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Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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At UN, Libyan Courtesy Passes Echo Yemen and Rwanda, French Out

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- After the Gaddafi government in Libya wrote to the UN to say that diplomats Ibrahim Dabbashi and Shamgam not longer represented the “Libyan authorities,” the UN decided to switch Dabbashi and Shalgam to “courtesy passes,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on March 21.

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky on March 22 what this means: can Dabbashi and Shalgam speak at the UN Television stakeout in front of the Security Council? Are their passes still associated with Libya? Or are they like non-governmental organizations?

  Nesirky said, “I haven't seen the passes.” Asked for any precedent for this, he could not cite one. He would not even answer who made this decision, saying first “the UN” then, when Inner City Press followed up, saying “the UN Secretariat.”

  Several well placed sources in the Security Council, no fans of Gaddafi, have said this is a strange precedent, and that at a minimum the Secretariat should say who made the decision and on what basis.

  This week the UN Ambassador of Yemen, previously the chair of the Group of 77, reportedly quit after killings by the long time ruler of that country. But Nesirky could not say if the Ambassador has been replaced, or given a courtesy pass.

Dabbashi previously at UN, courtesy pass STILL not shown or explained

Rights to speak at the UN TV stakeout have been contested: as Inner City Press exclusively reported, when a representative of Western Sahara's was speaking at the Security Council stakeout, the cameras went dead, cutting him off. An NGO representative was investigated and barred from the UN after speaking at the stakeout, meant only for member states' representatives.

While Nesirky provided no precedent, a long time UN watcher told Inner City Press it is similar to the representation of Rwanda during the genocide of 1994, when Rwanda was on the Security Council. For a time, the RPF forces of Paul Kagame could only come as non-governmental organizations.

  France's Ambassador Jean-Bernard Merimse was dismissive of the RFP. Then weeks later after Kagame's forces took Kigali and the Council seat, Merimee spoke of “my dear colleague from Rwanda.” Only at the UN.

Footnote: outside a UNU event this week about multi-lingualism, a Francophone Rwandan activist told Inner City Press that Kagame's switch to English is devaluing education and training received in French.

Meanwhile a recent UN Peacebuilding meeting about Guinea Bissau was held in Portuguese -- there is money in that budget, it's said, to get Lusophone translators. But not so for the Libya Sanctions Committee, which has yet to meet due to lack of interpreters. It's not about Portuguese, Inner City Press is told.

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At UN on Libya, the UAE, Norway, Spain, Ukraine & Belgium Give Notice of Action

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 22, updated -- The United Arab Emirates, Norway, Spain, Ukraine and Belgium have provided notification to the UN they intend to take action in Libya under Security Council Resolution 1973, Inner City Press is reliably informed.

  While Resolution 1973 requires countries taking action on Libya to give prior notification to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky did not answer repeated e-mail requests in the days after the resolution passed for a list of notifying countries. Even at the noon briefing of March 21, he did not have the list.

  At 3:30 on Monday afternoon his office sent out an email listing “United Kingdom, France, United States, Denmark, Canada, Italy and Qatar” and saying that “those notifications have been transmitted to the Security Council.”

  Since the UN's involvement in the military campaign in and over Libya is one of its attractions for some, it would seem the UN should more quickly and transparently disclose the notifications to the public, and describe the “coordinating” role assigned to Ban Ki-moon in Resolution 1973.

  The Security Council Affairs unit worked hard over the weekend, but they are not the Spokesperson. They have not yet set up their own web site to make disclosures. But the Spokesperson's Office is lagging behind.

Inner City Press can now report that Spain, Norway, UAE, Ukraine and Belgium have provided notifications to the UN under Resolution 1973.

   There -- was that so hard?

Update 1: to his credit, UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant rattled off the twelve names (the seven named yesterday, and five coming after.) This was confirmed by another P-5 country. A non permanent member's Permanent Representative was amazed that the names are not better made public.

Update 2: regarding Ukraine, it's worth nothing that it took weeks for Ukraine's parliament to authorized attack helicopters for the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire, leading to the question: how fast can or will Ukraine move after giving notice?

  Inner City Press has suggested to a P-5 Council member that a sign board be erected in front of the Council with the number -- and names -- of Libya notifiers under Resolution 1973. "Good idea," the P-5 representative said. But will it happen?

