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Inner City Press Podcast --

At the UN, Questions of Myanmar and Belarus, Qatar's Ruperez Tapes at Sharm El Sheikh, Chevron to Cop a Plea

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- It was a day at the UN of things not said, not disclosed, not confronted, not reported. The Security Council met at 10 a.m. on Ethiopia and Eritrea, reading a narrative of violations and distrust, click here to view. Afterwards U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad emerged, read out a press statement and then took some questions. Inner City Press asked first, as transcribed by the U.S. mission:

Ambassador Khalilzad: I can answer your questions in my national capacity.

Inner City Press: Mr. Ambassador, was there any discussion of the Somalia conflict in this discussion of Ethiopia, given that it's part --

Ambassador Khalilzad: There was not.

Inner City Press: And I wanted to ask you one thing:  You've been quoted as saying that

Myanmar -- or Burma as it's called [by some] in this country -- may be on the agenda somehow this month, but I don't see it on your program of work.  When do you expect it to be on?

Ambassador Khalilzad: I don't have a date for it.  I discussed it as a possibility.

            It was not within the UN, but at the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan, that Amb. Khalilzad was quoted that it's "on the agenda, I think, for the month. We will work with others."  But it's not on the agenda, if that means the written program of work, regarding which Amb. Khalilzad has yet to hold a press conference.

            On May 4, Inner City Press asked his deputy spokesman about the lack of a press conference on the program of work, which all other Council presidents have held. It was explained that "the Ambassador is available almost on a continual basis... The briefings in Room 226 are a tool, a method" for some. "We feel so close already," he joked, then acknowledged that this is "not necessarily a satisfactory answer."

            It is not, including because the stakeout rarely allows for follow-up questions -- otherwise, the reporter who on Monday asked about the just released report on Resolution 1559 would not have allowed a response that dealt only with "Nicholas Michel" and the proposed Hariri tribunal. Video here. Live and learn.

President for May, agenda less than clear

            Out in the wider world, there broke on Monday a U.S. connection with the Oil for Good scandal: the prospective guilty plea of Chevron, click here for that. There is, it has been raised, an Oil for Food connection with Javier Ruperez, who abruptly resigned on Friday as executive director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Secretariat. Ruperez' name appeared in the reports, transliterated into Arabic. Ironically, Inner City Press is told that the push to oust Ruperez was delivered in Sharm El Sheikh while Ban Ki-moon was there, by Qatar, reportedly involving an audio play-back after which the die was cast. We'll have more on this.

            It is not everyday that the spokespeople of the President of the General Assembly take questions. And so on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: There's a 17 May election by the General Assembly for the Human Rights Council.  There was a briefing here by two NGOs who called on the General Assembly to get involved in asking particular groups, particularly one with Belarus in it, to find other candidates.  I wonder two things: One, whether the GA President has had any involvement in trying to address these concerns that are in the public, and if she has met with civil society, or anyone else, on the issue of the Human Rights Council elections?

Spokesperson:  I don't know if she has met with them.  I have to check on that.  I can ask her.

Inner City Press: And has she had any involvement, do you know her views of these...

Spokesperson:  Iím not aware of that.  These were requests by NGOs, right?  Itís not that I have any disrespect for NGOs, itís just that...

Inner City Press: No, I understand... no, absolutely... it's just that Iíve heard she's big with civil society...

Spokesperson:  ... this borders on interference in Member States' affairs.  These are sovereign countries, and whether you like Belarus or you don't like Belarus, it's a sovereign country.  It has the right to run for membership on the Human Rights Council.  If the system does not allow for people to be satisfied completely with some countries, well, that's the fault of the system.  We have to change it.

            Yes, the system has to change...

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