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Land Mine Use Defended by Sri Lanka as UN Says Nothing, of "Victim Activated" IEDs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- The UN and its Secretary General are said to be strong advocates for countries to become parties to the Mine-Ban Convention. But when it comes to Sri Lanka, which has refused to join the Convention and which states openly that it uses land mines, it is unclear what the UN is doing to urge the country to stop using mines.

  The UN is paying for removal of mines laid by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Meanwhile, in a debate in the UN General Assembly's Fourth Committee on October 30, Samantha Jayasuriya of the Sri Lankan Mission argued that "for legitimate national security concerns, Sri Lanka had not become a party to the Mine-Ban Convention... Land mines were used by security forces 'always for defensive purposes' and mainly to demarcate the limits of their military installations."

  This statement, more than five months after the Rajapaksa government declared final victory over the LTTE or Tamil Tigers, went uncommented on by the UN. At a press conference on November 17, Inner City Press asked Dmitry Titov of UN Peacekeeping and Maxwell Kerley, Director of the UN Mine Action Service, about Sri Lanka's statement and continued use of land mines. Video here, from Minute 35:56.

  Mr. Titov replied that the Secretary General is in strong support of the Mine Ban Treaty. But when Inner City Press asked if Ban Ki-moon, in his many bilateral talks this year with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has ever directly asked that Sri Lanka join the Mine Ban Convention, Mr. Titov passed the question to Mr. Kerley, who described UNDP's work removing LTTE mines.

  With the LTTE defeated, the Sri Lankan government's justification for using land mines is gone. But it was repeated on October 30 at the UN.

UN's Titov, answer on countries in which mines are used still not shown

  In more positive land mine news, Inner City Press asked Mr. Kerley about the use of bacteria to show where mines are. Kerley said the UN is looking into technology but primarily uses dogs. He made reference to "victim activated" improvised explosive devices. Inner City Press asked why the UN distinguishes these from IEDs activated by cell phones or command wire.

  Kerley's answer was the the UN "guards its impartiality" so it will be "welcome by all." IEDs are the "weapon of choice" for some, and the UN only gets involved with these weapons are no longer "in play." Video here, from Minute 45. To some, this sounded like not wanting to offend the Taliban or Al Qaeda in Iraq by targeting their "weapon of choice" -- unless, as Mr. Titov inserted, they threaten UN personnel. To some, the phrase "victim activated IED" sounds like... blaming the victim. Watch this site.

* * *

As Sri Lanka Announces UN Holmes To Visit, Is UN's Silence the Silent Deal?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 11, updated -- Sri Lanka has invited top UN humanitarian John Holmes to "visit Colombo later this week" to witness the removal of some of them interned in the Manik Farm camps. In an ill-attended speech by Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona past six p.m. on Wednesday, with John Holmes at his side, Kohona called it one of the "fastest resettlements in history."

   Earlier on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that people are being moved from Manik Farm to other closed camps, or simply disappearing. Kohona told Inner City Press that the Post article "made many errors," without specifying them. Can we expect a letter to the editor?

  Seeming ever stranger in retrospect, Holmes' speech earlier on Wednesday did not mention Sri Lanka, but rather Yemen. If Holmes is still engages on Sri Lanka, why not mention it? Some surmise that Sri Lanka is once again conditioning access on silence. If the UN will stay quiet, it will be allowed to come and take some credit.

  Kohona has been quoted, regarding Sri Lanka's expulsion of UNICEF spokesman James Elder after he spoke out about conditions in the camps, "I do not think it is UNICEF's role to advocate anything, they are an aid agency...It is not for them to go out making statements which could embarrass a host government.''

  Apparently Sri Lanka feels the same about John Holmes, the coordinator of UN aid agencies. Some wonder, is Holmes playing along? What does he think of Kohona's statement about the right of aid agency to advocate in some circumstances? Perhaps he'll say -- or perhaps not.

UN's Ban and Kohona, some wonder what deal is being sealed

Footnotes: Some found it strange that the UN never announced this trip. Now, Inner City Press is informed that after Sri Lanka disclosed it in Kohona's "protection of civilians" speech on November 11, the UN will announce it on November 12. We'll see.

Update of 8:36 p.m. -- Holmes on his way out tells Inner City Press he's going to Sri Lanka on Sunday, through Tuesday.

