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Iran Sanctions Draft Was Foreshadowed in Congo, Hillary Jumped the Gun

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 -- With the US-introduced Iran sanctions resolution now pending in the UN Security Council, some have wondered how and why it was introduced so quickly after Turkey and Brazil announced their deal with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the UN, US Ambassador Susan Rice convened a briefing for select press on May 18. Inner City Press is informed that this was supposed to be the US's launch of the resolution, its announcement of agreement with Russia and China.

But forced by the Turkish and Brazilian deal with Iran, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton jumped the gun earlier on May 18, testifying on Capitol Hill that the resolution would be distributed in the UN Security Council later that day.

  Susan Rice, thus scooped, merely read out the text of the resolution to the reporters selected by her and her spokesman Mark Kornblau. Later on May 18, after a Security Council session outside of which Brazil's Ambassador announced her country would not "engage" with the US draft, the text of the resolution was given to again select reporters at a reception at the Waldorf=Astoria.

  At that resolution, Rice's staff read over the shoulder as a story was being written, demanding to know how Rice and the resolution were being portrayed.

  The next day at an ostensibly off the record briefing by UK Ambassador Mark Lyell Grant, UK selected reporters were told that the agreement was reached Friday, with confirmation from capitals on Monday.

  But, other sources tell Inner City Press, France's Ambassador Gerard Fraud said during some Council members' trip to Kinsasha over the weekend that the P-5 plus one had agreed, and the resolution would be unveiled to in the Council to other members on Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who goes first on Iran?

  At a UN reception for Cameroon's 50th anniversary on May 20, the Permanent Representative of a major developing country scoffed at the resolution and its timing. "You will not stop Iran," he told Inner City Press. He said that "Saudi Arabia doesn't really want a bomb," and it is difficult for Egypt to come out and say Iran should not have a nuclear bomb if Israel has 200.

  Inner City Press asked if he thinks Brazil's Lula da Silva really wants to replaced Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General of the UN. No, he said, Lula is too big for the job. The Cameroonian music played.

Footnote: at Cameroon's reception, France's Araud and the UK's Lyall Grant were in the house, along with a slew of other Ambassadors. The Permanent Representatives of the US and Russia were not seen, the latter having the UN excuse of a simultaneous screening of a film classic about Russia's win in World War II.

  The Ambassador of Cameroon cut the cake and then the rug: there was dancing. It was the most successful reception so far in the "interim" Delegates Dining Room, topping Senegal, but to Inner City Press an Ivorian diplomat vowed to go it one better. We'll see.

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Outflanked by Iran, Turkey and Brazil, US Rushes Out Sanctions Resolution Speaking of Energy- but China Differs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 18, updated -- As the UN Security Council convened Tuesday at 4 o'clock for the belated distribution to members of the draft Iran sanctions resolution, whether the U.S. had played its cards right was the question of the hour. Vice President Joe Biden had said the resolution would be passed by the end of April. Then other Administration sources said that, out of respect for the complex internal politics of Lebanon, the Council's president for May, it would wait for June.

But Turkey's and Brazil's foray to Tehran, and deal about exchanging uranium with Iran, forced the sanctions proponents' hand. A Turkish diplomat told Inner City Press on May 17, what's the need for sanctions now? It seems clear Turkey will not vote for them, and neither will Brazil.

  Hillary Clinton on Tuesday morning told the Senate that the draft resolution -- agreed to by China and Russia she said -- would be distributed to the non permanent Council members later in the day.

The US Mission to the UN then invited select reporters for a briefing by Ambassador Susan Rice, saying it was embargoed until 4 p.m.. Major foreign correspondents, including from the Middle East, were not invited. Some joked that they must be, in the U.S. view, "non permanent" correspondents.

UN's Ban and Ahmadinejad, outflanking not shown

Most opined that if the U.S. got China to agree so quickly, the sanctions must be extremely weak. The appearance of action is perhaps more important at this time than action itself. Watch this space.

Update of 4:25 p.m. -- the new press pen is standing room only, and no TV cameras are allowed to film the entrance of the Ambassadors. As the French go in, Deputy de la Riviere mugs for the crowd: oh la la. Brazil's Ambassador rushes in. There  are predictions of between half an hour and an hour of consultations. The stakeout is ready.

Update of 4:36 p.m. -- a brief descent into substance: some question why Iran would go forward with the uranium swap it agreed with Turkey if the Security Council votes for sanctions at this time. To others this sounds like an argument made in China.

Update of 4:41 p.m. -- a diplomat emerging from the Council tells the Press, it's not really a resolution that they've distributed. Reporters penned in crane to hear. Inside and out, there are translation problems.

