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Sudan Cites Hezbollah, While UN Dances Around Issues of Consent and Sex Abuse in the Congo, Passing the UNIFIL Hat

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 17 -- As the situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate, at the UN powers great and small dance around the need for the consent of Sudan's al Bashir government to the introduction of UN peacekeepers in Western Sudan. On Thursday Inner City Press asked Sudan's UN envoy Omar Bashir Mohamed Manis to explain his president's analogy of himself to Hezbollah and UN blue helmets to Israel. He answered that this merely reiterated Sudan's position against any transfer of mission in Darfur from the African Union to the UN. Regardless of the situation on the ground, he said, they want to introduce UN troops. Why?

            While Sudan's president has previously ascribed this to colonialism and a clash of civilizations and religions, at the UN on Thursday questions were answered with other questions. The Security Council's president, Ghanaian Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng was asked by Inner City Press to respond to the Sudanese analogy of the UN to Israel. "Maybe I can pose the question back at you," Amb. Nana Effah-Apenteng said. "UNMIS is there already.  How does that effect the sovereignty of Sudan?" Inner City Press said it would try to put the question to Sudan's president, but for now has reached Sudanese Ambassador Omar Bashir Mohamed. Video here, beginning Second 34.

South Darfur

            U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Jackie Sanders held her first media stakeout after the Security Council consultations on Sudan. She said there will be an experts' meeting on Friday on the draft resolution put forward by the U.S. and UK. Inner City Press asked her to respond to the request earlier in the week that sanctions be imposed on senior Sudanese leaders who are blocking the UN. She responded that while in the Council "we haven't gotten into targeted sanctions," it should be "looked at closely, we would be supportive."

            Whether or not on Wednesday this was the U.S. position, to support target sanctions on president Bashir and others, the U.S. Mission Thursday provided this transcript:

Inner City Press: Does the US have a position on that request? Has it been discussed in the Council?

Ambassador Sanders: We haven't gotten into the details of targeted sanctions lately in the Council. I think it's something that we certainly need to look at carefully, and we would be supportive.

            Meanwhile the UN's mission in Congo, MONUC, announced it is investigating the involvement of UN peacekeepers in a prostitution ring involving children close to large concentrations of blue helmets in South Kivu. Responding to CNN, Kofi Annan's spokesman's office provided incrementally provided the following data Thursday afternoon: "there are a total of 256 open allegations of misconduct by MONUC staff currently under investigation. Of these, 144 are allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). We have 201 completed investigations of sexual exploitation and abuse resulting in the repatriation from the Democratic Republic of Congo of 102 military, 11 police personnel, the reprimand of three civilians and the suspension of six civilians to date." To this spokesman orally added that "an additional seven civilians were summarily dismissed on the basis of allegations."  It is unclear how sexual exploitation and abuse" is defined, in relation for example to non-minor prostitution. Also not yet provided, despite Inner City Press' mid-afternoon request, are similar allegation and investigation numbers for other UN peacekeeping missions. Developing...

UNIFIL Contribution Update

            During a two hour stakeout on the UN's second floor, the German Ambassador spoke of guarding the whole coast. When asked by Inner City Press about the oil spill, occasioned by the second power station's bombing, the German Ambassador said no, the issue didn't come up. So too UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who spoke of offering a frigate but shrugged at mention of the oil spill. He did, however, confirm that work continues on the UK-led draft resolution on the Lord's Resistance Army. The true number two in the U.S. mission, Alejandro Wolffe, spoke of "muscular" force. In terms of "self-deploying" forces, a term used by a senior UN official who asked to be unnamed, few meet the definition. Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia? Nevertheless, the Deputy Secretary General, meanwhile, emerged flush with American vernacular: we're got this show on the road, "we're in business." With Dow Chemical, Soc Gen and Microsoft, yes the UN is...