Footnotes: one reason for the dysfunctional relationship between the Spokesperson's Office and Security Council Affairs is that the Spokesman was ejected from Council consultations, and did little more to oppose this than a conciliatory and ineffective letter from Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. Now when Security Council Affairs gets information of global interest, the Spokesperson's Office does not report it in anything like real time. Thus the UN decays. Watch this site.

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On Libya, As UN Council Punts Until Thursday, Mystery of Courtesy Passes, Lamamra, Spain & Norway

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- With bombs, and at least one US plane, dropping on Libya, the UN Security Council on Monday declined to “take cognizance” of a letter from Gaddafi's foreign minister Moussa Koussa, putting off the matter until a briefing by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in three days.

  Ban is supposed to be coordinating enforcement of the No Fly Zone provided by Council resolution 1973. At the UN's noon briefing on Monday, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to describe the coordination he is giving.

  The answer was that he attended Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting in Paris on March 19, and is taking in notifications of the countries doing the bombing and transmitting these to the Security Council.

  Later on Monday, Ban's Spokesperson's Office squawked that seven countries had thus far provided notice: the US, UK, France, Denmark, Canada, Italy and a single Arab country, Qatar.

The European side of the list seems to have omissions, like Norway and Spain which is providing refueling. But what of Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia? Are the last two too busy in Bahrain?

After the Security Council kept Moussa Koussa at arms length -- and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin admonished a Western spokesman for spinning the press about it, click here for that story -- the Council held a closed meeting about Sudan.

  Inner City Press asked Sudan's Ambassador for his country's position on the action in Libya. We are members of the Arab League, he said, we support that position.

  But isn't Sudan also a member of the African Union, which has criticized the bombing, and couldn't even get into the country as provided for in the resolution? We are a member of both, Sudan's Ambassador said, leaving the UN microphone.

In explanation of the African Union position there is not only the money and support Gaddafi threw around the Continent for so long -- there is also the under reported role on the AU Peace & Security Council of Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria, a country which has strongly supported Gaddafi. On Monday, Lamamra apparently lost his cell phone, as he didn't answer repeated media calls seeking his comment or explanation.

  The UN, for its part, did not explain the meaning of the “courtesy passes” spokesman Nesirky said that Ibrahim Dabbashi and Shalgam have been reduced to.

  Inner City Press asked a lower ranking Libyan diplomat, who said “at least they still have passes.” He added that it is Shalgam who will decide who will speak for Libya on Thursday.  Watch this site.

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At UN on Libya, Churkin of Russia Tells Western Spokesman Not to Spin the Press, "This Is Where Distortions Come From"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 -- Outside the UN Security Council on Monday afternoon, a Western Council member's spokesman was telling reporters that as he had predicted, the Council had declined requests for any meeting about the military action in Libya until Thursday.

  Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin came out of the Council chamber and apparently heard this. He stopped on the steps up to street level, turned back and said, “I must say to that young man, the President of the Council is supposed to brief the media.”

  He pointed at the Western spokesman and asked, “You are from which delegation?”

  The Western spokesman answered. (Since these spokespeople say they are speaking on background, for now the answer is being withheld.)

  Churkin continued, “Double check with your Ambassador. It's really impolite and rude. It's the President who is supposed to brief the media.”

  After Churkin went upstairs, there was speculation about what had triggered the confrontation. On March 16, Churkin had complained about being portrayed as an obstructionist.

  Inner City Press later on March 16 asked US Ambassador Susan Rice about what Churkin had said about Russia's ceasefire in Libya proposal. She said the proposal did not go far enough.

On March 21, Churkin came back. “Now we know where all the distortions come from.”

Inner City Press suggested to him that the Russian Mission's spokesman should brief the media more often.

Churkin previously speaks to press, spokesman not shown

  While that seems to be the consensus among most of the stakeout press corps, others note that some delegation's spokespeople are more likely that others to tell reporters about other countries' positions, while demanding off the record treatment.

  This happened during the first Council resolution on Libya earlier this year, when Portugal was accused off the record of being “weak” on the referral of the case of Libya to the International Criminal Court.

   Later, reporters were urged to “ask Brazil” if they were making problems with the ICC referral. In fact they were, though not at the spinner had implied. Rather, Brazil objected to the US demanded carve out from the ICC referral for countries that are not members of the ICC: not only the US, but such countries as Algeria and Ethiopia, which are not members of the ICC.

Now we know where all the distortions come from”? Oh that it were so. Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

 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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