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At UN, It's "All Hail" to US in Haiti, While Elsewhere France and Brazil Are Critical

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- As the UN Security Council emptied out Monday at noon, sources told Inner City Press that in closed consultations, the U.S. said that to strengthen the mandate of the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, would "send the wrong message... that the Haitian government is weak."

  Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, who represented the U.S. in the meeting and spoke afterwards to the Press, said that the U.S. is supporting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's request for a vote authorizing 2000 more troops and 1500 more police for MINUSTAH.

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Wolff if it is true that the U.S. thinking strengthening the mandate would send some wrong message. Wolff replied that the UN, including chief Peacekeeper Alain Leroy, has not identified any deficiency in the mandate.

  As Brazil's Ambassador left the Council, Inner City Press asked her about public quotes from Brazil that MINUSTAH's mandate should, in fact, be bolstered. She, however, called the mandate "sufficient."

  When asked about any difficulties Brazilian NGOs have had getting into Haiti through the airport, now run by the U.S., she said there have been "no such problems."

  French Ambassador Gerard Araud, too, was over the top in his praise of the U.S., telling the Press that "we are living in the US after all." Inner City Press asked if, as reported, France supported Medecins Sans Frontieres complaints about having planes blocked by the Americans from the Port au Prince airport.

French Ambassador Araud, ministers' critiques of U.S. not shown

  Araud quickly answered (video here) that the Americans are doing a good job, that the airport is small by international standards, and that "we are living in the US after all."

  In fact, French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet made a complaint about the blocking of MSF's plane. And Araud's boss Bernard Kouchner has said the airport has become an "annex or Washington," according to France's Ambassador to Haiti Didier Le Bret.

   So what is France's position -- these two statements, or Araud's?

From the French Mission's transcription, of question dubious, of answer less so:

Inner City Press: Médecins sans frontières complained that its planes couldn’t get in to the airport and blamed the Americans. Does France confirm that?

Amb. Araud: Of course, no. I think we are extremely grateful and personally I said it in the Council, extremely grateful for what the US government is doing, and especially managing the airport. You know, frustrations are understandable. You have a small airport, in international terms, which was devastated by the earthquake and you have hundred of planes which want to land. So it’s totally normal that there are delays, but I think that the situation has dramatically improved. Yesterday, you know, it was possible to have sixty planes landing and today it will be one hundred planes landing. But the most important will be to work on the port. We have to rehabilitate the port where we can bring most of the aid.

Once again, we are living in the US after all, and we want to express our gratitude for the mobilization of the US administration and the US people.

  From the US Mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: Someone said on this idea of strengthening the mandate that the U.S. had a concern that this would send a message somehow that the Government of Haiti was too weak. I just want to know whether you think there is a danger in that type of message being sent. And also whether the U.S. will be participating in the UN's Flash Appeal that was announced on Friday, whether the $100 million announced by President Obama in any way is related to that or should be counted towards that.

Ambassador Wolff: I'll get back to you on the later question, I want to make sure I have the right information for you, exactly how that $100 million fits into that, into the Flash Appeal.  As to the mandate issue, there is no indication, indeed neither the Secretary-General nor Undersecretary-General Le Roy mentioned any deficiency in the current mandate. And so, if the UN is satisfied and the troop contributors are satisfied and the force commander is satisfied then we should focus on what we need to do under the current mandate. Of course, as you indicate, we will need to look and evaluate over the longer term, as we assess the long term impact of this tragedy on the country and on the UN's ability to function, and whether the requirements for the UN have to be adapted in any way.  That is something that we do with any mandate and we will obviously do it with particular attention in this case.

Watch this site.

Footnote: Since the Security Council has other matters on its agenda, Inner City Press tried to ask this month's Council president, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, if and when he expects the Council to address Afghanistan. But having been asked if the Chinese search and rescue team stopped after finding the Chinese delegation who'd met with Hedi Annabi, Zhang Yesui just walked away. Who will replace him as China's Ambassador is not yet known.

* * *

At UN, More Troops for Haiti Debated, U.S. Off Table, 6 Hour Visit Detailed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- Into the UN Security Council Monday morning, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his top advisers filed grim faced in. UN Peacekeeping will be asking for authorization of 800 more soldiers and 450 more police, a Western Council member's spokesperson told reporters.

  Inner City Press asked, Will the resolution address the increased U.S. military presence? No, the spokesperson said. It is only about MINUTAH," the UN Mission there. That the Dominican Republic offered a battalion was discussed. The question was, only to police the border?

  A scribe chosen to accompany Ban to Haiti on Sunday recounted he was on the ground for barely six hours. He was not present at the Christopher Hotel when the Danish UN staffer was miraculously dug out.

