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On Darfur, Ban's Soft Power Eclipsed by Sanctions, Shish Kebabs for Peace

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 29 -- The U.S. three-day weekend ended with the stealing of Ban Ki-moon's thunder. Monday night the White House called selected news outlets, a so-called choir call, to let them know that the President would announce his own Sudan sanctions Tuesday morning at eight. They were allowed to publish the news at midnight, and they did.

         Tuesday morning in the lobby of the UN, Ban Ki-moon took reporters questions surrounded by tourists and their cell phone cameras. From the UN's transcript:

Q:  Did you know that President Bush is going to announce these sanctions today?

Ban Ki-moon: I have been in close contact, close touch with the US government on this issue. But I was not sure when actually sanctions would be announced.

Q:  Have you made an appeal in the last couple of days to either President Bush or Secretary Rice not to go ahead with the sanctions?
Ban Ki-moon: You may [imagine] what I have been doing.

            Among other things, Ban's 38th floor churned out an op-ed in Newsweek, singing the praises of the UN's soft power.

            Meanwhile, Inner City Press asked the head of UN peacekeeping about Chad's repeated statements that no peacekeepers are wanted, and about the UN in the eastern DRC. Video here. Jean Marie Guehenno remained optimistic about Chad, to the point of being Pollyanna.

   While most of his Congo answer is reported in another Inner City Press story today, it is worth noting that the UN's mission in the Congo, MONUC, is embroiled in scandal as violence escalates again in Ituri and the Kivus. At least 29 people were killed there over the weekend, and scarcely a tribunal is being prepared for them.

Peacekeeper ceremony, May 29, 2007

            The Hariri tribunal resolution was put into blue by its sponsors, for a Wednesday afternoon vote. Those in the know predict tallies anywhere between 11-4 to 9-6.

            The UN day ended in a flurry of receptions. Peacekeepers in the General Assembly lobby, complete with wine and cheese and a list of the 107 dead in 2006. Updates in the Delegates' dining rooms, a farewells to Greece's Ambassador, and an event featuring Under Kirdar's new UN-published book, "Humanizing the Digital Age," with circulating sushi and shish kebabs. In the Secretariat lobby a Buddhist shindig, at the end of which monks carried potted plants they'd brought with them back out to First Avenue.

            Mr. Ban, his thunder stolen, was set to head to Berlin for another Quartet meeting. Soft power, indeed...

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

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