Update of 4:51 p.m. -- translation issue explained: a P-5 spokesperson emerges to clarify that the translation equipment did not work. The document (this P-5er IS calling it a draft resolution) was distributed, and a speech began. Then the equipment didn't work.

Update of 4:53 p.m. -- Brazil's Ambassador emerges and says, there is a new situation with the swap. This is the time for negotiations.

Update of 4:57 p.m. -- Brazil's Ambassador speaks to Brazilian TV. Others -- CNN, Al Jazeera -- shout, "to the stakeout please! In English!" But all politics are local.

Update of 5:11 p.m. -- suddenly reporters want to know the name of the Ambassador of Brazil, who's been on the Security Council for five and a half months. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, we hardly knew ye!

Update of 5:24 p.m. - in the lull, there is this ABC "blog" listing elements, quoting a "senior UN official."

Update of 5:57 p.m. -- in serial stakeouts, the Ambassadors of the US, France, UK, Russia and China spoke. The US's Susan Rice spoke of language -- "preambular" -- about investing in Iran's energy sector. She could only two questions, chosen by her spokesman: Al Jazeera and Canadian Broadcasting Corp (some guessed, to make up for a lack of internationalism in their afternoon invites). Inner City Press asked China's Li Baodong if his country would feel constrained against investing in Iran's energy sector by this language. He said that the purpose of sanctions is to bring Iran to the table, not to punish normal people. This apparently means: Chinese investment in Iran's oil sector would continue. Then Li Baodong was gone, an exclusive offered to Xinhua News Service. There will be negotiations "at the expert level" in the coming days. Watch this site.

Update of 6:06 p.m. -- but wait! There's more! Turkey's Ambassador leaves the chamber, and reporters, mostly for Japanese media, follow him up the stairs. He pauses, speaks of "CBM." Some scratch their heads: continental ballistic missiles? No -- it's Confidence Building Measures! Outside it is raining.

* * *

At UN, Ahmadinejad Defends Iran's Treatment of Women, Mocks Obama & Ban Ki-moon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- When Iran dropped its candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council last month, some described it as restoring at least some credibility to the UN, as when Bosnia stepped in and beat out Belarus for a seat two years ago.

But when Inner City Press asked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Iran's successful replacement candidacy, for a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, despite gender discrimination and repression, Ahmadinejad had a different and lengthy answer.

  He said the switch was procedural, that Iran had always wanted the CSW seat more than the Human Rights Council, which within the Asia Group Pakistan was supposed to run for. Due to a misunderstanding, Ahmadinejad said, Iran temporarily made a grab for the HRC, before returning to the seat promised to it, on the Commission on the Status of Women.

  But how does Iran intend to use the seat, Inner City Press asked, since it has refused to sign the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women? We will never sign that, Ahmadinejad vowed. He went to on paint of picture of "love and complementariness" in Iran.

Women won't do menial jobs in Iran, he said, nothing "like you and me, cleaning the street or driving a truck." He said he had read that 70% of married women in Europe suffer physical abuse, but refuse to complain for fear of losing their families. Women are better off, he concluded, in Iran than in Europe.

UN's Ban and Ahmadinejad, human rights not shown

Ahmadinejad's answers came during a more than one hour long press conference held Tuesday across the street from the UN. The room in the Millennium Hotel was full, with journalists from the Daily News, Washington Post and wires, and even Christiane Amanpour (who was not called on).

The moderator had taken a list of reporters who wanted to ask question, which Inner City Press arrive too late to sign. But having covered Iran's Nowruz receptions -- "be more positive next time," the Iranian mission admonished, leading Inner City Press to ask "or what?" -- the moderator nodded and allowed the question.

In fact, many journalists remarked that Ahmadinejad's press conference was more open and democratic than those of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, or the pre-screened stakeout by Hillary Clinton the previous day. There, the US State Department decided in advance which questions to take. At Iran's event, alongside some very pro Tehran question, questions were taken about for example the reports of North Korean weapons intercepted on their way to Iran.

We don't need weapons from them, Ahmadinejad answered. If America finds and seizes such weapons they can keep them. Regarding Ban Ki-moon, Ahmadinejad said that if the UN were in Tehran and Iran had a Security Council veto, Ban would never have spoken as he did on Monday. Asked repeatedly about sanctions, he said that if they go through, it will mean that US President Obama has "submitted" and been taken control of by a gang. This order, he said, will soon collapse.

But what of those arrested and disappeared after the contested elections? Ahmadinejad did not answer that question, fastening instead on the women's rights part of the question. Whether the Iranian mission will in the future allow such questions to be asked, and even answered, remains to be seen.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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