            Heard in the hall: The ambassador of Kazakhstan, walking smiling between the Security Council and the delegates' lounge, stopped to tell Inner City Press of an upcoming briefing on the 15th anniversary of denuclearization of Kazakhstan. Inner City Press took the opportunity to deliver rare praise, echoing UNHCR's praise of the non-refoulement of an Uzbek refugee to Tashkent. In the spirit of the glossy nature photographs passed out at the last Kazakh briefing, "Let the wild horses run!"

            Finally, an update to yesterday's footnote on the selection of questioners at Wednesday's briefing by the Israeli foreign minister. It has been pointed out to Inner City Press that at an earlier UN press briefing, Iran's current president took a question from a reporter from Israel, then laughed. For that reason, two television producers from the Middle East opined to Inner City Press that the comment should not have been made.  They also pointed out that Israel's Foreign Minister granted an interview to Al Arabia television prior to the briefing. Another pointed out at this TV interview was in Israel. The spokeswoman for Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Anat Friedman, opined to Inner City Press that the intervention was "rude." There are worse sins, in Darfar for example.

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With Somalia on the Brink of Horn-Wide War, UN Avoids Question of Ethiopian Invasion

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 16 -- With the Horn of Africa teetering on the brink of a region-wide war, the widely reported incursion of Ethiopian troops into Somalia is either too inconvenient, too controversial or too unimportant to be inquired into by the United Nations. Kofi Annanís envoy for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, came to New York on Wednesday to brief the Security Council and then the UN press corps. In response to one of five questions from Inner City Press, Francois Lonseny Fall said that during the morningís Security Council consultations, the issue of Ethiopian troops in Somalia "didn't come up." He added that no member of the Security Council asked about the issue. Video is at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/pressbriefing/brief060816.rm

            In two interviews Wednesday with Inner City Press, Ghana's ambassador who is the president of the Security Council emphasized that Ethiopia is not the only state violating the Somalia arms embargo. While true, that does not explain why the UN cannot or will not address or even inquire into the issue of the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

            Francois Lonseny Fall acknowledged that the UN has staff in Baidoa, the seat of the Transitional Federal Government where numerous eye witnesses and journalists have spotted Ethiopian troops. He insisted however, that his "office has no monitoring capability on the ground to confirm these reports."

Francois Lonseny Fall

            Separately, Inner City Press Wednesday asked the UN's humanitarian arm, OCHA, for a read-out on its assessment mission to Somalia earlier this month. A spokeswoman for OCHA confirmed the mission, saying it was the first UN airplane to land in Mogadishu in fourteen years. Asked if assessment mission have been made to Baidoa she said yes, some months ago.

            In May, the UN issued a report naming as violators of the Somalia arms embargo six countries: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen, Italy and Saudi Arabia. Eritrea and Ethiopia are engaged in a border dispute for which Somalia threatens to become a second front. Since Eritrea has tried to tell the UN which nationalities must be excluded from its UNMEE peacekeeping force, some wonder if that is not a partial explanation of the UN's seeming siding with Ethiopia, or equating Ethiopia's incursion with troops to Eritrea's reported delivery of weapons, into Mogadishu airport.

            On factual matters, Francois Lonseny Fall confirmed the defection of soldiers from the TFG to the Islamic Courts, last month and as recently as yesterday. Nevertheless he said he supports lifting the arms embargo against the TFG.  Who would use the weapons, one wag was heard to wonder: mercenaries? He also confirmed the opening of an Islamic court in Puntland, an area that has claimed independence and has endeavored to sell its mineral rights to Australia-based Range Resources, Ltd.

            Inner City Press asked for a response to the theory that the UN is so committed to the Transitional Federal Government that it is turning a blind eye to violations of the arms embargo on Somalia. Francois Lonseny Fall replied that it is not only the UN that supports the TFG, but also "others in the international community." This is not, he said, a green light for meddling in Somalia. But to many, it seems like a green light has been given. Developing...

