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At UN, Russia Slams MOU with NATO, Georgia "Technically" on Council Agenda

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, in an increasingly rare on the record session with the Press, trashed the UN's "semi-transparent" memorandum of understanding with NATO while praising the "CIS Symphonic Orchestra" and a road safety resolution sponsored by the Russian Federation.

Since he's called the MOU "semi-transparent," Inner City Press asked Ambassador Churkin if he had seen the whole agreement and if so, why not release it? Churkin laughed. "You underestimate our persistence here," he said, adding that Russia saw the MOU the day it was signed. Video here, from Minute 23:09.

  His complaint, he said, was the NATO's Secretary General has been misrepresenting this "modest document... out of proportion," most recently at the Munich Conference. Churkin said Russia had been "unpleasantly surprised at the way it was done." It was done under UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Inner City Press asked Churkin about Mr. Ban's naming of Finland's Antti Turunen as his Representative for Georgia, replacing Johan Verbeke of Belgium -- does this mean that Georgia is still on the Security Council agenda? "Technically it is," Churkin replied.

  He said that Turunen will represent the UN at the Geneva talks, and that his appointment has the subject of a letter of information from Mr. Ban to the President of the Security Council which didn't require a reply.

Finland's Stubb and Russia's Churkin, Turunen to Georgia not shown

  On road safety, earlier on Tuesday Inner City Press asked WHO's Etienne Krug, does the drive for better roads simply lead to more driving and pollution? Inner City Press asked -- video here, from Minute 8:39 -- but Krug said that the UN is also in favor of more and safer public transportation.

  Inner City Press also asked about the UN's own drive practices. Krug said that road accidents are the leading cause of death of UN staff worldwide, and that the UN should improve its practices. But will it?

For UN Council, Iran Rises to Second Footnote, Sudan as Truce, Lebanon Switch

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 2, updated -- As the UN Security Council's work program for March emerged to the Press as this month's president Gabon served muffins and fruit salad, what struck correspondents was a footnote. The second footnote, to be exact: "Non-proliferation." The Iranian nuclear issue, so much discussed in the press, has risen to be the second footnote of the Council for March. "Maybe by May it will actually be on the schedule," snarked one jaded reporter.

  The only late breaking development not reflected on the program of work -- which Inner City Press is putting online here, two hours before Gabon unveils it at a press conference -- is that Chad's Idriss Deby has agreed to an extension of the MINURCAT peacekeeping mission for two months, to May 15. So there will be a meeting of Troop Contributing Countries about the mission.

  On the developments in Darfur, the deal between the Omar al Bashir government and Khalil Ibrahim's JEM rebels, the public praise by the Secretary General and Security Council, and even US envoy Scott Gration, is contradicted in private meeting of the Permanent Five by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, according to inside sources. They say Ms. Rice calls it a mere "truce," not an agreement, between "two Islamist factions."

  One would like to ask Ms. Rice to speak on this, but she was not seen at the Council's Tuesday morning breakfast. Some correspondents are invited to her reception for Committee on the Status of Women delegates on Wednesday evening at the U.S. Mission. Perhaps more will emerge from there.

As Gabon got election to Council in Oct. 2009, not seen since

  On March 12, the Council will consider the periodic report on Resolution 1701, regarding Lebanon and Israel. Pro-Hezbollah sources tell Inner City Press that while UN envoy Michael Williams gave assurances to the Lebanese that the report would confirm that a shepherd captured and interrogated by Israel had been on Lebanese territory, in New York Lynn Pascoe was responsible for changing the report to say that UNFIL's investigation is not complete.

   Loss of face for Williams, the source says. And so it goes.

Update: when the program of work was issued in final form, as predicted it included a "private meeting of MINURCAT TCCs," on Tuesday March 9. It also included on more footnote: ICTY judges. Inner City Press asked Gabon's Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet about the footnote on West Africa - could it include the coup in Niger -- and about Myanmar, why it is not even a footnote for the month. Video here, from Minute 13:28.

Issoze-Ngondet replied that by West Africa being a footnote, the Coucnil "remains vigilant," including he said on Niger. But does Myanmar not even being a footnote mean the Council is not vigilant?

 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.

* * *

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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