  Kohona also maligned the asylum seekers marooned off Indonesia at Australia's request, stating that ""They are economic refugees looking for greener pastures elsewhere... It is wrong for anybody to go to a strange land and then exert emotional pressure of this kind on the intended destination and expect people to react positively. I think this is emotional blackmail.''

But some think Sri Lanka is blackmailing the UN. Watch this site.

* * *

With Sri Lanka Ignored in UN Debate, Austria Speaks of Proposal, UN's Holmes Moves On

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 11 -- Austria's foreign minister Michael Spindelegger, answering questions Wednesday from Inner City Press outside the Security Council debate he presided over on the protection of civilians, proclaimed that Austria has "made a proposal" to Sri Lanka to bring "the government side and the Tamil side together" at one table. "We have not real answer at the moment," he said.

  In his initial comments, Minister Spindelegger praised the UN's work in Africa, without mentioning the controversy now surrounding the UN's work with the Congolese Army. Inner City Press asked about Asia, not only Sri Lanka but Myanmar, where armed conflict continues, with child soldiers and Rohingya people taking to the sea.

  Spindelegger said, "This was not part of the discussion, especially Sri Lanka, during our meeting of the Security Council." Then, "as Foreign Minister of Austria," he said "we are very concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka... huge numbers of refugees still in camps and not allowed to go home." Video here, from Minute 4:43.

  Even those who leave the Manik Farm camp in Vavuniya, it was today confirmed, are taken to other closed camps, or quickly picked up again by the authorities. So what is the UN doing to protect these civilians?

  As Austria, Spindelegger said, they are offering a "platform" for "the Tamilian side" to speak with the government. Another journalist asked for more detail and Spindelegger spoke about bringing the parties to "one table... we try to do our best." Video here, from Minute 7:05. There was no mention of what Austria's position is, for example, on suspending favorable entry of Sri Lankan goods into Europe under the GSP Plus program, which is subject to a human right review.

Spindelegger and UN's Ban all rosy, Sri Lanka not shown

  After Foreign Minister Spindelegger's stakeout interview, Austria's Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting genially advised Inner City Press not to read too much into Foreign Minister Spindelegger's statement about having made "a proposal" to the Sri Lankan government.

  Given the way the Norwegians, for example, feel they were burned by the process, this is perhaps understandable.

  But the fact remains, at the UN on Sri Lanka, there is double talk, there are claims of assistance and concern that are not back up, and increasingly there is silence. Protection of civilians indeed.

Footnotes: In his speech to the Council on the topic, top UN humanitarian John Holmes mentioned Yemen but not Sri Lanka. He asked, have we narrowed the gap between rhetoric and action? Apparently not.

  Holmes remains reluctant to admit that the supposed investigation of the killing of 17 Action Contre La Faim workers led nowhere, with its advisory committee quitting due to its lack of credibility. Apparently, if a member state criticizes the UN or OCHA strenuously and persistently enough, the UN's message changes or goes silent. There's always another conflict, with less oversight, to move on to....

* * *

The UN on Protection of Civilians Dost Protest Too Much, 62 Speakers But What of Congo, Sri Lanka and Sudan?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 11, updated below -- To protect civilians should go without saying for the United Nations, given its rhetoric. Speech after speech will be given at a debate on the topic in the Security Council on November 11, covered below. But a decade and a half after the UN pulled out during the Rwanda genocide, and stood by during the slaughter in Srebrenica, the UN is still at odds with itself on levels large and small.

  In the Congo for example despite a relatively small recent change, the peacekeeping mission under the charge of Alan Doss has provided support to Army units now known to have raped and killed civilians.

  Even its own local staff, the UN is not protecting. This week, former MONUC staffer John Dimandja wrote to the Secretary General that his disarmament work for the UN with militias in Ituri put him and his family at risk and needs to leave the region. The UN focused on his desperate reference to stepping in front of the S-G's limousine, called the police and told Dimandja to stay away. Click here and here for Inner City Press' two exclusive stories; a third is in the works.

  The Congo mission was created and is ostensibly overseen by the Security Council. But when Inner City Press asked a Council diplomat about Dimandja's plight, the answer was, "We don't really deal with that."

  And this month's earnest Security Council president Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria, which oversees today's debate, said he had not heard about Doctors without Borders days-old public statement that its vaccination drive in rebel controlled areas of Eastern Congo was used as "bait" by the Army to attack civilians.