            In other UN Headquarters news, Israel's minister for foreign affairs Tzipi Livni briefed a roomful of UN reporters on Wednesday. After reading a prepared statement, she took only five questions, from journalists she and Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman conferred on and selected. At the end, a head-scarfed correspondent noted, "You didn't choose any Arabic journalists." The entourage left the room. Power speaks and then is gone. [See August 17 update, above].

In UN's Lebanon Frenzy, Darfur Is Ignored As Are the Disabled, "If You Crave UNIFIL, Can't You Make Do With MONUC?"

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, August 15 -- "We are looking for forces who can be self-deploying." Thus Tuesday spake a senior UN official in a Lebanon background briefing for five dozen rapt reporters. In the wake of Friday's ceasefire resolution, apparently the entire world craves to know the nitty-gritty of the UN troop contributions meetings. The senior and bald-pated UN official declined to name countries with specific soldier numbers. At briefing's end he relented and said, "on the record," that he hopes that France "could be the backbone" of the revamped UNIFIL, which some called UNIFIL II.

            Monday afternoon, a five-reporter stakeout of Conference Room 5 yielded elusive quotes from a tall peacekeeping official who reappeared at Tuesday briefing. He said Germany and France are on board, Turkey "not yet." Press reports on Tuesday have Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan awaiting a second UN resolution before deciding to commit troops.

   While one-step, two-step was the structure of the initial Franco-American proposal of ten days ago, it is not clear that if Turkey waits for a second resolution they will join the initial force. Inner City Press had that question, and another concerning the meaning of the "offensive military operations" that Israel must cease, but time and the spokesman's queue did not permit. Instead the briefing contained a hypnotizing repetition of the word "robust," converted by the unnamed official into "robustness," as in demonstrating to European foreign ministers the prospective robustness of the UNIFIL II force.

Looking for coverage: Darfur

            At Tuesday noon briefing, along with the Darfur question related but not answered below, the spokesman disclosed that Saturday's DPKO meeting included 28 countries, and Monday's had 17 countries, reportedly different. From that reporters collectively calculated the number 45, as in Colt 45, the beer or the handgun. Mid-briefing the unnamed UN official confessed, "I am not an expert on military matters." Only on peacekeeping, apparently. But how robust is that?

            Press accounts have Italy committing up to 3000 troops, and an Israeli Brigadier General, Yossi Kuperwasser, opining that "it could be a very short cease-fire." One reporter asked what UNIFIL would do if it witnesses Hezbollah forces launching a rocket.

            "We could take action," the senior UN official replied, if they get in the way of our mandate.  But what of Israel? What could constitute an "offensive military action"? It was neither asked nor answered, despite the media swarm.

            The peacekeeping crew who staffed the packed-room briefing were the same as presided over a session on the Congo, which four reporters attended. Tuesday one wag mused that the Congo needs exposure. Perhaps Kofi Annan's envoy William Lacy Swing should appear at this better-attended session as a kind of movie trailer, a Coming Attractions as it were.

            "If you craved UNIFIL, you could be satisfied by MONUC," might be the slogan, referring to the UN's missions in Lebanon and the Congo respectively. A sharper-edged wag envisioned a movie trailer-like voiceover:

  "From the directors who presided over Rwanda's Arusha Accords... From the producers of UNISOM and its Black Hawk Down sequel... With a budget taken in part from this summer's sleeper UNMEE... It's the blockbuster this August has needed, with a 15,000 crew... It's UNIFIL Two, coming into theater before the end of the month!"

            A needed UN mission that's still sitting on the runway is a peace force for Darfur. At Tuesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman for the Secretariat's reaction to a request, the day before, that senior Sudanese officials including president al Bashir be hit with UN sanctions for blocking UN entry. "I'm not aware of the request," the spokesman answered.

            Before 1 p.m., the full request, dated August 14, was emailed to the spokesman and one of his colleagues. Still at 5 p.m. there was no Darfur response. There is UNIFIL and more UNIFIL, we are filled with UNIFIL. As with Hollywood, the public is given what it wants. Or is it?

