused advocacy groups have contacted Inner City Press responding to its exclusive reporting and expressing concern about Mr. Gambari, pointing to his recent "good offices" role with military government of Myanmar, and previous service of the Sani Abacha military government in his native Nigeria.

  Does Gambari's November 30 Washington trip, they now ask, confirm that these concerns are not shared by the Obama administration?

  A senior UN official approached Inner City Press on Tuesday and criticized Gambari's "unprincipled" actions regarding Myanmar. "He goes to China and Russia and says, 'you have to help me with these self righteous Westerners,'" the official said. "Then he goes to the U.S. and says, 'China and Russia don't to do anything.' Finally he tells Than Shwe, 'I can help you improve your image, I did it in Nigeria.'"

  This recounting is not inconsistent with how Gambari himself has described his role.

  In something of a new low for the UN, Acting Spokesperson for the Secretary General Marie Okabe at Tuesday's noon briefing dodged Inner City Press' request that she confirm that the Secretariat has already offered the post to Gambari.

  Ms. Okabe said that a joint letter with the African Union will go to the Security Council. Video here, from Minute 10:54.

  Ms. Okabe insisted that this procedural explanation answered Inner City Press' question. But the request for for confirmation that the Secretariat has offered the post to Gambari. On Monday, three senior UN officials told Inner City Press this, with one of them adding only that "it's not signed."

  The Secretary General himself, when Inner City Press told him the Gambari to Darfur story had already been published, asked "how did you know?" For his acting spokesperson, the next day, to decline to confirm the offer falls short of the transparency -- even, of the competence -- that has been promised.

UN's Gambari and Myanmar's generals, Khartoum not shown

  Similarly, Ms. Okabe on Tuesday quoted from a Ban Ki-moon speech that he will shortly appoint a woman as Associate Administrator of the UN Development Program. Video here, from Minute 5:35.

  Since the African Group, as exclusively reported by Inner City Press, has protested to Ban against his projected appointment of Rebecca Grynspan of Costa Rica to the post, announcing now the gender of the winner appears to reject the African protest.

  Inner City Press asked for confirmation that the appointee is Rebecca Grynspan, and Ms. Okabe said no name is being announced. But doesn't announcing the gender imply that the decision is made? "I only know what he said in his statement," Ms. Okabe said. Isn't a spokesperson supposed to know, or at least be able to find out, more than that?

  Some think that the top nomination have cynically, or demographically, become linked. The Ban Administration will be "humiliating" the African Group, as one Ambassador put it, by denying them the UNDP post they believe was promised to them when Helen Clark of New Zealand took the top spot and Ad Melkert left.

  But the Ban Administration will point, as a sop to Africa, to the appointment of Gambari to the Darfur job, a post that was certainly going to go to an African anyway. "Or they'll wait on Grynspan, to combine it with some other announcement," a UN official told Inner City Press. Watch this site.

* * *

U.S. Supports UN's Offer of Darfur Post to Gambari Despite NGOs' Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- On making the new UN envoy to Darfur the Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari, previously UN envoy to Myanmar, it appears the fix is in. Even the U.S., said to have wanted a more strident human rights voice for the post, has reportedly gone along.

  U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, asked Monday about Gambari to Darfur, said "we support the Secretary General."

  Following Inner City Press' exclusive report earlier on Monday that Gambari had been offered the post by the UN and African Union, Inner City Press received confirmation that Gambari has already been requesting commitments to come serve with him in Dar fur.

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as he greeted Inner City Press, was told that iot had already published the Gambari to Darfur story. His reaction was, "How did you know?"

  A top UN peacekeeping official said that the offer had been made - and Gambari has already started hiring -- but it "remains to be signed."

  The UN Security Council is required to sign off on the appointment. Because the U.S., France and UK had opposed Rodolphe Adada's "soft" line on Khartoum in a closed door lunch with Ban Ki-moon, many including U.S.-based NGOs had assumed the U.S. would use its leverage at the UN to get a a stronger voice, less "aligned with dictators" as one NGO put it, to head the Darfur mission.

