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At UN, Gun-Jumping on Annapolis Resolution While Kosovo Clock Ticks

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- In the half light outside the UN Security Council at 1 p.m. on Friday, Israel's deputy ambassador Danny Carmon told a gaggle of reporters that appreciation for the Annapolis conference has other means to be expressed than in a resolution. Less than 24 hours previous, the U.S. had circulated a draft resolution, which was unceremoniously withdrawn on Friday. Even Thursday night, journalists in touch with the Israeli mission expressed surprise that the normal pre-filing consultations had not been done. By Friday before the 10 a.m. Council meeting, diplomats were trying to interpret an Abbas statement that action by the Security Council would show seriousness -- did they mean he agreed to the language of the U.S. resolution? Israel opposed any resolution at all: not the right form of text, and not the right venue, why let the UN get back involved? One eminence gris nailed it: if you wanted to see Israel's relation to U.S. policy on the Middle East, the last twenty hours showed it.

            Meanwhile calendar ticks down to zero hour in Kosovo. Whether December 10 or January 20, it seems inevitable that Kosovo will declare independence, and that the U.S. and at least most of the European Union will extend recognition. A Russian diplomat leaving the Council on Friday joked, "If you see the Russian delegation leaving, you know there won't be a resolution." But how about a declaration -- of independence?

            On Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's schedule Friday morning was Russian Ambassador Churkin. At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for a read-out on the meeting, and of Mr. Ban's thinking on Kosovo. He is waiting for December 10, when he will forward the report to the Security Council, was the answer. But it's clear that the report will say the talks have broken down. "I cannot predict" the future, was the answer. 

            How about the past? Tuesday at the same Security Council stakeout, the new Permanent Representative of Ukraine, Yuriy Sergeyev, gave four reporters copies of a book, "Famine in Ukraine 1932-33," and took questions for twenty minutes. Inner City Press asked about moves to reach back and strip the New York Times' Walter Duranty of his Pulitzer Prize, for having air-brushed out the famine and more deaths than he ever wrote words. Amb. Sergeyev said he was aware of those requests, and directed Inner City Press to what he called a courageous Italian cable from May 1933, describing events and opining, "however monstrous and incredible such a plan might appear, it should nevertheless be regarded as authentic and well under way."

            We receive similar communiques these days from Somalia. At Friday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked if the Secretariat is any closer to sending at least an assessment mission. We don't yet know the date, was the answer. Tick tock.

In the Security Council, vanishing resolution and action on Somalia not shown

            A recurrent question through the week was the UN's response to a court ruling in the Netherlands reportedly rejecting absolute immunity for the UN for the events of Srebrenica. First there was no response, then a statement that the UN was seeking a copy of the decision. Inner City Press asked if the UN had made a filing in the case, and if so if it would be released. The answer was that filing are usually sought in the courts themselves. But why doesn't the UN provide copies of the filings it makes, unless they are under seal? It's a public institution, after all.

            Or perhaps it's going private. Mid-week there was a conference on Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and climate change. At the entrance and inside the conference room were tables promoting IBM, Hewlett Packard, Xerox, Seagate, Sun Microsystems and others. In the program, these were listed as co-sponsors, as private sector presenters at the "Signature Level." Inner City Press asked, twice, how much did they pay for this privilege? The spokesman referred it to a press person, who did not return the call. How much did they pay -- it's a simple enough question, and one we'll keep asking.

* * *

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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540