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At UN on Sri Lanka, Russia Blocked Mexican Request for Briefing, Ban's Contradiction

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 5 -- While in Sri Lanka the army's assault on Tamil Tiger areas continues, in closed door UN Security Council meetings this week Mexico asked that the Council get a briefing about the situation in Sri Lanka. The Permanent Representative of a Council member favoring Mexico's request tells Inner City Press that the request was formally opposed by Russia, which argued that Sri Lanka is not on the agenda of the Council. "Russia in January tries to intimidate the new Council members," this Ambassador told Inner City Press.

  This month's Council president, Yukio Takasu, said he would engage the two sides -- Mexico and Russia -- in bilateral consultations. Now Mexico has said it will raise the issue again next week. But on the ground, how many more civilians will be dead?

  Russia may not be the only Permanent Five member of the Council wanting to keep Sri Lanka off the Council's agenda. Inner City Press asked United Kingdom Ambassador John Sawers, when he spoke about Sudan's assault of a South Darfur town held by rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement, to explain the difference between Sri Lanka and Sudan. They are not comparable, Ambassador Sawers said, adding that the Tigers are on sanctions lists. Video here.

  But the Justice and Equality Movement is known by the UN to have recruited child soldiers, including for its offensive that reached Omdurman just outside Khartoum.

UN's Ban and Sri Lankan President's brother, Jan. 26, no ceasefire call shown

 So to state the obvious, the UK likes the government of Sri Lanka more than the Sudan's. But a requested Council briefing on the situation in Sri Lanka is being blocked, on a technical assertion it is not on the agenda. Zimbabwe wasn't on the agenda, until the UK pushed to have it included under the name "Peace and Security in Africa." How about "Peace and Security in Asia"?  What's in a name?

   The UN's Ban Ki-moon spoke with Sri Lanka's president, and after Inner City Press requested it, his Spokeperson's Office provided this meager read-out of what he talked about:

Subj: Readout of the SG's phone call with the President of Sri Lanka
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 2/5/2009 3:52:35 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

The Secretary-General spoke by phone on Thursday with President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka. They discussed the humanitarian situation in the country.

(Further to that, the Secretary-General's position on Sri Lanka was described most recently in a statement issued last week.)

  Ban raised only the "humanitarian situation in the country," the same phrase used by the UK's John Holmes?  For comparison's sake, Ban called for a ceasefire in Democratic Republic of the Congo on October 10, 2008:

10 October 2008 – Voicing "increasing concern" at developments in the border areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on rebels and the Congolese Government to immediately observe an effective ceasefire and cooperate with United Nations peacekeepers to achieve a separation of forces.

Ban called for a ceasefire in Gaza on January 15, 2009:

15 January 2009 -- My demand is just to stop fighting now - immediately - cease fire immediately. You can discuss this matter to make the ceasefire durable and sustainable, which can be respected fully by the parties concerned. If you take more time then more people will have to be killed. That is an unacceptable situation. We are almost 20 days since this fighting began. The number of casualties has reached an unbearable point. There is a strong wish and expectation and call from the international community that this fighting must stop and establish a durable, sustainable ceasefire so the Gazan citizen population can live in peace and security.

 As it turns out, Ban back in March 2007 called for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka:

27 March 2007: The Secretary-General is disturbed by the extensive and escalating violations of the cease-fire in Sri Lanka, which now includes an air attack this week by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  He deeply regrets that air raids, military confrontations on the ground, and suicide bombings have become a daily occurrence, prompting massive displacement and suffering for civilians. The Secretary-General appeals to the parties to the conflict to break this vicious cycle of attack and retaliation, which only leads to more bloodshed and victims. He urges them to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, without preconditions.

   That was then, this is now. On February 4, Ban's Deputy Spokesperson when twice asked by Inner City Press if Ban is asking for a ceasefire declined to confirm such a call. Watch this site.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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