  The UN Mission in Sudan has said it cannot protect civilians from the Lord's Resistance Army; Darfur speaks for itself. These are the UN's largest peacekeeping forces. Then there are conflicts in which the Security Council declines to put on its agenda, such as the slaughter of tens of thousands of Sri Lankans, nearly all Tamils, earlier this year. China and Russia opposed discussing the matter, but the U.S., France, UK and others went along.

UN Security Council in the Congo, whistleblowers and bait not shown

  Instead of calling for a vote, they contented themselves with non-binding non-meetings in the UN's basement. The Council has not revisited the situation in Sri Lanka since May, despite hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians being locked up in monsoon flooded camps.

  So it is difficult not to think, in hearing these lofty UN speeches about protection of civilians, that "thou dost protest too much." We will review the days events below as the happen. Watch this space.

Update of 10:01 a.m. -- at the stakeout in front of the Security Council, correspondents are told that there will be 62 speakers in the "debate" on the protection of civilians. There is groaning. For the Secretariat, Ban Ki-moon, John Holmes and Alain Le Roy -- who strides in smiling -- will be there, as well as the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.

   Former French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert comes to schmooze the press -- it's too early in his mandate for a briefing, he says, adding that sometimes the UN is constrained by member states. As he leaves, a Middle Eastern reporter quips, "The UN salary seems to be suiting him well."

  As the Costa Rican Ambassador walks in, a reporter shouts, "Any problems with white powder?" The reference is to the anthrax scare, which started with three Missions to the UN and has proceeded from there. There are other countries with other white powders...

Update of 10:30 a.m. -- Austria's foreign minister mechanically thanks Ban Ki-moon for his "most interesting" speech. Now top UN humanitarian John Holmes is up. He mentions Yemen -- but apparently not Sri Lanka. He asks, have we narrowed the gap between rhetoric and action? Apparently not.

Update of 10:36 a.m. -- Holmes says "we need flexibility" to engage with armed groups (that is, non state actors), in order to protect humanitarian workers. It's a good point. But one wonders why Holmes is, for example, so reluctant to admit that the supposed investigation of the killing of 17 Action Contre La Faim workers led nowhere, with its advisory committee quitting due to its lack of credibility. Apparently, if a member state criticizes the UN or OCHA strenuously and persistently enough, the UN's message changes or goes silent. There's always another conflict, with less oversight, to move on to....

Update of 10:40 a.m. -- Sudan's deputy permanent representative groans and says, seventy speakers now! And Sudan is 53rd. We are ready for our election, he tells Inner City Press, then shakes his head at the UN's electoral snafus in Afghanistan. It's a shame, he says, entirely without irony.

Update of 10:44 a.m. -- and now, one expects the last Sudanese Mission update of the day, Sudan's Ambassador comes over to make, again, his double standard point. He said, those speechifying today, many voted against or abstained on endorsing the Goldstone report on Gaza. Now they talk about protection of civilians. He laughs and ambles into the Council.

Update of 10:49 a.m. -- the Deputy High Commisioner for Human Rights, after touching on the Goldstone report, which she says has been transmitted to the Security Council, which is not entirely clear, and on Eastern Congo, turns to Darfur. Next to her the Libyan Deputy looks glum.  She does it quick, and moves on to Kabul.

Update of 10:58 a.m. -- as the minister of Croatia reads his speech, Inner City Press is told that even the word "UN" now makes people mad in Croatia, since their most recent Ambassador to the UN "misappropriated" national funds. They didn't call him "the gambler" for nothing...

Update of 11:14 a.m. --  during the UK's speech, at the stakeout it is asked if this is the country's new Ambassador. No, Minister Taylor is a woman, and Mark Lyall Grant is man, who is yet to be seen at the stakeout. Yesterday, Deputy PR Parham told Inner City Press he was not aware of any plan to keep British troops in Afghanistan "out of harm's way" pending the UK elections...

Update of 11:20 a.m. -- As France's Araud speechifies, he uses four examples: Sudan, Gaza, Sri Lanka and Guinea. Before this can sink in, a correspondent notes that Araud got a lot of laughs yesterday morning, referring to the letters from Dallas containing white powder: "Don't mess with Texas," he quipped. Now he's speaking on the Congo.

Update of 11:23 a.m. -- okay, more seriously, it is explained to Inner City Press that the inclusion of language about humanitarian access in the resolution is something that can be pointed to in the future. But how much more access will it lead to?

