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Congo Shootout Triggers Kofi Annan Call, While Agent Orange Protest Yields Email from Old London

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- Kofi Annan placed telephone calls to the Congo as his envoy William Lacy Swing was pinned down by the DCR presidential guards' artillery fire while in the home of second-place finisher Jean-Pierre Bemba. These details emerged Tuesday at UN headquarters, from which Mr. Annan has been placing a much higher volume of calls about the Middle East.

   In an impromptu interview with Inner City Press in the hallway outside the Security Council, the UN's deputy chief of peacekeeping Hedi Annabi said Mr. Swing is safe and sound, and that the Secretary-General's calls to both Joseph Kabila and Bemba "seemed to have some effect." Another UN staffer soon thereafter made an off-color and -the-cuff joke about invitations to have lunch with Bemba, whose campaigning includes denying a cannibal past.

   The Security Council after a hastily-called meeting on Tuesday afternoon issued a press statement calling among other things on Messrs. Kabila and Bemba to keep their gunmen off the streets, for the electoral process and calendar to be respected. Inner City Press asked the Council's president Nana Effah-Apenteng if any appeals or challenges to the election have yet been filed, and if the Kabila forces, which fired even on William Lacy Swing, had committed to the Secretary-General to henceforth cease and desist. "Don't know" was the answer to the former, and to the latter too, in essence. Video at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/sc/so060822pm1.rm

            While the shooting at his envoy got Kofi on the phone to Kinshasa, the same can't be said of Somalia, as it veers toward Horn-wide war. For weeks Inner City Press has asked what the UN is doing, including specifically for it to confirm or deny the widely-reported presence of Ethiopian troops in Baidoa and elsewhere. Monday Kofi Annan's spokesman said the "Somalia file is with the Department of Political Affairs," whom he would ask to respond. Tuesday at noon, Inner City Press repeated its request. At an early afternoon stakeout, UN Under Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari was asked by Inner City Press what he and his office are going on Somalia, specifically the Ethiopian troops.

UN's Air Africa -- coming or going? per Ian Steele

  Mr. Gambari responded that "DPA is the lead department on Somalia... We support Francois Fall" who is "promoting dialogue" between the "fragile and weak" Transitional Federal Government and the Islamic Courts. Without specifying whether Ethiopian troops are in Somalia or not, Mr. Gambari inveighed against the introduction of elements into "fragile" Somalia. Video at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/sc/so060822pm.rm

            But it precisely because the Transitional Federal Government installed in Baidoa is so fragile, and losing support, that Ethiopia's intervening, and the UN looking the other way...

  Near deadline, from the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General came this:

"Like you, we have read reports in the press of the presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali soil but have no independent confirmation of it. The UN Political Office for Somalia (DPA's primary source of information on Somalia), which is based in Nairobi, has neither the mandate nor the field monitoring capacity to assess the veracity of such reports."

  So -- the UN's lead division on Somalia has as its primary (and apparently only) sources of information an office that says it has no mandate to see or report on the invasion of one country by another? The questions will continue because they must.

On the UN - Corporate Beat, Dow Chemical Luncheon Chickens Come Home to Roost

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

           

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- Across from UN on Manhattan's East Side on Tuesday there was a protest of the use of Agent Orange in Southeast Asia. A manufacturer and distributor of Agent Orange, Dow Chemical, was celebrated at UN Headquarters less than a month ago, in a luncheon addressed by Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown and Mr. Amir A. Dossal, the head of the UN Foundation for International Partnerships. Inner City Press covered and questioned the luncheon on July 25, inquiring into how the UN screens and even tries to reform the corporations with which it interacts.

     Tuesday at a noon press conference Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked this question, and he said that "it's clear that the Secretary-General has made an effort to reach out to transnational corporations, who have a role to play in the world we live in." Asked by Inner City Press how the UN's "bully pulpit" is used to improve these corporations, the spokesman said that's what the Global Compact is for.  Video at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/pressbriefing/brief060822.rm, Minutes 21:10 to 23:15.

UN-civil society?

            Later on Tuesday the spokesman's office sent Inner City Press a copy of Dow Chemical's May 25, 2006 letter to Kofi Annan, asking him to attend the luncheon at that time two months out. The luncheon and the partnership with the UN are presented as fait accompli. Only the luncheon's date is in question, to accommodate the Secretary-General's schedule. As it turned out, due to intervening world events, Mr. Malloch Brown attended in Kofi Annan's stead. At the luncheon, the Deputy Secretary General said of Dow, "we endorse it."