            At the UN this week and next, a new human rights treaty is being negotiated, the proposed Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At a press conference on Tuesday, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Convention, Don MacKay, said that if current efforts to block the creation of a treaty monitoring body are successful, the Convention may well not be enacted. "And that would be shabby treatment," Mr. MacKay said, citing a long history of societies' discrimination against the disabled.

            There were less than a dozen reporters at the briefing. Mr. MacKay referred to this, to the other "important issues" going on, while noting that the number of people impacted by this treaty, in the hundreds of millions, dwarfed those impacted by the current focus on the UN press corps' attention.

            There are however people watching. Circling this meeting, much as the National Rifle Association circled the one on Small Arms, are anti-abortion activists. They see, they say, in the treaty's reference to "reproductive health" a slippery slope toward legalized abortion. Mr. MacKay, asked by Inner City Press to response, said the argument has no merit at all. Click here for video and here for the text of the draft Convention.

            Inner City Press asked if the United States is among the countries opposing any monitoring of countries' performance under the Convention, similar to the approach the U.S. took in derailing the Small Arms meeting at the UN earlier this year. Mr. MacKay acknowledged that the U.S. is among six or seven countries raising such concerns, but stated that the U.S. position does not seem "doctrinal" or doctrinaire.

            On whether the UN's websites, at least, are accessible, Inner City Press' question was answered by referring to the meeting's subsite which states that "  For this site, and for future United Nations websites, we have incorporated design elements that allow navigation by visually-impaired users." Well alright.

            Mr. MacKay's co-speaker, not identified in the Media Alert of the event but referred to by Mr. MacKay as Maria Veronica, stated that with her wheelchair, she was unable to speak from the podium in the briefing room 226. Afterwards, Inner City Press was told by another UN office that there is, in fact, a ramp for the podium in Room 226. A telephone call placed to the office reportedly in charge of the ramp was not returned by press time, leaving only this reflection, that the root of the word "podium" is the same as that for "foot," leaving its relation to feet's replacement "wheelchair" more than a little unclear.

[Concluding inside joke: The article above is damning enough without even mentioning Congolese warlord-now-colonel Peter Karim, the negotiations with whom the senior UN official's been asked about, without substantive response. Okay, it's not a joke.]

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on www.InnerCityPress.org

Impunity's in the Air, at the UN in Kinshasa and NY, for Kony and Karim and MONUC for Kazana

UN Still Silent on Somalia, Despite Reported Invasion, In Lead-Up to More Congo Spin

UN's Guehenno Says Congo Warlord Just Needs Training, and Kazana Probe Continues

With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

In DR Congo, UN Applauds Entry into Army of Child-Soldier Commander Along with Kidnapper

Spinning the Congo, UN Admits Hostage Deal with Warlord That Put Him in Congolese Army

At the UN, Dow Chemical's Invited In, While Teaming Up With Microsoft is Defended

Kofi Annan Questioned about Congolese Colonel Who Kidnapped Seven UN Soldiers

At the UN, Speeches While Gaza Stays Lightless and Insurance Not Yet Paid

At the UN Poorest Nations Discussed, Disgust at DRC Short Shrift, Future UN Justice?

At the UN Wordsmiths Are At Work on Zimbabwe, Kony,  Ivory Coast and Iran

UN Silent As Congolese Kidnapper of UN Peacekeepers Is Made An Army Colonel: News Analysis

At the UN, New Phrase Passes Resolution called Gangster-Like by North Korea; UK Deputy on the Law(less)

UN's Guehenno Speaks of "Political Overstretch" Undermining Peacekeeping in Lower Profile Zones

In Gaza Power Station, the Role of Enron and the U.S. Government's OPIC Revealed by UN Sources

At UN, North Korean Knot Attacked With Fifty Year Old Precedent, Game Continues Into Weekend

UN's Corporate Partnerships Will Be Reviewed, While New Teaming Up with Microsoft, and UNDP Continues