Update of 11:26 a.m. -- as the Austrian minister thanks "Excellency Araud" and hands it off to Russia's Vitaly Churkin, Ban Ki-moon is still in the room, dutifully checking off on a paper in front of him. France, done. Russia, now. Four minutes until the Austrians' stakeout is scheduled. But the text of the Austrian minister's opening statement is not available. Churkin is denouncing one sided approaches, and saying that private security companies, too, are subject to international humanitarian law.

Update of 11:33 a.m. -- First Holmes leaves, grim faced, then the smiling Alain Le Roy. Then Ban Ki-moon and Vijay Nambiar, flanked by security. Mr. Ban waves. The Austrian stakeout can't be far behind.

Update of 11:53 a.m. -- Inner City Press asked Austria's minister three questions, and will report on the answers, probably in a separate piece -- after the day's UN noon briefing.

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

* * *

As Colombia Calls UN Council About Chavez, Silence on Korean Ships Shooting

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 10 -- A war of words between Venezuela and Colombia is on the radar of the UN Security Council, with contacts begun with the Colombian side. But the actual exchange of fire between South and North Korean ships "has not been raised in the Council," this month's President Thomas Mayr-Harting told Inner City Press on Tuesday. Video here, from Minute 3:37.

  The Security Council ostensibly deals with threats to international peace and security. Shooting between ships, involving a country which has ostentatiously tested what it calls nuclear missiles, would seem to be a bigger threat than the most recent spat between Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe.

  But just as the UN's approach to war crimes in selective, the range of conflicts which never make it to the Council versus some countries no longer in armed conflict which continue under a Council mandate and mission is striking.

  Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's Associate spokesman Farhan Haq about the Korean shooting, and he read out a bland statement. Video here.

Chavez at UN, Colombia and North Korea not shown
 Inner City Press followed up asking if there is any thought to replacing Maurice Strong with a new UN envoy to North Korea. Apparently not, at least for now. But Venezuela and Guyana have a UN envoy / expert. Go figure.

Footnote: when Inner City Press asked Mayr-Harting if as Council president he had heard from Colombia, he said "we have been in formal contact". Reporters afterwards asked, "in formal or informal"? The latter seems more likely, but it sounded like the former. Go figure.

* * *

On Lebanon, Russia Resists Calling for Implementation of 1701 Resolution

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 10 -- When the UN Security Council met behind closed door Tuesday about its Resolution 1701 and the situation between Lebanon and Israel, there was a surprising blockage to even calling for implementation of the Council's own Resolution 1701. Diplomatic sources in the consultations meeting tell Inner City Press that Russia opposed even the use of the word "implementation."

  When the UN's Michael Williams emerged to brief the Press, he repeatedly took issue with reporters who asked about what opposition parties in Lebanon call his report's lack of balance. Every over flight of Lebanon, he insisted, is a violation of 1701.

  Of the ship stopped by Israel, Williams said it is beyond his mandate to comment on the legality of the cargo or its seizure. Regarding the Israeli Army chief of staff's comments that Hezbollah has rockets that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Williams answered that he has no way to know of their range.

  Inner City Press asked Williams about reports that Israel has asked for Italy to continue to force commander of the UNFIL peacekeeping mission, rather than pass the mandate to Spain.

UN's Ban in Lebanon, Russia and implementation of 1701 not shown

  Like you, Williams replied, I read colorful media reports. But it is up to the Secretary General and the decision should be made in a few weeks. We'll see.

Footnote: Russia also, behind the scenes, raised issues recently about the UN's panel of inquiry into the killing of civilians in Guinea. As with the strange pattern of the UN Mission anthrax scare, people are trying to find a pattern here.

* * *

Diplomatic "Anthrax" Postmarked from Texas, France Says, UN Terror Defenses Misused

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 10 -- At the UN Security Council stakeout the morning after the anthrax scare at the French, Austrian and Uzbek embassies, French Ambassador Gerard Araud told the Press that the letters had been mail from Dallas. "Don't mess with Texas," he said in an exaggerated drawl.

  He recounted how the staff of the French Mission to the UN had been decontaminated until 3:30 in the morning in a truck outside the Mission. Women first, men after, he said, describing how people passed their clothing into a small hole, and after decontamination put on plastic suits.