  Rather, his spokesperson and that of UN Peacekeeping had run back, while reporters dutifully remained on the UN's bus. The UN documented its own victory over the darkness, by Flip video.

  Among Ban's most senior advisors, several chosen correspondents noticed a dandy-ish fur collar and wondered where PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, might be. These same visually oriented correspondents noted at the stakeout Monday morning the bright red tan of a Latin member's spokesman. Inner City Press asked, Haiti? Somewhere nearby, the genial red faced one replied.

  The UN reporter for a salmon colored daily, who signed up for the trip on January 13 but was told "no luck" on January 17, ended up relying on the UN's own news service for his critique for American management of the airport. Some wondered whether his realistic assessments of Team Ban had left him off the trip while South Korean media was chosen to go.

   The significant other of a still-missing UN staff member complained that no one was or is looking for her, where she was during the quake. Even with the UN dramatically focused on Haiti, these voices seem to get lost.

  While the Ban administration is all hands on deck about Haiti, its seeming inability to deal with more than one issue at once is ill-serving it. On Friday Inner City Press began asking Ban's spokesman about attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan.

   Today I'm sticking to Haiti, the spokesman archly replied.

UN's Ban in Port au Prince on Jan. 17, many things not shown

  While later he related and took the question, three days later there has been no answer.

  By Monday's Council meeting, more attacks had taken place in the heart of Kabul. Still no word from the UN. Nor about moves to further muscle the UN out of the climate change negotiation process.

  The Council's consultations began, with Ban slated to appear before the press at 10:40 or 10:50 a.m.. Watch this space.

Update of 11:19 a.m. -- When Ban Ki-moon came to the stakeout, he said he would take two questions. The first selected question was what he most moved him personally. The second concerned coordination with the U.S., to which Inner City Press followed out: What about the Doctors Without Borders plane turned back? Ban replied that his envoy Edmond Mulet is working with the Americans. Behind Ban, top humanitarian John Holmes whispered to the spokesman. While Ban left for his previously scheduled meeting with UN staff, Holmes stayed to take more Press questions, answers to which will be reported shortly. Watch this site.

* * *

UN's Ban-tourage to Haiti Grows After Protest, of Turf Wars, Hillary and Planes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and an entourage prepare to leave the UN in New York at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, for Newark International Airport and, reportedly, a U.S. provided plane to Port au Prince, the turf war to coordinate aid to Haiti has just begun.

  Despite UN claims to be at the center, at least in this country where it had 7000 peacekeepers, 490 international and 1200 Haitian staff, the U.S. has taken control of the airport. With Ban slated to go to Haiti on Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared Saturday.

  Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon if he thought the $100 million in aid pledged by U.S. President Barack Obama would channeled through the UN's $560 million flash appeal. Ban said that whether or not to work through the UN is the decision of each sovereign government. Well, the Obama Administration's $100 million is not going through the UN.

  Well placed sources tell Inner City Press that went Ban asked Bill Clinton how to fly to Haiti, the response was to "ask Hillary, she'll probably give you a better plane than she'd give me."

  Close watchers of Ban Ki-moon see in all this an attempt to re-brand Mister Ban. Accompanied by new spokesman Martin Nesirky, Ban has appeared each day at the Security Council stakeout, providing television sound byte and avoid questions such as the safety compliance of the UN headquarters building which collapses, and his not counting national Haiti staff in the casualty figures he provided.

  Late Friday, Inner City Press published a detailed report on how Ban and Nesirky chose to accompany Ban to Haiti a TV reporter from Ban's native South Korea, while excluding major wire services.

  Later, and after subsequent protest by spurned wires, an angry Nesirky reversed course and included first two more wires, including the one he used to work for, then also the Voice of America and CNN's long time Diplomatic License correspondent. Another media was belatedly asked if it wanted a seat on the plane but declined, just as the South Korean Yonhap declined Ban's invitation to document his trip to post-Nargis Myanmar.

UN's Ban and copter- Myanmar 2009, Haiti 2010 not yet shown

  Troublingly, it has emerged that the UN initially reached out and hand selected which journalists it wanted to accompany Ban. Inner City Press covered this self-selection of coverage in connection with Ban's controversial trip to Myanmar, where by most accounts he was used and abused by dictator Than Shwe.

  A humanitarian tragedy like Haiti should not present such dangers to Team Ban. Some see in the inclusion from the beginning of Korean television an attempt to use the tragedy for promotion in the homeland, and wonder if that means Ban wants to return there. But that's another story. For the immediate future, along with other UN matters Ban and Nesirky have tried to sideline, we will be reporting on Haiti, in as much detail as allowed or possible. 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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