Susan Rice and team at stakeout, Gambari to Darfur not shown

  Inner City Press sought to ask questions of Susan Rice at her too rare stakeout session on Monday, but was not given the microphone by her spokesman. Later, Inner City Press posed to the spokesman four questions in writing, including a request to comment on Gambari to Darfur. By 7 p.m. no comment had been received.

  Inner City Press asked Susan Rice for her and the U.S. Mission's view of Gambari to Darfur. "We support the Secretary General," she said. Since his Office has confirmed the job offer to Gambari, this means that Ms. Rice and the U.S. support Gambari, despite reservations being expressed by the Darfur focused NGOs which supported Barrack Obama. Watch this space.

* * *

Nigerian "Blackmail" Captures UN's Darfur Post for Gambari, Spurned Candidate Tells Inner City Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- The joint UN - African Union envoy post to Darfur has been the subject of "blackmail by the Nigerians," a well placed African Ambassador exclusively told Inner City Press on Monday morning, explaining the UN's offer of the post to Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari.

  He said that "once the Nigerian threatened to pull their troops out of Darfur unless they get [Rodolphe] Adada's post," he and other candidates withdrew themselves from consideration "to avoid putting the Secretary General in an awkward position."

 Previously, Rwanda threatened to pull its troops if it was not given the force commander post in UNAMID, vacated by Nigerian Martin Luther Agwai.

  Now, the Ambassador said, "the Nigerians have given Ban Ki-moon a list of their nationals for consideration for the post." He added that while he understands that Ban will "give in" and name a Nigeria, it will not be one on the list provided by the country.

  Asked about the possibility, reported months ago on June 19 by Inner City Press, of Ibrahim Gambari getting the post, the Ambassador nodded and said, "but it is not yet very open."

  Subsequently, Inner City Press got confirmation of the post going to Gambari from a senior Ban administration adviser on the 38th floor, as well as individuals who have received confirmation from Mr. Gambari himself. He was getting shouldered out of his Development Fund for Iraq duties by Ad Melkert. He was known to be frustrated by Ban's political chief Lynn Pascoe not letting him work on any African issues. But who will take over for the UN in Myanmar? Watch this site.

  One wonders what the U.S., France and UK, which criticized Rodolphe Adada's "too soft" stance to Ban Ki-moon, think of this process to replace Adada.

  At a closed door lunch between the Security Council and Ban, the three Western Permanent member lambasted Adada's assessment of Darfur. Inner City Press has been told, by an attendee of the lunch, that rather than say he'd look into it -- or, as he has with Kai Eide in Afghanistan, that he fully supports "all" of his SRSGs, Ban said he agreed with the criticism and would talk to Adada. Then Adada was not renewed.

  More recently, Ban's outgoing spokesperson has insisted that UN position like the contested number two post in the UN Development Program are given out on merit, not continent much less nationality. The process to replace Adada, as described by a withdrawn applicant, is at odds with this claim.

UN peacekeepers in Darfur's Zam Zam camp, UN politics not shown

  Following the Security Council's consultations about Darfur on November 30, Inner City Press asked outgoing Council president Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria what the Council made of report that Sudan's Al Bashir government wants the UN to prepare to pull its peacekeepers out. Mayr-Harting said, that did not come up. Again.

Footnote: Mayr-Harting also said, in his final stakeout as Council President, that the Council would defer until its extension of the mandate UN Mission in the Congo the damning conclusions of the Congo Panel of Experts, including that the Mission, run by Alan Doss, is assisting and enabling former CNDP units which are now Congolese Army units and are involved in mining, including of gold.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, in a rare but still overly controlled stakeout Q &A before Mayr Harting's, spoke of the DRC sanctions, alluding to Sixty Minutes' November 29 piece on the topic, as well as Somalia. Inner City Press has submitted written questions on these and another topic to the U.S. Mission, which says it will respond when possible. Watch this site.

* * *

As Congo's Gold Hits 60 Minutes, UN Is Let Off Hook, Wal-Mart's 10% Solution

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- The Congo's conflict gold was the subject of a fifteen minute feature tonight on the American television program Sixty Minutes. A former rebel said he used collected gold to buy weapons and ammunition from the Congolese army. A woman said she was raped by men in Army uniforms.

