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UNSC Session on African Union Delayed, By Rice Request for Better Speaking Spot?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 12, updated -- When the African Union meeting of the UN Security Council was delayed for more than half an hour, most member states milling around in the chamber were not told why.

  But well placed Council sources tell Inner City Press it was, at least in part, a fight by US Ambassador Susan Rice to be given a more prominent place to speak in. Rice is listed an not just a Permanent Representative like the other Ambassadors on the Council, but as an Obama administration cabinet member.

  As such, Rice is said to want to speak before all other Council Permanent Representatives. Before Thursday's meeting, which included foreign ministers after South African President Jacob Zuma, Russia among others opposed Rice's request, saying the matter of speaking order needs to be straightened out.

  [Outside the Council, Rice not infrequently speaks off the cuff on issues of interest like South Sudan. Her position on the controversy about the Russian helicopters in South Sudan, covered yesterday, is awaited with interest.'

  Another Council source added of Thursday's delay, "they wanted Kenya to come down, questions of Council members versus non Council members."

(c) UN Photo
Ambassadors Rice, Araud and Churkin, speaking order not shown

  Ultimately, Inner City Press is told, the "draw" would have put Rice ahead of other Council Permanent Representatives. And so it was: the meeting began. More to follow - watch this site.

Update: For the record, some claim that the explicit criticism made Thursday morning involved the priority between a Permanent Representative and some deputy foreign ministers. The UN circulated the list of speakers much later than usual, and it had Susan Rice as "Member of President Obama's Cabinet" speaking in front of the following ministers:

Germany - Her Excellency Ms. Cornelia Pieper, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office

France - His Excellency Mr. Edouard Courtial, Minister of State attached to the "Ministre d'Etat," Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

Portugal- His Excellency Mr. Luis Brites Pereria, Secretary of State for Foreign and Cooperation Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs

China - His Excellency Mr. Liu Guijin, Special Representative of the Chinese Government for African Affairs

Togo- His Excellency Mr. Koffi Esaw, Minister, Special Advisor to the President

While several Security Council members were critical of what one called "line jumping," another said that it is difficult to make direct comparisons between different political systems. While numerous Council sources, not conferring with each other, described the dispute as regarding Susan Rice, an argument is made that this was never the issue explicitly raised -- which another Ambassador called "typical."

  Dispositively, for now, the Permanent Representative of one Permanent Member of the Council told Inner City Press, the matter of the speaking order needs to be straightened out. But will it be?

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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