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At UN, Friends on Myanmar Meet Amid UK Posturing, China Intransigence, Ban Answers?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 25, updated below -- Myanmar is the topic of a closed door meeting this morning in the UN's new three story building by the East River here, the day after the UK raised Burma in the Security Council, only to have China call it a "sovereign state that must be respected." We will live blog here from outside the meeting.

  On the run up to this meeting of the Group of on Myanmar meeting, two senior UN officials portrayed the UK and Gordon Brown as opportunistic, trying to take domestic credit for the meeting which was already planned before Gordon Brown requested it. "He did the same thing after Cyclone Nargis," one of the officials said to Inner City Press. "He knew the Secretary General was going, so he called for him to go."

  The other official told Inner City Press that the UN has advised Myanmar to get better at public relations at the UN. "But they are a military regime, very military minded," the official lamented. The UN would like to rehabilitate their image if not their practices.

  The Group of Friends of the Secretary General on Myanmar begins meeting at 10 a.m. in the UN's new North Lawn building, followed by a televised stakeout on the building's second floor. We will live blog it below.

UN's Ban and Nambiar and Gambari, previous Friends
 Inner City Press was told late Wednesday that Ban Ki-moon might not take or answer questions after the meeting.

  But on March 24 he told Inner City Press that on Myanmar, "I will answer you tomorrow." From the March 24 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask in the run-up to this meeting with the Group of Friends of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her party, the NLD [National League for Democracy], and other opposition parties, shouldn't even register for the poll, that the election laws are flawed. I'm wondering; you convened the meeting, what's your thinking of what the UN can do, given that the main opponent now wants to boycott it?

SG Ban: let me answer tomorrow afternoon after I have convened the meeting of the Group of Friends of Myanmar. I need to discuss this matter with the ambassadors participating in that meeting. I will have a clearer answer, if you excuse me.

  We'll see. At 9:30 am, it was announced Ban WILL speak at 11. We will live blog the meeting and stakeout here -- watch this space.

Update of 10:15 a.m. -- Outside Conference Room 5 in the UN's new North Lawn building, Ambassador Churkin of Russia and Lyall Grant of the UK walked in and stood speaking. The DPR of India, jovial, arrived, as did Singapore's Perm Rep. Just after 10, Ban Ki-moon arrived, with Vijay Nambiar, Kim Won-soo, Lynn Pascoe and other staff.

Of the media, only two cameras were present: Japanese TV and Inner City Press. Next door, a UN Global Compact meeting broke up. UNGC director Kell came out and told Inner City Press, you can't quote us. Is there no press availability? No. This is our first time in the new building, Kell said. Then a UN Security Officer came over and asked to see Inner City Press' credential. Only at the UK.

The Myanmar meeting began.

Update of 10:45 a.m. -- unlike when staking out past meetings of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, which were held in the basement of the UN's "old" Conference Building where spokespeople and even Ambassadors would step outside to smoke and talk, including ot the press, this new building is antiseptic. There is no reason for anyone to step out of the meeting room, so no one does.

While waiting, a request has been made to the UN Global Compact for a list of its corporate members who do business in Myanmar, and how.

* * *

UK Favors Sending Myanmar to ICC, China Says It's Sovereign, UN's Ban Defers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- Amid calls to refer the military government of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, like Sudan was referred, UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the Press on Wednesday that his country would support such a referral. But, he said, the Security Council lacks the unanimity necessary for such a referral. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked China's new Ambassador to the UN Li Baodong what his country thinks of the Council discussing Myanmar's election laws. "General elections in a country is a matter of sovereign states," he replied, "and should be respected." This principle, he said, applies to Myanmar. Video here, from Minute 2:50.

  When Lyall Grant emerged to speak about Myanmar, or Burma, Inner City Press asked him about China position. We disagree, he said, noting that Myanmar is on the agenda of the Security Council, that it can instability that is a threat to international peace and security.

  But when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the media, Inner City Press asked him about Aung San Suu Kyi's call on her National League for Democracy to not register for the upcoming elections, given how flawed the election laws are.

  "Let me answer tomorrow afternoon," Ban Ki-moon told Inner City Press. Video here from Minute 7:34, UN transcript below. There will be a meeting of Ban's Group of Friends on Myanmar, to be addressed by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. We'll be there.

UN's Ban and China's Li Baodong, Friends on Myanmar

Footnotes: On March 23, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman to confirm or deny that Ban proposed a former Indonesian foreign minister to replace Ibrahim Gambari as his envoy to Myanmar, but that Than Shwe vetoed it. Nesirky said, "that's the first I hear of it," despite the report being included in an article Nesirky said was the only story alleging that Nambiar secretly traveled to Myanmar earlier this year.

Inner City Press asked the UK's Lyall Grant if the UK believe that a permanent replaced for Gambari should be named. His reply noted that Nambiar is only in the position on an "interim" basis. As Inner City Press has previously reported, the U.S. has said it prefers not naming a permanent replacement until after the elections, so that the person is "not stained" by the elections.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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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