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

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 the UN, Sudan's Letter Is in the Mail, UNDP Envoy Is on the Lam, Blix Is in the House

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 26 -- While Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir on Monday said the UN Security Council "has hidden agenda aimed at putting Sudan under the United Nations trusteeship," in New York Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said that Al Bashir's letter to Mr. Ban is in the mail. That is, the letter has been sent from the Sudan, but has not been received in New York. Inner City Press, which Monday asked for comment on Al Bashir's theory, now asks: Where, then, is the letter? Video here, from Minute 14:33.

            Meanwhile, a World Food Program-hired ship was hijacked off the coast of Somalia. Inner City Press asked the spokeswoman if WFP is in contact with the U.S. warship reportedly speeding toward the pirates. There was no answer.

Mr. Ban and Gambian ambassador Crispin Grey-Johnson, pre-explusion and pre-explanation

            On the other hand, the spokesperson was willing to confirm that the president of the Gambia -- whose election the UN blessed last year, click here for that Inner City Press story -- has thrown out of the country the representative of the UN Development Program. What happens next? The spokesperson said that while the UNDP representative will be in New York in two days' time, outreach being done to Gambia's president by Ban Ki-moon and before that, Deputy Security General Asha Rose Migiro.

            Ms. Migiro was slated to give a speech Monday at 10:15 in conference room 2 of the UN, to the Commission on the Status of Women.  At 10:15, then 10:25, no sign of Ms. Migiro. The chairpeople droned on. Then she arrives, and spoke movingly of the plight of girl children. Afterwards she walk through the halls with scarcely an entourage: a single colleague. Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Ocampo also left, while the head of the UN Population Fund remained on the podium, at least until noon, listening to a lucid 17-year old speaker.

            More lucid still was Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector, who gave at least two speeches in the Millennium Hotel on Monday. At an afternoon panel on disarmament sponsored by The Century Foundation, Mr. Blix decried the "recent over-reliance on military strength" to search for weapons of mass destruction. Which country and current war might he be referring to? At an earlier breakfast for correspondents, and as reported by AP's bureau chief, Mr. Blix said of Iran that he "would be surprised if a poker player would toss away his trump card before he sits down at the table. Who does that?"

            In terms of table-sitting, we're compelled to memorialize Mr. Blix' farewell dinner, organized by the same bureau chief and members of the Security Council, and complete with a toast by then-Russian ambassador Sergei Lavrov. Reporters still follow Blix' every word...

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

At the UN, More Peacekeepers from Fiji, Visits with Kurt Waldheim, Cocheme Asked to Face Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 23 -- As 35 countries in the UN Security Council gave speeches on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the Ban Ki-moon administration trooped on. Some in the press corps shook their heads at Mr. Ban's meeting in Vienna with Kurt Waldheim, former Secretary-General with Nazi issues. The spokeswoman insisted it was a private, personal meeting, and emphasized that Mr. Ban knew Waldheim from having served as South Korea's ambassador to Austria.

            Meanwhile, Inner City Press asked about the bragging on a pro-Bashir website that Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro "has appreciated Sudan support to her new mission, hoping that Sudan and the United Nations will cooperate closely on issues of mutual concern." Might those issues include Darfur? At 5 p.m. on Friday, the spokesperson's office confirmed that Ms. Migiro sent a February 13 thank you to Sudan. The spokesperson's office characterized the thank you as boiler plate, declining to provide a copy. When Ms. Migiro started, it was said she would take media questions in a press conference, which for now has been limited to three questions -- one by Inner City Press about the UN Development Program -- on February 5 at a brief stakeout.

            That's three questions more than UN Pension Fund CEO Bernard Cocheme has deigned to answer. Friday Inner City Press asked UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe about Cochame's claim that the Office of Internal Oversight Services has backed off its recommendation that action be taken on Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley, for procurement and managerial irregularities, and asked that Cocheme come to take questions in the briefing room. Video here, from Minute 15:05 to 16:17. Ms. Okabe said she would make the request, but that it could also be made directly. Inner Cit Press has, in fact, put questions to Cocheme by telephone and email, still without any answer. Now two weeks later, a TV network has joined the call for briefings. The same network was rejected by UNOPS' Jan Mattsson, who is now camera shy. Mattsson travels back and forth, on the United Nations' dime, from New York to Copenhagen.  Cocheme travels often -- too often, staff say -- to Geneva by way of Paris. But when in New York, Cocheme is known to strut east at 12:30 noon to the UN for lunch. So questions will be asked, one way or another. The spokesperson's office has been provided with Mr. Cocheme's phone number, and a copy of the gag order sent out within the Pension Fund, to not speak with Inner City Press. If no one will speak but the CEO, then the CEO must speak.

