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On Sudan, UN to Name Panel This Week, Obama's 5 Minutes on Darfur & Bashir Photo Op?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 20 -- Before the Sudan meeting on September 24, which will include US President Barack Obama and Rwandan President Paul Kagame among others, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is trying to name the three members of his Panel to monitor the referendums set for January 9.

The UN says it is trying to name a former African head of state as the panel's chairperson, but has received push-back from the National Congress Party of Omar al Bashir and from the SPLM. The UN privately admits that it will not open the 80 monitoring sites it has announced, but perhaps only as few as fifty five.

  Meanwhile on Darfur, joint UN - African Union mediator Bassole wants to announce a new set of talks in Doha for September 28-29 with “a movement,” believed to be the relatively pro government Liberation and Justice Movement, which is headed by a former UN staff member.

  Another former UN staff member who served with the Mission in Western Sahara which has yet to hold the referendum promised there is now in charge in Sudan of the Referendum Commission, with the UN trying to provide assurances to the SPLM that this does not portend delay.

  Inner City Press on September 20 asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky to confirm that previous service with the UN in Western Sahara. Nesirky, who often tried to shirk off such questions from Inner City Press to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations or Department of Political Affairs could not do so in this instance, and promised to revert.

  Nesirky or DPKO should also explain how it is legitimate for the UN to use UN Volunteers for most of the 600 new posts in its UNMIS Mission. Nesirky's office has previously claimed that the UN's humanitarian coordinator Georg Charpentier does not show his press releases to the Sudanese humanitarian affairs minister, something of which a more senior UN official has since said that Nesirky's answer was not true, that the releases ARE being shown during this “tense” period.

  Of the September 24 meeting itself, the UN has already circulated the elements of the statement it hopes will issue, and says that Ban Ki-moon will restrain himself to five minutes, hoping that other participants will. But President Obama's advisor Samantha Power, on a September 20 conference call, said that Obama will be delivering “substantial remarks” in the meeting.

Ban, Obama, Pascoe, Menkerios: focus on Darfur not shown

   Inner City Press was not called on to ask Ms. Power or Ambassador Susan Rice to describe the current status of the UN Security Council's trip to Sudan, which has been stalled based on the desire of the US, UK and France to avoid a photo op with Omar al Bashir, indicted for war crimes and genocide. There is a dinner on Monday night hosted by Sudan at which this may be discussed. Or will the trip be among Obama's “substantive remarks” on Friday?

  On the White House conference call, very little was said of Darfur. The UN has accepted restrictions on its freedom of movement so that it does not even leave its bases while civilians are being slaughtered, as happened earlier this month in the Tarabat Market. President Obama, it seems, will not be mentioning this. And the UN, retaliating for coverage of its inaction, speaks only to its friends. Some diplomacy. Watch this site.

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Sudan Actions in NY as UN Council's Trip is Stalled, China Warn of Bashir Humiliation

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- The UN Security Council's planned trip to Sudan remained stalled on Sunday, as the UK, France and US oppose any meeting or photo op with Omar al Bashir.

 Inner City Press asked a Permanent Five member of the Council's ambassador if there was any movement and was told of a dinner hosted by Sudan on Monday night near the UN, at which Vice President Taha will be pushed “to clarify.”

  Later on Sunday, Inner City Press sought to ask US Ambassador Susan Rice about the trip, as she walked from the meeting of the Panel on Global Sustainability to a reception, but was given no answer.

  Elsewhere in New York on Sunday, Sudanese activists Albaqir Mukhtar and Salih Osman Mahmoud spoke at Lincoln Center at a poverty event alongside a group fighting deaths on the road , while members of the Sudanese diaspora rallied in front of the UN. (Click here for a description of the rally by Bec Hamilton, and photos including the one below.)

Rally outside UN on Sept 19 by Bec Hamilton, UNSC trip not shown

  On the sideline of the Security Council's last meeting, the Permanent Representative of a Council member which is a member of the ICC told Inner City Press of a willingness to meet and greet Bashir, adding that the US and UK Ambassadors could just “stay in the hotel watching CNN.”

  But Inner City Press is told by involved sources that China has warned Sudan that the US, France and UK may “try to humiliate” Bashir, and to watch out for it. So the stand off continues. Watch this site.

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UN's Amos on Working With Sudan Gov't, Justifies Withholding of Darfur Data

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 15 -- A month after the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it would provide Darfur malnutrition data to the Press in “one or two days,” new OCHA chief Valerie Amos responded that the UN has been slowed by trying to do “joint assessments” with Sudan's government.

Already, the peacekeepers of UNAMID in Darfur refuse to leave their bases to protect civilians without getting approval from the Sudanese authorities. But why would the UN's ostensibly independent humanitarian arm tie its ability to release information about malnutrition to obtaining the joint agreement of the very government accused of playing a role in the starvation?

Inner City Press asked more generally what Ms. Amos will do about humanitarian, not only in Jebel Marra in Darfur, from which NGOs have been barred since February, but also Waziristan in western Pakistan, blockaded by the military and subject to done strikes in the US. Video here, from Minute 11:53.

Ms. Amos began by saying that the “independence and impartiality of humanitarian workers” cannot be compromised by the UN. Then, by referring to security and the “duty of care,” she compromised it. Sudan, for example, tells the UN it cannot guarantee its safety, a code word for: don't go.

Most recently, local authorities in West Darfur have come up with a strategy of “persona non grata by another name,” saying that UNHCR and FAO officials in Darfur are not safe and should leave.

What does Ms. Amos think of these government announcements?

UN's Ban and Ms. Amos, access and Darfur starvation data not yet shown

 Does she believe that the UNHCR officials have a right to distribute rape detection equipment? That FAO can circulate petitions against hunger? These are the grounds on which the UN officials were told they are not safe and should leave. What will Ms. Amos do? 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.

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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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