Inner City Press


In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07 7/19/07 6/29/07 6/14/7 6/1/7

How to Contact Us


Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

At UN, After Five Days Silent With Nerve Gas, Belated Spin and Returns from Turin

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- What did the UN know and when did it know it? That question was asked at Friday's noon briefing by the office of Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson, about the previous day's disclosure of  the nerve agent phosgene in a UN office, but was not initially answered. Ban's spokesperson's office had issued a statement that Ban "has given immediate instructions to launch an internal investigation." Immediate implies "as soon as he knew." Later Friday afternoon spokeswoman Marie Okabe announced that the Secretary-General was informed only on Wednesday, just before the host country was informed. She wrote to Inner City Press that "the Secretary-General and the and Department of Safety and Security were informed Wednesday after the possible nature of the material was revealed."

            But the unknown substance was found last Friday, August 24. U.S. authorities were only told on Wednesday, August 29. Inner City Press asked, what happened in those five days? Video here, at Minute 16:30. While some now try to say that the UN used the five days to ascertain what the chemical was, others say that is not acceptable. When a suspicious substance is found, action must be taken, even before tests are concluded. And it increasingly appears that nothing was done on or about the substance from Friday until at least Monday. This is a developing issue.

            It was announced on Friday that the Under Secretaries General of Security and Management, David Veness and Alicia Barcena, are flying back from Italy to "provide substantive support to the Deputy Secretary-General and the Chef de Cabinet who have both cancelled their participation to [sic] the senior leadership meeting in Turin." On Thursday, UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe had said that the Chef de Cabinet (in English, chief of staff, a post held by Vijay Nambiar of India) was on top of the case. Inner City Press asked on Friday if it was always Nambiar's, and DSG Migiro's, intention to go to Turin.

            "The idea was always to have one or the other of them here," Ms. Okabe said. "They have both now cancelled their appearance." Which is it? If both had planned to appear in Turin, how or where was it the idea "to have one of the other of them" in New York?

Vijay Nambiar and David Vaness: one's coming back, the other never left

   While USG Veness is in flight, Inner City Press asked if correspondents might here from UN Headquarters Security chief Bruno Henn. Some told Inner City Press that Henn is not even in the building, that he went on leave on Monday. Spokeswoman Okabe confirmed on Friday: "Bruno Henn was out."

            Returning to the building, reported Friday night at 8, is Alicia Barcena. While the statement speaks of "close cooperation with the US and New York City authorities," Barcena has requested an immediate meeting, but not with local authorities of even UNMOVIC.

            Inner City Press asked Ms. Okabe for Ban's reaction to the vote by the UN Staff Council on Wednesday, first reported by Inner City Press, to urge Ban to tell UN Development Program Administrator Kemal Dervis to accept the jurisdiction of the UN Ethics Office, and to protect the UNDP whistleblower. Of the resolution by the UN staff council, Ms. Okabe said, "he is over in Turin, I am not sure he saw it." Wait -- at a meeting purportedly on UN reform, word would not reach him of a resolution by the UN Staff Council referring to a "culture of impunity"?  Perhaps culture of blindness is more on point.

            Regarding this senior leadership meeting, Inner City Press asked how and by whom it was decided to invite at least 8 non-UN people, including two journalists (one of whom is the partner of French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner). "There is a segment on Communications," Ms. Okabe answered, adding that the journalists were there for that. But how then is it a "non-public" event? Only at the UN...

            Regarding chef de cabinet Nambiar, Inner City Press asked about comments, since criticized by Indian Ambassador Nirupam Sen, that Nambiar made that India was not doing enough to get a Security Council seat. Inner City Press asked, "In what capacity was Nambiar speaking?" I'm not aware of those press reports, Ms. Okabe said. Now she is.

Update: at 6:43 p.m. on Friday, spokeswoman Okabe answered Inner City Press, that "The remarks were made in a personal capacity given his former position as Permanent Representative of India. He made it quite clear to the questioner that the Secretariat
could not have a position on the question." 

* * *

 Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

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

Search WWW Search

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006-07 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

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

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