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As Sri Lanka Rejects UN's Ceasefire Call, No Response from Ban, Help Mulled as Ceasefire Incentive While IMF Extends Visit

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- As Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa openly rejects UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's call for a cessation of fighting in northern Sri Lanka, on Tuesday in New York Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas had no reply to the rejection, calling it a "media report" and focusing on unrelated reports that soldiers may pull out of some of the government's controversial camps for Internally Displaced People. Video here, from Minute 14:57.

  Inner City Press asked for Ban's response to President Rajapaksa's statement, on a government web site, that "We will not cave into pressures from any international quarters, locally and internationally, and will not stop until the war is completely over." This is directly at odds with the public calls by Ban and his top humanitarian official John Holmes for a suspension of fighting.

 It also calls into question the UN's new strategy, enunciated to Inner City Press on Monday night by a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity, that the Sri Lankan government be offered "real help" if it suspends bombing in the areas were civilians are trapped.

  "Sri Lanka could rejoined the world economy," the UN official told Inner City Press. "They have an attractive work force, for assembly, clothing." He said that the UN was thinking how to convince the Tamil Tigers, too, to let civilians go, by allow the Tigers not to "lose face." He said on Monday night, "Even a three or four day ceasefire might give rise to a political process."

  The next morning, when President Rajapaksa rejected "international" even for a short pause in military action, the UN had no comment other than happy talk that "we have been getting a little bit.. of protection of civilians," referring to soldiers leaving some camps. But the government has said they will "remain at the camps for 'security reasons,'" and that freedom of movement will not be afforded to the IDP.

UN's Ban and Mexico's Claude Heller, April's UNSC President, Sri Lanka reaction not shown

  The UN-affiliated International Monetary Fund has extended to a second week its consultations in Sri Lanka. A legal argument is being advanced that the U.S. government would violate applicable law if it did not vote, within the IMF, again Sri Lanka's request, since it would be used for "quasi military" purposes. It has been noted that Sri Lanka has spend $1.6 billion on this offensive in the north, while it asks the IMF for $1.9 billion. Even while it does not comment, one assumes the UN system can do the math.

Footnote: on press freedom, there has still been no response from UNESCO, which committed to answer why it has spoken about assault on the media from the Philippines to Colombia, but not in Sri Lanka. These last two countries were named by African Union chief Jean Ping on Monday, as countries in which the International Criminal Court should look for war crimes cases. Mexico takes over the Presidency of the UN Security Council from Libya on April 1; Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, pictured above with Ban, was the first requester for a Council session on Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

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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