   Since the May 25 letter does not refer to any review of Dow Chemical's record, or any discussions for example with Amnesty International, which is on record questioning Dow's ethics, the question of question of oversight and safeguards remains unanswered. Email inquiries on Tuesday resulted in a call back from Mr. Dossal's office in New York, saying that he is in London but would call at or just after 5 p.m.. 6 p.m. his office called to say Mr. Dossal had dictated an email, which subsequently arrived. Given the proximity between its receipt and deadline, it is presented in full without comment:

From: dossal [at] un.org

To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com

Cc: OSSG, ODSG

Sent: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 6:02 PM

Subject: Re: Request for your comment on 7/25/06 Dow Chemical lunch, in light of today's Agent Orange protest on 1st Avenue

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you very much for the follow-up regarding the Dow/Blue Planet Run event.  I am currently out of the country, but I wanted to provide you with some background information below. As you may know, over 1.5 billion people do not have access to clean water.  Dow Chemical is part of a global water challenge to work on raising our awareness and mobilizing new resources to bring safe drinking water to people in developing countries.  The CEO of Dow is personally committed to this effort, working with the Blue Planet Run Foundation.  The intention is to attract new funders who will contribute towards the achievement of this pressing Millennium Development Goal.

As you might be aware, it has been this Secretary-General's stated commitment to engage all actors, especially to harness the leadership of companies, foundations and NGOs to find creative solutions in addressing problems in the developing world. We feel that encouraging Dow Chemical and other multi-nationals to support the MDGs will make them more sensitive and more aware of their responsibility to be good corporate citizens.  FYI, the Global Water Challenge includes a number of companies and foundations, including the UN Foundation, and NGOs, who are committed to finding solutions. I hope this information is helpful.

Amir A. Dossal, Executive Director

UN Office for International Partnerships

http://www.un.org/unfip/

http://www.un.org/democracyfund/

            For now, Inner City Press' previous description of the July 25 Dow luncheon is at http://www.innercitypress.com/unhq072506.html and below, with links to other perspectives on Dow Chemical's performance, not mentioned at the lunch or in the lead-up, it appears.

Feedback: editorial [at] innercitypress.com

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

Reporter's mobile: 718-716-3540

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UN Bets the House on Lebanon, While Willfully Blind in Somalia and Pinned Down in Kinshasa

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- While Kofi Annan spent the weekend, according to his spokesman, making telephone calls about Lebanon, Reuters and BBC reported more Ethiopian troops in Somalia, and tank fire trapped Annan's envoy in Kinshasa with the election's second-place finisher. The UN's head of peacekeeping, meanwhile, is on personal business in France. Unless that is a euphemism, the UN's timing's out of whack.

            The briefing room was full Monday noon at UN Headquarters. Annan's spokesman maintained that the rules of engagement for UNIFIL have been distributed for comment, none of which has been received. After rounds of Lebanon questions, Inner City Press asked who in the UN system is following or doing anything about Somalia, as it slides close to regional war.

"Militias" in Somalia per UN (Ethiopian troops not shown)

            "The Somalia file is been kept by the Department of Political Affairs, I will check on any calls that may have been made," the spokesman answered. Video here, from Minute 31:50. At deadline, the spokesman's office said it had yet to receive a response from DPA upstairs, but would forward one upon receipt. The spokesman for Francois Lonseny Fall had emailed Inner City Press:

From: Ian.Steele [at] unon.org

To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com

Sent: Mon, 21 Aug 2006 6:56 AM

Subject: Re: Request for confirmation & comment, Ethiopian troops in Somalia reported today by BBC, Reuters, VofA, etc.

Matthew  Best that you work with the news reporting and any other sources that you have. UNPOS does not have a monitoring mandate inside Somalia. We are not in a position to confirm for you. Regards, Ian Steele

UN Political Office for Somalia  (UNPOS)

Chief, Media & Information (Gigiri) Nairobi

            While awaiting the telephone logs of Messrs. Gambari or his Somlia designate, one wonders how narrowly the UN reads its mandate. If it doesn't mention human rights, for example, would gross violations be ignored? Or is it assumed that violations of the UN Charter and related documents and treaties cannot be ignored, no matter how convenient?

  As pointed out at deadline by the office of the spokesman, Mr. Fall's reading of his mandate does not mean that the rest of the UN can look away. It is time, it would appear, for the UN to respond.