Kurt Waldheim - well before his Feb. 07 meeting with Ban Ki-moon

            Other questions exist around peacekeepers from Asia. Kofi Annan said that Fiji might be shut out of UN peacekeeping operations because of its coup d'etat. But on Friday it was reported that 92 Fijian peacekeepers are bound for Sinai and Sudan. Inner City Press ask Friday if these were in the pipeline prior to the coup. As of press time there had been no answer. Nor would the spokeswoman respond, when asked by Inner City Press, to The Economist's article reporting that

"a letter sent on January 10th to Bangladesh's army chief, Lieutenant General Moeen U. Ahmed, was one of the more remarkable episodes in a 60-year history of UN interventions. It warned that his army, if it proceeded to provide security for a dodgy election due on January 22nd, might lose several UN peacekeeping contracts. The UN's warning had the desired effect. The next day General Ahmed marched into the office of Bangladesh's president, Iajuddin Ahmed, and ordered him to declare a state of emergency, cancel the election, and install a military-backed caretaker government."

            The UN Spokeswoman said she was aware of the article, but that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had been asked and said it was not aware of having sent anything to Bangladesh. So then, who did? This interim "not DPKO" answer is memoralized here, from Minute 28:02. At press time, Inner City Press was encouraged to contact DPKO directly. It is not clear why.

            As the day's debate on non-proliferation came to a close, Iran's representative scoffed at what he called the politically motivated speeches by the U.S., the UK and Israel. At the stakeout, Slovakian Ambassador Burian, with one three working days left in his month as Council president, explained that some smaller nations will need "concrete assistance" to file non-proliferation reports. Inner City Press asked when the now-promised briefing on Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army will be held.  Video here. Amb. Burian said it will be held, but could not or would not name a time. We will follow this up.

  And this too -- the IAEA's report on Iran contains the following paragraph which leaves a country unnamed:

D.1. Enrichment Program

D.1.1. Contamination

15. The issue of the source(s) of the low enriched uranium (LEU) and high enriched uranium (HEU) particles found at locations where Iran has declared that centrifuge components had been manufactured, used and/or stored remains unresolved (GOV/2006/53, para. 11). Particle contamination similar to that in Iran was also detected in samples taken from centrifuge equipment and component s found in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which are said to have originated from the same country. The Agency has received additional information from the country from which the components originated. This information, however, does not fully explain the presence of some of the LEU and HEU particles.

            The reference, we're told, is to Pakistan, the network of A.Q. Khan....

            Inner City Press is subject to the criticism that these reports, particularly at week's end, are too "inside baseball." As we push for increased transparency, we'll aim for clearer prose as well.

Guinea Crisis Appears on Margins of Security Council Debate, UN Takes Backseat on Darfur

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

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 20, updated Feb. 21 -- With more than 100 dead in the turmoil in Guinea, on Tuesday in a UN Security Council debate, Canada said that the situation there should be put on the Council's agenda.

            Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Council president Peter Burian if he envisioned Guinea being discussed before the end of the month. Amb. Burian said that that topic was broached at a luncheon between Council members and Ban Ki-moon, and that now they would wait to hear from Mr. Ban's envoy. Video here. Another Council diplomat, this time from the Permanent Five, clarified that the UN will be assessing the situation, along with the regional body ECOWAS.

            Two African Ambassadors, however, took a different stance. Amb. Nanna of Ghana told Inner City Press, "It is too early" for Guinea to be discussed by the Security Council. South Africa's Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo was more blunt. "It doesn't qualify" for treatment by the Security Council, he said. When told that Canada had asked that Guinea be added to the agenda, Amb. Kumalo sighed, "So much for our neighbors."

UN Takes Backseat on Darfur, Looks to Asteroid

            The UN's apparently Sisyphusian efforts to get its peacekeepers into Darfur leads it to stay strangely silent. On Tuesday in Libya, the Darfur-based rebels of the National Redemption Front met with the Sudanese government. At UN Headquarters in New York, Inner City Press asked if UN envoy Jan Eliasson was attending, as at least one article had reported, and if the UN had any comment on the Libyan initiative.

Sudan - not Libya?

