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March 1, 2011: Libya

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At UN, India's Open August Viewed from Past Before Palestinian September

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- As India's month as president of the UN Security Council ends, one thing that distinguishes it from others is accessibility to the press by Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri.

  When he would come to the Council stakeout to read out a Press Statement -- eight times in August -- he would accept and even invite questions in other topics, from Libya to Syria to The Sudan and Kosovo.

  In one memorable exchange, questions were lobbed from the side of the stakeout and Hardeep Singh Puri turned and answered them, Phil Donahue-style.

It can be contrasted, as simply one example, to France's most recent presidency in May, when Gerard Araud held only three stakeouts and tried to avoid press questions even then. Once he read out a Press Statement in French, then handed it over to a staffer to read the English translation, during which time Araud left to not take questions.

Araud has long been out of town, first on vacation and now hearing Nicolas Sarkozy's speech at the "19th Ambassadors' Conference," and so was not present Tuesday night at India's end of presidency reception, unlike the Permanent Representatives of such Council members as China, Bosnia, Gabon, Lebanon and the UK, among others.

In Wau, Hardeep in center, Araud in shades, a study in contrasts

India's Deputy Permanent Representative introduced Inner City Press to the diplomat who'd filled the position in the early 1980s, Vinay Verma, who recounted tales of a "bipolar world" which is now "shifting to the East."

Verma remembered meeting Warren Christopher at the old US Mission, where out of protocol Christopher came down to the street to greet him and showed family photographs upstairs. He told of a US Ambassador to Nicaragua just after the Sandinista revolution, who was so diplomatic with Daniel Ortega et al. that Jesse Helms blocked him for his next assignment, in Morocco. He spoke of buying the land under the Indian Mission, and the apartment where he lived and the new DPR now lives.

In the early 80s, he said, India as the head of the Non Aligned Movement was courted by both the Soviet Union and the US, on Security Council issues ranging from Namibia and apartheid to, as now, Israel and Palestine.

  On that, Inner City Press polled some Security Council ambassadors about the upcoming vote or votes on Palestine in late September. Most said that to grant Palestine Observer State status in the General Assembly would be a no-brainer.

  But it seems that more than just the US would balk at a request for full UN membership in the Security Council. More on this soon -- for now, here's hoping that future presidents of the Security Council later this year and next take and answer as many questions as Hardeep Singh Puri did in this just past August.

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On Libya, As UN's Martin Calls Ongoing NATO Role a "Factual Statement," Military Dreams Shot Down

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- While the 200 UN Military Observers envisioned in Ian Martin's leaked August 22 report to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were ruled out on August 30 by the UK and Russian Ambassadors and Martin himself as not requested by the Libyans, Martin told the Press that NATO's continuing role is just "a factual statement."

  Inner City Press, which exclusively obtained and published Martin's 10 page plan for Libya, asked him three questions, first about his line that "the Security Council's 'protection of civilians' mandate implemented by NATO does not end with the fall of the Qadhafi government and, therefore, NATO would continue to have some responsibilities."

  "That's just a factual statement," Martin said. But unless one is entirely embedded on the Western / NATO side of the debate, it is in fact a contested and controversial statement to say NATO will continue to have responsibilities in Libya.

  Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong, for example, on Tuesday told Inner City Press that post-conflict "should be the end of NATO's mission." He also said that the African Union, which unlike NATO is not mentioned in Martin's 10 page report, should play a role in post conflict Libya.

  Inner City Press asked Martin about the AU not being in his report. Martin replied that Ban Ki-moon is headed to Paris for the September 1 meeting and hopes to there meet with the chairman of the African Commission. (Then Ban will proceed to, among other stops, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.)

Ban & Ian Martin - ongoing NATO role is "just a factual statement"?

  While Martin was meeting behind closed doors in the Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin emerged and Inner City Press asked him about the military observers concept in Martin's August 22 plan: "up to 200 UNMOs... 50 UNMOs able to redeploy immediately from other missions."

  Churkin said that "the Libyans don't see a need for military observers," but said to ask Ian Martin.

  Moments later Inner City Press put the same question to UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who paused and said that the NTC, the National Transitional Council, is "not suggesting" military observers.

  Ian Martin, when asked by Inner City Press, said that the plan of military observers was premised on there being a ceasefire, which has not occurred. But his plan was dated and signed on August 22, when the rebels were already in Tripoli. Now there is the standoff in Sirte -- watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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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