  The geo-political logic (of the three countries targeted) makes no sense, he said. Austria has the Council presidency this month, and has its big event, a debate on the protection of civilians, scheduled for November 11. Others mused to Inner City Press about American bases in Uzbekistan. It is a country known for torturing political opponents, and shooting them in the street. 

  The NYPD quickly concluded that the substance was not, in fact, anthrax. Because the common denominator is the UN, missions to, in this publication it will be called l'affaire Banthrax.

France's Araud and UN's Ban: l'affaire Banthrax not shown

  Meanwhile, the UN Secretariat used the NYPD's anti-terroristic threat squad to try to silence or back off a former UN staffer in the Democratic Republic of Congo who wrote to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon among other things that his family is still threatened in the region due to the work he did for the UN. Click here for that Inner City Press exclusive story, and watch this site.

* * *

UN Calls NYPD On Congo Staffer They Used Against Rebels, "UN Put My Family in Danger"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- While the UN Security Council held consultations Monday about its peacekeeping mission's involvement in the armed conflict between rebel groups and the Congolese Army, a related but more personal drama played out just outside the UN on First Avenue.

  The UN summoned New York City police officers to deal with John Dimandja Wembalonge. John C. Fernandez of the NYPD's Threat Assessment Unit counseled Mr. Dimandja to "stay away from the UN," following an e-mail Dimandja had sent to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, reproduced in full below.

   In it and related correspondence to the UN, Dimandja explained that he was a national staff member of the UN Mission in the Congo who had fled death threats after helping the UN disarm rebels in Ituri in Eastern Congo.

   Now Dimandja's family remains in the region at risk. "The UN is doing nothing," Dimandja told Inner City Press on First Avenue on Monday night. He said that the chief of the UN's Department of Field Services Susana Malcorra had, though an intermediary named Cedrick, told him to bring in his internal UN employment file, called at PHP, that perhaps a job could be found for him in New York and then his family brought.

  "But that will be too late," Dimandja told Inner City Press, and Officer Fernandez.

  According to Dimandja, while working for the UN in Ituri he was sent in to meeting of Lendu militias to convince them to disarm..Dimandja took pictures and video, and had, he says, much success in disarmament. But when militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo was indicted for war crimes, Dimandja's video footage put him in danger.

  "They were trying to kill anyone who had taken pictures," he told Inner City Press. Who? "The militias had become soldiers in the Congolese Army," he said. It was the same government soldiers who the UN assists who were trying to kill him.

UN disarmament meeting in Ituri, protection of UN national staff not shown

  Dimandja says a UN official, Philip Toulet, advised him to pay a bribe to Congolese police, and to get paperwork to flee to the U.S. and seek asylum. He arrived in New York a year ago, and went straight to UN headquarters. He says the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, ostensibly in charge of investigations, referred him to the staff counsel. He got nowhere, and lacking the funds to stay in New York City, he went upstate to Rochester for three months.

  Since being back in New York, he has sought to meet with Ban Ki-moon. But his e-mails, culminating in a threat to step in front of Ban's motorcade, resulted only in interventions by NYPD. "Stay away from the UN," Officer Fernandez advised him Monday night. "Perhaps this gentleman can help you." Here's hoping.

Some of Dimandja's e-mails

Subject: Urgent
From: John Dimandja
Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 12:51 PM
To: Ban Ki-moon, Susana Malcorra, DSG Migiro

Dear Mr. Secretary General

Good afternoon, I am John Dimandja UN staff from MONUC, I would like to bring up to your attention that I have not a way to contact you due to multiple obstructions on your way, have prevented me to meet with you, and the New York local police is already informed about the plan that I am going to make very soon for meeting you.

Dear Sir, I am going to stop your vehicle everywhere I can, in way to put myself in contact with you, it will appear like a terrorist act but I am not a terrorist I am UN staff's member who is looking for a very urgent assistance.

The reason I am writing this mail to you is to inform you in advance that this will surely happen, you are kindly recommended to inform your security body about it, if they gunshot on me believe that you kill your own staff member, please be advised that this E-mail is copied to the local police of New York City in charge of the UN premises security (17 precinct community affairs New York, NY 10022) The way to avoid this sad event is to respond promptly to my request of appointment.

I would like again to inform you, Mr. Secretary General that my family is living day after day in a permanent danger and in fear of death because the community of rebels that wanted to kill me had his base in UGANDA this is the reason why my family is hidden in UGANDA.

