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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At UN, Silence on Sri Lanka and Congo Accusations, Toilet Taboos Broken with Champagne

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 23 -- The day after America's Thanksgiving, we are told, is not a holiday at the United Nations. There was however no noon press briefing, and the three meetings on the schedule were each cancelled.  The last of these three, on "combating corrupt practices," was to have begun at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 7 in the basement. A visit found the room empty, a sign for ethics training tipped over in the corner.

            Unlike Thursday, the UN Spokesperson's office was open, and issued a statement welcoming the naming of a new prime minister in Somalia. (The UN's own canned news story had a non-working link, to a domain called secint12, strangely enough.) No response was made, however, to accusations by Congolese rebel general Laurent Nkunda that the UN is wrong to be helping attack his forces, nor to Sri Lanka's demand that UN humanitarian workers leave the country for participating in demonstrations. An email to UNICEF, which has previously acknowledged participation by staff in the protests, was acknowledged, but no response to Sri Lanka's demand was forthcoming.

Sanitation Year launch, see cartoons on the floor

            Sometimes the UN system can admit error. On November 20, after announcing significantly reduced AIDS statistics, UNAIDS' Paul De Lay acknowledged to Inner City Press that skeptical scientists long critical of the UN numbers had been right, and been effective. Video here.

            The day before Thanksgiving was more full, with "HRH" Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands speaking of toilets in the Delegates' Dining Room while champagne was poured. On the floor were cartoons of excrement with speech bubbles, "I could kill you." It was the launch of the International Year of Sanitation and the point was to break the silence about defecation. The champagne was... just for kicks.

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

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