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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At the UN, Moves to Rename West Bank, Dodge Questions on Sudan, Rwanda and Tony Blair's Costs

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Muse

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- The UN Security Council's output last week on Lebanon included characterizing the failure to provide "proof of life" of captured Israeli soldiers as threat to international peace and security. Diplomatic sources tell Inner City Press that South Africa and Indonesia, in particular, thought this language too one-sided. (It also represents a form of micro-management that the Council is unwilling to engage in even where needed, such as in Somalia, click here for that.)

     But in the face of requests to change this and other language, the U.S. reportedly threatened to seek its own amendments, to expand UNIFIL's mandate north all the way to the Syrian border. This is how the Security Council works. The final resolution "emphasiz[es] the need to address the causes of the conflict, including that the abducted Israeli soldiers have not been released, nor has proof of life been provided, and call[s] once again for their immediate and unconditional return," click here for more.

            Meanwhile, in the basement of UN headquarters during a week-long meeting of experts on geographic names, a proposal was quietly put forward to change the name of the West Bank to Judea and Samara. Another naming-battle looms, with North Korea seeking to change the name of the Sea of Japan. The issue of Russia planting its flag under the North Pole has still not been addressed by the UN -- although Jorn Sievers, the Liaison Officer with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, did note to an intrepid radio reporters that there are far more names than geographic features up in those cold waters.

            Speaking of water, there has been drilling on the UN campus' North Lawn, where the so-called Swing Space is to be built, to relocate the General Assembly. The groundbreaking was to have been later this year but is now reportedly being put off, due to liquid findings under the lawn. Another set-back in a slew of many. And still no move to release the list of violations found by the Fire Department of the City of New York.

            Speaking of the General Assembly, with its General Debate slated to begin on September 25, the UN's Office of Legal Affairs last week have a briefing for delegations only, on the topic of how to though out "intruders," including members of the media, from meetings that are supposed to be Closed. They will post guards outside, but if pesky reporters manage to slip through, it is up to the presiding officer to over them removed. Game on.

Ban and Blair in London, costs and Barbados chow-down not shown

            The week ended with a number of unanswered questions. From Friday's noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: On Sudan, there is pretty much confirmed reports that Sudan has expelled diplomats from Canada and the European Commission from Khartoum, so I am wondering if the UN system has any comment on the Al-Bashir Government expelling [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  We've asked that question to the UN Mission.  It told us that they were aware that letters requesting the Charge d'Affaires of Canada and the European Union to leave the country had been issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  This is really all we know at the moment -- information we got from the UN Mission in Sudan.  You know, it is for the respective countries to react to the Government of Sudan.  We are just following the developments at this point.

Inner City Press: On Tony Blair's office as the Envoy of the Quartet -- what is going to be the UN's role in paying the cost of that office?  Is it going to pay a quarter, is it paying all, is it paying none?  Where does that stand?

Spokesperson:  I'll try to find out for you -- I don't have that information.

Inner City Press: And finally, this meeting with the [inaudible] of Rwanda that is taking place now -- I guess, I am just wondering what... he is going into it, whether a couple of topics have come up with Rwanda.  One, they've criticized the UNDP report that they spend too much on the military and say that they have to.  There is also this issue of the general -- they are trying to defend the general.  Are these among the topics for the meeting?  What is the meeting about?

Spokesperson:  Peacekeeping is certainly a major part of that discussion.  As you know, Rwanda has contributed a number of troops to United Nations peacekeeping forces.  So, definitely this is part of the agenda.

Inner City Press:  But the issue of the general, whose human rights record is contested -- is that coming up there?

Spokesperson:  That should be coming up, also.

            None of the "I'll find out for you" information has yet been provided. On a more somber and serious note, Inner City Press was told by UN bird flu expert David Nabarro that his son Tom broke his neck while snowboarding. A blog has been established, to provide updates and to raise needed funds. Visit And that's (some of) the week at the UN...

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Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without DPA having respond.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540