I am expecting to hear very soon from you

Best regards

John Dimandja.

* * *

At UN, Obasanjo Brags of Deadly Kimia II, LRA Not in Mandate, Mountain in the Dusk

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- Only days after human rights groups documented hundreds of killings of civilians by the UN-assisted Congolese Army as part of Operation Kimia II, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told the Security Council that "Operation Kimia II is achieving reasonable success."

  After the Council meeting, Inner City Press asked Obasanjo how this squares with the killed civilians, which had so far led even the UN Mission in the Congo to say it is suspending work with elements of the 213th Brigade, for the killing of 62 civilians.

  "I'm telling you what people told us," Obasanjo said, "operation versus the FDLR is welcome."

What about the 600 civilians who have been killed by the Congolese Army, documented by Human Rights Watch? Obansanjo, rather than disputing the number, played the ad hoc democracy card. "If the Congolese people says its necessary, why should I say to MONUC, or to anyone else for that matter, that what the Congolese people want they shouldn't get?" Video here, from Minute 7:19.

  Given the argument that popular will trumps or supports the killing of civilians, Inner City Press asked what Obasanjo's report was based on: a poll? "I was there," Obasanjo said, as a staffer gestured for the stakeout microphone to be taken away from Inner City Press.

  Since Obasanjo, even inside UN headquarters, walked surrounded by bodyguards and entourage, it's difficult to imagine him conducting a scientific man and woman on the street poll in the Kivus. But as they say, you hear what you want to hear. Obasanjo is stepping back from his UN Great Lakes gig. We will follow his next moves.

Obasanjo at UN on Nov. 9, dead civilians and LRA not shown

  As he left, Inner City Press asked, "What about the LRA," Lord's Resistance Army? Video here, from Minute 11:08. "The LRA is not part of my mandate," Obasanjo said, even though the Great Lakes include Uganda. If you design a mandate narrowly enough, success is not so difficult. Many say -- another scientific poll -- that Presidents Kabila and Kagame would have spoken anyway. But for Obasanjo, next stop: Mo Ibrahim prize?

   This month's Council president Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria read out a press statement congratulating Obasanjo, as well as MONUC. Inner City Press asked about the 600 dead civilians, and the report by MSF that the Congolese Army used them as bait to attack civilians. Video here, from Minute 1:58. He referred to the press statement on the first, and said he hasn't seen reports of the second. We trust he will.

Footnote: When Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas about the MSF as bait story, she didn't answer, except to say that outgoing MONUC deputy Ross Mountain would be in town this week and should answer questions. Mountain was seen in the dusk outside the UN on Monday night. When will the questions be answered?

* * *

On UN, Congo Says All or Nothing, Silence on MSF "Bait" Accusation, New P-5ers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- While the UN Mission in the Congo will stop assisting some units of Congo's 213th Brigade because they killed 62 civilians, according to top UN Peacekeeper Alain Le Roy, evidence mounts of far more extensive murder by other brigades and units of the Congolese army.

In this context, Inner City Press on November 5 asked the DRC's Ambassador to the UN Atoki Ileka what he thought of Le Roy's announcement. Ambassador Ikeka turned the question around, asking "how can you work with only parts of an army?"

Inner City Press noted to him that this was similar to Human Rights Watch's position, that MONUC should stop working with the Congolese Army as a whole, at least as regards the Kimia II operation. Yes, Ambassador Ileka said, on that we have the same position. Only at the UN.

   Unprompted, standing outside the UN General Assembly after the debate and vote on the Goldstone report on Gaza, Ambassador Ileka told Inner City Press, Alan Doss, he has his own problems, I'm not going to add to them.

At the November 6 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: Medecins sans frontieres has said in great detail that a vaccination campaign they conducted in October in FDLR-control areas of [the Democratic Republic of] the Congo was used as “bait” -- that is the word they used. So that FARDC [the Congolese Armed Forces] attacked the vaccination sites, killed some civilians and sent others into the bush. It’s such a graphic allegation on their part, I’m wondering what is MONUC -- is this a unit MONUC works with? Does MONUC deny that it happened? What’s MONUC going to do about that?

Spokesperson Michele Montas: I’m going to get more information -- in fact, we are going to have someone from [MONUC] coming to brief you on the Congo shortly. Mr. Ross Mountain [Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is supposed to come next week and he will be briefing you on the Congo, so I would suggest that you ask him the questions.