            Subsequently the office of Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said that while Mr. Eliasson is not attending, the UN welcomes anything that might help. But why then not mention this Darfur meeting in Libya until asked about it? The same was raised about the UN's silence until asked about attacks on UN vehicles in Kosovo. Two journalists on Tuesday asked the spokesperson about calls on the UN to do something about an asteroid which has a 45,000 to 1 chance of striking the Earth in the mid 2030s. One wag noted, "Yeah, the UN can't get peacekeepers into Darfur, but it can shoot down an asteroid in the future." A listener said, "You are a UN-hater." But that's not true.

            Tuesday evening at the Security Council stakeout, Sudan's Ambassador took questions off-camera in Arabic. Asked by Inner City Press if Jan Eliasson had attended the Libya meeting, the Ambassador indicated that he thought Mr. Eliasson had attended... [  ]

Update of Wednesday, Feb. 21, Reuters again reports that Mr. Eliasson will be at the Libya talks, click here to view. AFP, however, got denials of attendance from both the UN and the AU. Lost in space?

At the UN, Calls for Transparency and Short-Lists for Genocide Prevention Post, Russian Sporting, Salad Days

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 14 -- The place of human rights in Ban Ki-moon's UN was questioned on Wednesday. Acting on reports that the Kofi Annan-created Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide might be downgraded or merged out of existence, three non-governmental organization held a press conference at which they urged transparency and that short-lists be released of any possible successor to the current advisor, Juan E. Mendez. The NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, the Institute for Global Policy and Amnesty International, urged Ban Ki-moon to make public the report and recommendations of the Advisory Committee to the S-G on the Prevention of Genocide.

            Afterwards, Amnesty International's Yvonne Terlingen was asked if she had a copy of the report. She at first indicated that she did have a copy, then declined to provide a copy to requesting journalists, one of whom scoffed, "So the NGOs want transparency for everyone but themselves."

            At the subsequent UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman if that report, and another one by Mr. Mendez about the Ivory Coast, could be released. Video here, from Minute 14:53.  Four hours later, the spokesperson's office responded:

"regarding your question about NGOs urging the SG to consider making public the report and recommendations of the advisory committee to the SG on prevention of genocide: The SG has received the report and is considering its recommendations -- it is not presently public."

            As the report on the Ivory Coast, dated back to December 2005, nothing was said. The spokesperson did say, however, that Mr. Mendez won't be reappointed, because he has asked not to be. So will a short-list be released in this test case? We'll see.

Ms. Terlinger, 2d from left, 2006

            So who wants transparency at the UN? Inner City Press asked the spokesperson for a comment on the controversial settlement of the toxic waste dumping scandal between the Gbagbo government in Ivory Coast and Trafigura, the European dumper which, as Inner City Press first reported, was part of the UN Oil for Food scandal. It is a settlement between a private corporation and a member state, the spokesperson said, declining comment. Kofi Annan speechified on the topic, but the new Administration apparently views it as a "private" matter.

            Another request made on Wednesday was for a list of all UN Goodwill Ambassadors and "Dollar a Year" dignitaries. The latter requests dated back to the prior Administration, and has yet to be filled. At a press conference with UNDP -- click here for that article -- tennis player Maria Sharapova was named a Goodwill Ambassador. UNDP's Ad Melkert declined to provide a simple number on the volume of UNDP's payments in North Korea in 2005, a year for which the books are presumably closed. Afterwards, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was seen exiting the protocol room containing Ms. Sharapova with a broad smile on his face. In the hallway he told of his "sketchy" sporting career, including speed skating.  Inner City Press asked him for his favorite length. 1,500 meters was the answer.  There followed a story of breaking his leg in St. Tropez. Ms. Sharapova left with an entourage including UNDP's Communications Office staff.  At the UN these days it is all spin, all the time.  As one wag put it, commenting on recent fix-ups of the staff cafeteria, the only thing that's gotten more transparent at the UN is the salad bar, which is now under less opaque plastic.

            Wednesday also marked the first snow of the season in New York. The UN closed down its main walkway, shunting pedestrian entrants into the basement corridor by the library. Dignitaries arriving by car, denied access to the tent by the General Assembly, parked by the front door and entered along a thin and quivering path like on suburban yards everywhere. Many senior officials left at 3 p.m.. One long-time correspondent remembered back in anger at when, when the Rodney King verdict was read out in Los Angeles, the UN closed down and sent everyone home early. What was that again, about a human rights culture?

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

            Copyright 2006 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