Gaza Resolution Vetoed by U.S., While North Korea Faces Veto and Chechnya Unread

BTC Briefing, Like Pipeline, Skirts Troublespots, Azeri Revelations

Conflicts of Interest in UNHCR Program with SocGen and Pictet Reveal Reform Rifts

At the UN, A Day of Resolutions on Gaza, North Korea and Iran, Georgia as Side Dish

UN Grapples with Somalia, While UNDP Funds Mugabe's Human Rights Unit, Without Explanation

In North Korean War of Words, Abuses in Uganda and Impunity Go Largely Ignored

On North Korea, Blue Words Move to a Saturday Showdown, UNDP Uzbek Stonewall

As the World Turns in Uganda and Korea, the UN Speaks only on Gaza, from Geneva

North Korea in the UN: Large Arms Supplant the Small, and Confusion on Uganda

UN Gives Mugabe Time with His Friendly Mediator, Refugees Abandoned

At the UN, Friday Night's Alright for Fighting; Annan Meets Mugabe

UN Acknowledges Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions

In Uganda, UNDP to Make Belated Announcement of Program Halt, But Questions Remain (and see The New Vision, offsite).

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Leads UN Agency to Suspend Its Work and Spending

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Blamed on UNDP, Still Silent on Finance

Alleged Abuse in Disarmament in Uganda Known by UNDP, But Dollar Figures Still Not Given: What Did UN Know and When?

Strong Arm on Small Arms: Rift Within UN About Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament of Karamojong Villages

UN in Denial on Sudan, While Boldly Predicting the Future of Kosovo/a

UN's Selective Vision on Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs

UN Habitat Predicts The World Is a Ghetto, But Will Finance Be Addressed at Vancouver World Urban Forum?

At the UN, a Commando Unit to Quickly Stop Genocide is Proposed, by Diplomatic Sir Brian Urquhart

UN's Annan Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information

UN  Waffles on Human Rights in Central Asia and China; ICC on Kony and a Hero from Algiers

At the UN, Internal Justice Needs Reform, While in Timor Leste, Has Evidence Gone Missing?

UN & US, Transparency for Finance But Not Foreign Affairs: Somalia, Sovereignty and Senator Tom Coburn

In Bolton's Wake, Silence and Speech at the UN, Congo and Kony, Let the Games Begin

Pro-Poor Talk and a Critique of the World Trade Organization from a WTO Founder: In UN Lull, Ugandan Fog and Montenegrin Mufti

Human Rights Forgotten in UN's War of Words, Bolton versus Mark Malloch Brown: News Analysis

In Praise of Migration, UN Misses the Net and Bangalore While Going Soft on Financial Exclusion

UN Sees Somalia Through a Glass, Darkly, While Chomsky Speaks on Corporations and Everything But Congo

AIDS Ends at the UN? Side Deals on Patents, Side Notes on Japanese Corporations, Salvadoran and Violence in Burundi

On AIDS at the UN, Who Speaks and Who Remains Unseen

Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence (May 31, 2006)

Kinshasa Election Nightmares, from Ituri to Kasai. Au Revoir Allan Rock; the UN's Belly-Dancing

Working with Warlords, Insulated by Latrines: Somalia and Pakistan Addressed at the UN

The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council

The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens

Background Checks at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from Turkmenbashi's Single Book

Ripped Off Worse in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds

Burundi: Chaos at Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated by Forty Until 4 AM

In Liberia, From Nightmare to Challenge; Lack of Generosity to Egeland's CERF, Which China's Asked About

The Chadian Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come

Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Racial Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks

Mine Your Own Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the Paparazzi

Human Rights Are Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still Murky

Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

At the UN, Dues Threats and Presidents-Elect, Unanswered Greek Mission Questions

Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

As Operation Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if Iraq's Oil is Being Metered

Cash Crop: In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

The Shorted and Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't Add Up

UN Reform: Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance Contract

In Congolese Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Empty Words on Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on www.InnerCityPress.org

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