  Ross Mountain will immanently leave the MONUC mission, and more and more people say Alan Doss should. Is there accountability in the UN system?

In DRC, Obasanjo arrives, FARDC civilian abuse not shown

  On November 9, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo strode into the Security Council with an entourage, to brief about the Great Lakes region: how many trip to how many heads of state. Some mused that one of his last times at the UN, he was questioned about his role in now controversial Chinese infrastructure deals in Nigeria, if that gave him a conflict in deal with Congo's similar -- although now somewhat shrunken -- deal. Didn't he get mad? a correspondent asked Inner City Press, the poser of the Chinese dealing question. He should have seen it coming. And this time? Watch this site.

Council footnotes, or bookends: The grandly named new UK Permanent Representative, Ambassador Mark Lyall "No Hyphen" Grant, is said to have arrived in New York "at the weekend." He will get accredited, some face time with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and then assume his position in the Council. There are some hoping he's adopt a less exclusive approach, at least to the media, than those before him.

  France's Gerard Araud, who's said in French-only briefings to rebuff questions about poverty and spending, for example Sarkozy's on his EU Presidency stint, is still settling in. And so Russia, with the longest serving Ambassador, and China, which reportedly blocked consensus on the most recent Sudan sanctions report, will some say have the P-5 upper hand for a while. We'll see.

* * *

UN's Security Phase Confusion in Af-Pak Shown at Stakeout, Ban and Nambiar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 6 -- In a press encounter that ended in disarray, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called the UN security threat level in Afghanistan confidential, despite it being public in Pakistan, and then described the reclassification, renovation and vacating of various guest houses in Kabul.

  His chief of staff Vijay Nambiar rushed to the stakeout and gestured to spokesperson Michele Montas to end it. Mr. Nambiar then told Inner City Press, we can't tell them how to attack us.

  Mr. Ban had emphasized the UN is not abandoning Afghanistan, that it cannot curtail its development efforts there. Inner City Press asked about northwest Pakistan, where the UN country office issued a press release putting the threat level at Phase IV and suspending UN development activities, and asked what the Phase is in Afghanistan. Video here, from Minute 6:42.

  Mr. Ban said that security phases are "determined by DSS" [the Department of Safety and Security] "after evaluating all situations." He said it "needs not to be known publicly."

  Inner City Press asked if there isn't a conflict of interest, like in Algeria before the UN was bombed there, in which host countries doesn't want the UN Security Phase raised, even if it's needed. Mr. Ban acknowledged that this is "very sensitive," that host countries don't like the level raised because it could effect "national prestige" and "socio economic activities." He said, however, that the UN sets its levels objectively.

  Another reporter asked, in light of the UN's pulling out of Iraq after the bombing of its Canal Hotel headquarters, what are the "red lines" that would trigger a pull out from Afghanistan. Mr. Ban began to answer. Inner City Press remarked to a diplomat at the stakeout, yeah, tell the Taliban what it would take for the UN to leave.

  Then, as Mr. Ban was describing the categorization of the UN's 93 guest houses into those to be closed and those to be brought to "MOSS" standards, Mr. Nambiar rushed back to the stakeout and gestured that this should stop. Some thought this was because of Ban's next appointment, with his advisory group of businesses on the environment. But Mr. Nambiar explained, we cannot tell them how to attack us.

UN's Ban and Nambiar leave Council, divergence on disclosure not yet shown

  While this statement was at the stakeout, with no mention of being off the record or on background, some have since tried to say this was implicit. For this reason, Inner City Press is not using the direct quote. But in fact, it is not surprising that even the UN's 38th floor would have divergent views on how much to disclose. Both positions in this case could be defended. And reporting these facts is to show how the UN actually functions.

  Inner City Press asked this month's Security Council president, Austria's Thomas Mayr-Harting, if Mr. Ban had told the Council in its consultations what the UN Security Phase is in Afghanistan. He said he would rather not "get into the details." Video here.

  Another reporter remarked to Inner City Press that "it is easy enough to learn the UN Security Phase." But why then be so secretive? In fact, Inner City Press is informed that the Phase in Afghanistan, even after the killing of five UN staff in a commando style raid by the Taliban, was kept at Phase III, while it was raised to Phase IV in Pakistan. Is this objective? Watch this site.

 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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