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On Sri Lanka, "No Strong Request" Anymore for Council Meeting, Japan's Mediation Results, N. Korean Missile on Horizon?

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 18 -- As meetings begin on the need to reform the UN Security Council, the disposition of a member's request for a briefing about the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka exemplifies flaws in how the body functions.

  In early February, as the pace of civilian death escalated in northern Sri Lanka, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller asked for a briefing in the Council on the issue. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin responded that such a briefing would be improper. Churkin later confirmed this to Inner City Press, on camera, adding that while the issue could for example be raised in the General Assembly, it is not on the Security Council's agenda.

  Inner City Press last week asked Mexico's Heller for the status of his request. He said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had sent an envoy, that the request was still live, and that he and Mexico believe that Sri Lanka can be discussed in the Council.  

  But later on February 18, this month's Council president, Japan's Yukio Takaso, replied to Inner City Press' follow-up question by stating that "at this moment, there is no strong request for a member." Video here, from Minute 5:43. Inner City Press asked, weren't you tasked to mediate between Mexico and Russia on this issue? Ambassador Takasu said, "yes, I am tasked to coordinate this position, this disagreement, I have been trying to narrow differences." By his account, the result of his narrowing has been to push the issue of Sri Lanka even further from discussion or briefing in the Security Council.

   Other Security Council Ambassadors have told Inner City Press that Takasu has been very solicitous of Russia, for example apologizing profusely to Churkin for not being able to block some uses of the word "Georgia" with respect to Abkhazia, which Russia, followed only by Nicaragua, has recognized as independent from that country. (For the record, Takasu is solicitous of the Press as well, scrupulously takes all questions, at least as President.) In this scenario, Japan which wants a permanent seat on the Council is bending over backwards during the month of its presidency to please the existing Permanent Five, Russia included.

Amb. Takasu, taking Press questions, N. Korea missile and Sri Lanka request not shown

  A close observer of Japanese foreign policy, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a need to continue to deal with those involved in the policy, surmises that since Japan's national position is to keep the Sri Lanka issue out of the Council, Takasu's mediation as president was impacted by the goals of his nation. Takasu often says, "putting on my chapeau" as Japanese Ambassador, as opposed to ostensibly non-national Council president. But, this close observer said, in the case of Sri Lanka, Japanese foreign policy may have been implemented in part by its role as monthly president.

 Footnote: In a somewhat similar issue on the Council's horizon, Inner City Press asked Mr. Takasu if the reports that North Korea is moving toward testing a long-range missile have been mentioned among Council members, and how the Council might react to such a test.  Takasu replied that the issue, which he is known to be discussing, has not arising in the Council, and that "it is not useful to speculate" on the "expected response by the Council."  Video here, from Minute 10:25.

   Close observers predict that Japan would request a Security Council meeting, and even draft a "product" for that meeting, rather than simply relying on the framework of the Six Party Talks on North Korea. Ironically, since Libya will be Council president in March, an implicit position seems to be, if you are going to test the missile, do it in February...

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

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.

* * *

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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