            While willfully silent on Somalia, the Secretariat responds with comment on matters Middle Eastern. Inner City Press asked for reaction to the weekend's seizure of the Palestinian Minister of Education and other officials. Video here, from Minute 42:23. The spokesman replied that the Secretary-General believes the arrests undermine the Palestinian Authority institutions which must be preserved if there is to be a two state solution. Well alright.

            It's now confirmed in the Congo that Kabila and Bemba will run-off in late October. They are apparently not waiting. Monday Kabila's forces directed tank fire at Bemba headquarters where foreign donors and even SRSG William Lacy Swing were meeting. The UN's Ross Mountain told BBC Radio that the UN is short of money to hold the run-off election. Mr. Mountain said he cannot believe that the international community would let Congo drown merely ten meters from the shore. Surely the money can be raised. But before then it raises a question:

            Why does the UN, particularly in conflicts of less interest to media such as Congo and Somalia, simply take a side or position and then stick to it, regarding of facts on the ground? In the Congo, the UN was calling the election credible before it was held, and then despite reports of burned-up ballots. To say, "We want it to be credible" is one thing; to declare credible-in-advance seems at best wishful thinking.

            In Somalia, the UN wants the Transition Federal Government to succeed. Therefore when Ethiopia sends troops to prop it up, the UN looks away, whatever the laws say. But thus is the House's credibility squandered. It may be on the line in Lebanon, but it is on the run in Congo and Somalia. And if in Somalia the TFG falls, and Islamic Courts take over, why would their approach to the UN be any different than Al-Bashir's in Sudan?

            On troop contribution, the problems have come from all sides. Those with the largest offers -- Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia -- are disfavored by Tel Aviv for not having diplomatic relations with Israel. While many other countries question what the rules of engagement would be, the UN maintains that Thursday's PointPoint was all that needs to be said. Inner City Press decided to ask where the head of peacekeeping has been during all this. Video here, from Minute 42:23.

            "Jean-Marie Guehenno is in France on personal business," the spokesman answered, adding that Mr. Guehenno has also been "having a number of meeting with French officials." What about, one wonders. And also, where in France?

            Coming full circle back to UN headquarters, negotiations continue a treaty for disabled people's rights. The UN's Thomas Schindlmayr briefed remaining reporters on the status of negotiations, saying that 150 new proposals came in over the weekend. Inner City Press asked if the United States still threatens blockage on the issue of treaty monitoring and more meetings, as it recently blocked on Small Arms. Mr. Schindlmayr diplomatically left the question unanswered. On the question of why there's no ramp in Room 226, Annan's spokesman answered, that given capital budget problems, this problem will persist. The UN's Gordon Tapper, previously called by Inner City Press on this issue, has apparently said that no ramp can be deployed. It is not, it appears, in the mandate.

Ship-Breakers Missed by UN's Budget for Travel and Consultants in Bangladesh, Largest UNIFIL Troop Donor

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 18 -- Along the beaches of southern Bangladesh, decaying and asbestos-filled ships no longer useful to the West are disassembled for scrap metal by Bangladeshi workers with little to no safety equipment, sometimes without even shoes.

Ship-breaking chaos

            To address or obscure this potentially photogenic flashpoint of globalization, the UN Development Programme three years ago committed to fund a project ostensibly improving the treatment of ship-breaking workers in Bangladesh. There have been allegations, however, of waste and over-paid consultants, about which Inner City Press has asked UNDP, see below.

   The UN's relations with Bangladesh are hardly one-way. Earlier this week, Bangladesh offers 2000 of its soldiers, two mechanized divisions, to the UN Lebanon mission called UNIFIL. Bangladesh's is the largest commitment to date.

            To get response from UNDP, Inner City Press forwarded to Dhaka this quote from ship-breaker Zafar Alam, about UNDP's use of funds: "We wanted them to spend the money on training, development of sanitation, building a hospital, buying ambulances and installation of tube-wells but they never bothered to listen to us. Instead, they spent more than Tk 4 crore on consultancy, foreign trips, well-furnished offices, vehicles and conferences in expensive hotels."

            In a two-page response sent to Inner City Press, UNDP's Najmus Sahar sadiq disclosed the following budget:

"The Safe and Environment Friendly Ship Recycling Project has a total budget of Taka 8 crore. This amount includes also salaries of project staff for the period of 2003-2007. Out of this budget, the following expenditures have been made (all amounts are in Bangladesh Taka):

Consultancy: 8 lakh taka;

Study tour: 18 lakh; a total of 11 persons went on the study tour, two representatives from BSBA (yard owners) and two worker representatives nominated through BSBA.

