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At the UN, Blue-washing Waldheim, Gaza Power Redux, Saharawi Monday, LI Press

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 -- The UN's day began with a series of tributes to ex-Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, who as nearly all obituaries noted, was connected to the Holocaust in Greece and also in the Balkans.

            Mexico's Ambassador alluded to the controversies of the time, saying that Waldheim's "biography... had continued to create discussion even today." Video here, from Minute 10:24. The speeches of the representatives of the U.S. and the UK, however, did not even acknowledge these issues. Karen Pierce, how could you? Richard T. Miller, fresh off trashing Ad Melkert of the UN Development Program, keep it short and sweet. The burying of the issue was surreal, but perhaps not surprising, at the UN.

            After Ban Ki-moon's bland speech, mentioning Vietnam and Cyprus, he left with an entourage toward the elevator: Kim Won-soo, Vijay Nambiar, and Marie Okabe as Spokesperson. No reporter chased this crowd; perhaps they've given up seeking quotes that they can't use.

At the UN, a moment of silence for Kurt Waldheim (Nazi past not shown)

            At the 11th hour -- 11 a.m., that is -- a spokesman of UNRWA, Saahir Lone, was added to the docket of noon briefing, to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Inner City Press asked him about the Gaza power plant, whose generators who destroyed by air strikes in June 2006.  Click here for two Inner City Press articles at the time. Mr. Lone, the son of Salim,  who said he had seen the still-stalled transformers only two months ago, later sent this answer:

Thank you for your useful questions today.  Without your prompting I would not have addressed electricity and water - two issues of concern to the UN in Gaza. I paste below some extracts from a recent OCHA brief on electricity in Gaza.  The report doesn't quite state how many people do or do not have reliable access to electricity in Gaza (hard to measure because the figurechanges), but it does say the following:

   Of 230 MW (megawatts) expected to be required this summer, Gaza is  projected to have a deficit of 43MW - i.e., Gaza will be short of about 19% of the electricity it needs.Electrical capacity in the Gaza Strip remains insufficient and power cuts will ensue in the coming weeks coinciding with the summer peak demand.  Most Gaza residents will suffer disruption to their lives as result of the cuts.

            Among some of the cooks in the UN cafeteria, though, the talk was along the lines of the NY Post's headlines, about "Hamas-istan" and "Hamas-ide."

           Surreally upbeat on Friday in the basement, in the library's auditorium no less, was Albania's prime minister Sali Berisha, feted by UNDP. Kalman Mizsei's replacement as UNDP's head of Europe and CIS States, Kori-of-Serbia, gushing about her pre-Bush visit and saying, "the wonders that UNDP does  for you." Hey, when the audits are kept secret, everything is wonderful.  Even so, the press release UNDP put out did not mention Kori, but only Kemal Dervis, trying to save his job. Kalman, now resurfaced as EU envoy to Moldova, would never have accepted such a snub...

   UNDP's MC Olav Kjorven took questions in batches. The star was Alvaro's better-known brother, Hernando de Soto, economist from Peru, who said that he is Latin but also indoctrinated into the West, the proof of which is that he understands "90% of Jerry Seinfeld." That's more than Larry David, one wag noted. Another mused, apropos of Kosovo, that Berisha's wife is Serbian. There are here the makings of a good if belated Seinfeld comedy episode.

            Resolved mystery of Friday was where Monday's Western Sahara negotiation session will be. While two of Ban's spokespeople have declined to confirm where, a reporter burst into Friday's noon briefing and, not being called on to ask a question, say to all and sundry that it would be take in Greenacres. Later, numerous Moroccan journalists traded notes on how to cover  it. They will wait outside the gates. Long term players analogized to the Haiti negotiations held on Governor's Island, but notes that reporters were allowed out onto the island.  How will the treatment in South Korea be? We shall see.

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

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