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At UN, Peru's Toledo Coy about Election, Blasts Chavez, Draws Venezuelan Protest

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 26 -- Former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, reportedly polling at 11% support in the run up to the 2011 election, spoke Friday at the UN in New York. Inner City Press asked him about his poll numbers and plans, including if he might join forces with the leader of the Partido Popular Cristiano, Lourdes Flores Nano, who polls lower at six percent.

  "I understand you are a journalist," Toledo began. "You do your job and I do mine. I am not a candidate, I'm sorry to disappoint you." He paused. "At least not yet."

  Toledo went on to describe his "heavy burden" as the first president elected in 500 years from "an Andean background... I'm concerned how to implement, how to change lives."

  Describing his life as a professor, he concluded that he'd "lost him mind" once moving from "academia to politics, I'm trying to be care not to commit the same mistake."

  Toledo was also asked, twice, about Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Toledo contrasts a leader flush with oil money with one, implicitly like him, who tries to manage an economy correctly. He denounced the shutting down of media and arrests of political opponents.

A representative of Venezuela's Mission to the UN ran out into the hallway of the UN's new Temporary North Lawn Building, clutching his cell phone. Later, a more senior Venezuelan representative, Ms. Medina, entered the room. She was given the last question of the UN University event.

  She chided Toledo for criticizing President Chavez without giving any notice to the Venezuelan Mission, calling this "cobardia" or cowardice.

UN's Ban and Toledo, Hugo Chavez and right of reply not shown

 The audience, with many Toledo supporters in attendance, booed the use of this word, and urged the UNU moderator to cut off the question. But Ms. Medina continued, in Spanish, with the colleague who had called her providing a monotone translation.

  She said the Toledo had supported the coup against Chavez in 2003. While some argue that it was not a coup at all, Toledo when he responded countered that he had issued a press released condemning the attempt to oust Chavez. He conceded that for a time his popularity had sunk to 8%, but he said this was because he was not "managing for polls." Ms. Medina rolled her eyes. She said Toledo did not understand democracy.

Afterwards, Ms. Medina was heard to say while in the UN coffee line that "there are going to be problems." It was unclear if this meant a complaint against UNU. She also told a journalist to be sure to report "objectively." Or what?

  Also after the showdown, sources say that Toledo's wife complained to the UNU moderator about the Venezuelan intervention, and ask that he deliver a short apology for the camera crew following Toledo. Some surmised a campaign commercial being filmed.

At Friday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the relation between UNU and the UN, and whether UN events held inside UN buildings implied that member states have the "right of reply" as they have in the General Assembly. Nesirky said he'd look into it. Watch this site.

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With Euro Tanking On Reports of Greece Turning to IMF, of Half Answers, on Dodd Bill and Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18, updated -- As Angela Merkel speaks darkly about ejecting from the Euro zone non compliant countries like Greece, that country's renewed threat of turning for help to the International Monetary Fund has the market selling off the Euro.

  Near the end of the IMF's fortnightly press briefing on Thursday morning, spokesperson Caroline Atkinson, beyond saying the IMF has not had a request for financial assistance, declined to describe various aspects of Greece's relations with the IMF. Her boss, Dominique Strauss Kahn, previously bragged that the IMF would "intervene" in Greece upon request.

  France's finance minister Lagarde, belatedly added to the UN's climate finance group after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was confronted with the fact he'd named men to all 19 positions on the panel, has said the EU can still be Greece's interlocutor and helper, not the IMF.

  Her president Sarkozy has a personal motive to oppose IMF help to Greece: Strauss Kahn is polling ahead of him for the next French election.

Strauss-Kahn, ready to "intervene" in Greece, could leave IMF - "hypothetically"

   Inner City Press submitted to the IMF during its briefing, but without answer yet, questions about financial reform and the Fund's apparently stalled consideration of a third tranche to Sri Lanka. It was mostly Greece on Thursday, with few answers from the IMF.

Update: later these two answers came in from the IMF:

Re Senator Dodd’s bill, overall, we support the thrust toward comprehensive reforms that would address the gaps in financial regulation illustrated by the crisis. Strong and prompt implementation would both help to secure financial stability going forward.

Re Sri Lanka, not much update. As you know, staff will visit Colombo after the parliamentary elections and the formation of the new cabinet, to discuss with the government its plan for a 2010 budget.

Best regards,
Yoshiko Kamata
Media Relations, IMF

* * *

IMF's Strauss-Kahn Coy on Opposing Sarkozy and Intervening in Greece, IMF and Greek Denials, Yemen Deferrals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 4, updated -- The managing director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn bragged Thursday to radio station RTL in his native France that he might leave the IMF early -- and perhaps challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency -- and that if asked by Greece, the IMF could "intervene" in the country.

  Questions about both comments were dodged later on Thursday by the spokesperson for Strauss-Kahn and the IMF, Caroline Atkinson. Strauss-Kahn is quoted that "As it stands... I am planning to see out my mandate. But if you ask me whether in certain circumstances I could reconsider this question, the answer is yes, I could reconsider this question."

  This is consciously leaving open the door to reconsider and leave. But Ms. Aktinson emphasized only his "planning to see out my mandate" and called everything else "hypothetical."

  On Greece, Strauss-Kahn said regally, "I have a mission on the ground to provide technical advice requested by the Greek government. And if we're asked to intervene, we will." He added, "I understand that the Europeans don't want this for the moment."

Inner City Press on Thursday morning asked Dimitris Droutsas, Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece, to describe his government's thinking about IMF help. Mr. Droutsas responded on the record, "Categorically may I state, any idea of the IMF... there is no idea about that."

Still, at Thursday's IMF biweekly briefing, Ms. Aktinson emphasized the "the IMF" -- not just Strauss-Kahn -- "had a technical team in Athens because the Greeks are very interested in getting any help from us on the technical implementation of the plan."

  Later on February 4 Droutsas told Inner City Press, on camera, that he was unaware of any IMF team having been in Athens. Video here, last question. One wag wondered, has the IMF become like the CIA, or Xe / Blackwater, whose presence is alleged and denied?

   But the IMF under Strauss-Kahn brags about being present. As with the wider UN, the rush to be relevant.

   It was surprising, then, that when Inner City Press asked Ms. Aktinson about Yemen -- using as the lead in a quote by UK Foreign Secretary (Ivan Lewis) that "we address the economic problems that face Yemen, especially through the IMF program" -- Ms. Atkinson said she didn't have information about Yemen and would have to respond later to Inner City Press. But as February 4 hit midnight, no information was provided. Yemen is in the news, and one would expect the omnipresent Strauss-Kahn to be all over it. We'll see.

Ms. Atkinson gave a pro-IMF spin in responding to Inner City Press' question about the IMF's new loan to Haiti, but we'll be writing about that later, along with the IMF's Yemen response. 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.

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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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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