Office: 16 lakh for renovation; office space has been provided by the Government.

Vehicles: 30 lakh; one car and one motor cycle.

Training: so far 6 lakh, totally planned around 30 lakh

Baseline Survey: 12 lakh."

            As simply one example, this UNDP project has spent five times less on training, one of the stated substantive goals, than on vehicles, and only aspires to equal with training its vehicle spending.  These same issues surfaced in Inner City Press' inquiry earlier this year into UNDP's controversy-plagued and still-suspended disarmament programs in Eastern Uganda's Karamoja region. UNDP-Bangladesh's non-budgetary response included that it is

"not in the projectís mandate to provide facilities such as sanitation and tube wells as mentioned by Zafar Alam... The infrastructural changes involve a far higher investment for which the 3-year budget provided for the project is far from capable of covering. A total of 13 staff is involved in setting up a method of reaching out to 20,000 to 30,000 often illiterate workers. The difficulty of developing a method by which safer working habits can be taught to these persons is never to be taken lightly. To be able to reach out to them it was essential to 67find out how the ship yard workers are actually carrying out their respective jobs. For this a thorough baseline survey was held...developing a one-day training programme for all yard-nominated workers where all aspects of unsafe and occupational health matters can be addressed. The sessions are now being held, and to date (1st August) we have been able to provide training to close to 900 persons...Another aspect with which this project will deal is to raise awareness regarding international concern over the way in which ships are demolished here in Bangladesh, as well as inform the important stakeholders about the international guidelines that have been developed by ILO, IMO and Basel Convention (UNEP)."

            A recent visit to the UNEP / Basel convention web site find a notice that "The Treaty Section of the United Nations web site is now a pay site, to subscribe, please e-mail your request to treaty [at] un.org." One wonders how many ship-breaking workers in Bangladesh can or would pay to subscribe to get information about the Basel Conventional (UNEP).  At another UN level, Friday at the Security Council stakeout a UN guard from Pakistan, on the topic of ship-breaking, said that those who make the money should devote more of it to worker safety.

            Ship-breaking, considered too dangerous and polluting to be performed in Europe or the United States, and now even in South Korea and Taiwan where the industry first moved, is concentrated in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Lloyd's List of August 14, 2006, reported for example that

"Bangladeshi recyclers walked away with the two best deals of the week, picking up two tankers, Ocean Tankers' 88,396 dwt, 1979 Ocean Star and the Prisco-controlled, 17,725 dwt, 1977 Kamensk-Uralskiy. Chittagong operators revealed they were willing to dig deep when the tonnage was exactly what they desired and forked out $385 per ldt for the 18,592 ldt of the Ocean Star and $382 per ldt for the 7,445 ldt of the Prisco vessel. These were offers which could not be matched by their competitors. Ocean Star happened to be the fifth in a series of sister vessels sold to Bangladesh and GMS reported that the swift decision-taking ability of that country's scrappers allowed the deal to be concluded in less than 24 hours. Unidentified buyers picked up the 53,439 dwt, 1973 Spain-built bulk carrier Peng Yang, whose 10.561 ldt were sold on 'as is China region' basis for $315per ldt."

     The flow of junk ships is slated to increase, with the replacement by 2010 of one layer hull oil tankers. Recent reporting about the scrapping of the old SS France ocean liner shows the economics of ship-breaking. The SS France, since renamed SS Norway and then at last the Blue Lady, is worth some $12 million as scrap, which is less than it would cost to remove the asbestos if one followed European environmental laws.  So tow it to Alang beach in India's Gujurat, and let the ship-breaking begin. Then to fend off controversy, as a band aid on a cancer, fund a few consultant in brand new cars.

            A more fundamental approach may be needed.  For now, this analysis is provided, from a Georgetown law review:

"The towing of old rusted vessels contaminated with hazardous wastes across the Atlantic Ocean may fall within one of the prohibited acts set out in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea...Article 19 states that a 'passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in . . . any act of willful and serious pollution contrary to [the] Convention.' United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, opened for signature Dec. 10, 1982, art. 19, 1833 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force Nov. 16, 1994)."

While the UN's Bangladesh account may not balance, the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea may be of use.

Disclosure: Georgetown Law School's Institute for Public Representation has provided legal help to Inner City Press, most recently in overturning Delaware's citizen-only Freedom of Information Act, 3d Circuit Court of Appeals decision here, also in NY Times of August 17, 2006, Page C7, and here.

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: Brown is Disappointed

            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 after expressing disappointment with the French troop contribution was 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.

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].

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

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