  Sixty Minutes accepted UN escort and showed a UN camp, but neglected to mention that the UN now provides logistical support to the Congolese army, which beyond weapon sales and rape has been documented for the mass murder of civilians, by the UN's own special rapporteur and experts.

  But the UN's top envoy to the Congo Alan Doss has told Inner City Press there is not enough evidence, and has yet to act on Special Rapporteur Philip Alston's report detailing mass rape by Congo's Army. (Click here for coverage of Congo trip by Inner City Press.)

  Rather than at least mention this perversion of the UN's peacekeeping mandate, Sixty Minute showed a UN camp to which 13,000 internally displaced people fled. Bags of flour and beans and cooking oil were distributed on the day of filming, for the first time in five months.

  Neither Sixty Minutes nor the two non governmental organizations which appeared on screen, HRW and the Enough Project, explained the starvation just outside a UN camp.

UN's Ban and Doss in Congo, continuing support of rogue Army units not shown

  The point of the show was that just as conflict diamonds were focused on seven years ago, conflict gold now cries out for action.

  Sixty Minutes said without explanation that the UN tries to stem the flow of conflict gold. But if the UN is supporting Army units which rape, kill and sell weapons, and which themselves control mines, how is the UN trying to stop the flow?

Footnote: Back in the U.S., Sixty Minutes quotes Tiffany's as identifying the source of nearly all of its gold -- in Utah -- while Wal-Mart will only say that it will track the source of 10 percent of its gold by next year. If it were rap music with profanity, Wal-Mart would take action. But conflict gold from the Congo? Ten percent sourcing, maybe, by next year...

* * *

IMF Murky on Angola's Oil, Bond and China Deals, Doles Out $1.4 Billion

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 25 -- Days after announcing a $1.4 billion arrangement with Angola, the International Monetary Fund held a press conference call to offer explanations. At the end, things were murkier than before. Inner City Press asked if the IMF had been able to fully assess the income and distribution of revenue from the state owned oil company Sonangol.

  The IMF's Lamine Leigh, who led the Fund's missions to Angola in August and September, replied that "in the context of our negotiations, Sonangol participated fairly well." Inner City Press asked, since Sonangol has accounts in off shore financial centers and tax havens, if the IMF had gotten to the bottom of these accounts.

  After a long pause, Lamine Leigh proffered another answer, that the government has "committed to steps in the more general area of resource revenue transparency." But what about the Sonangol accounts?

Oil in Angola, Sonangol's accounts not shown

  Inner City Press asked about the statement by IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair Takatoshi Kato that in Angola "measures will be taken to strengthen further the regulatory and supervisory framework." The IMF's Senior Advisor on Africa Sean Nolan replied that the IMF analyzed the effect of the exchange rate on borrowers and "on the banks."

  In fact, Angola's government has gotten billions in pre-export oil loans from, for example, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank. The latter has made similar loans in Turkmenistan, assailed by transparency and human rights advocates. How much of the IMF's new arrangement benefits these banks?

  In fact, the questioner after Inner City Press, cutting off follow up, was from Standard Bank. Other than Inner City Press, the only other media questioner was from Reuters.

  Before the call ended, Inner City Press was able to ask about Angola's reported $4 billion bond sale planned for December. Sean Nolan said that the IMF's "understanding" with Angola does involve a "fundraising effort," but that the timing was not agreed to, the IMF does not "micromanage" to that extent. Nolan added that there is an agreement on an "overall limit."

  "Is it four billion dollars?" Inner City Press asked.

  Nolan replied that the precise limit will be "clear in the documents," which have yet to be released. Why play hide the ball?

 Nolan praised the country for "appointing reputable financial and legal advisers for the transaction" -- JPMorgan Chase will be the manager.

  Nolan continued that the actual size of the bond sale will depend on how much "concessionary lending" Angola gets from "countries with a strong record of financial support to Angola."

  Inner City Press asked if the size of China's loans to Angola -- China gets 16% of its foreign oil from Angola -- were known by the IMF or considered.

  "That hasn't figured in our discussions," the IMF's Nolan responded. Why not? Watch 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.

* * *

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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