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March 1, 2011: Libya

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At UN, Bamba of Cote d'Ivoire Takes 7 Questions on Video, France Partners with Nigeria, Invisible Commandos

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 25 -- At Friday's UN Security Council meeting on Cote d'Ivoire, the Ambassador sent by Alassane Ouattara to replace Laurent Gbagbo's Djedje spoke in the Council for the first time. Yousoufou “Joseph” Bamba, now Permanent Representative to the UN, came afterward to take questions on camera from Inner City Press. Click here for YouTube video.

  Inner City Press asked Bamba a range of question, from comparisons to the military enforcement action in Libya to reported killings by Ouattara supporters and the lack of medicine in Abidjan due to EU sanctions.

  Bamba did not dispute the impact of sanctions, saying only that if Ouattara were allowed to act as president these problems would not exist. He had said that the energy put into Libya, compared to that in Cote d'Ivoire, made up a form of “bias.” But he backed away from that.

  In fact, as Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin walked into the Council for the meeting, he was asked about requests for more action by the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire, ONUCI. “Another big war,” he said sarcastically. “Just what we need.”

  Inner City Press conveyed Churkin's remarks to India's Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri. who said, “You want another war? With clear objectives?”

Ban & Bamba, action on Invisible Commandos not shown

  In other comments, Bamba said that the helicopter ONUCI says Gbagbo forces are repairing is one of those destroyed by France in the past. He said that both Gbagbo and Ouattara have asked for International Criminal Court intervention and investigation.

  France on Friday circulated a draft resolution including the ICC, new sanctions and a call for Gbagbo to leave. Despite saying it was a joint submission with Nigeria, the French draft does not include things that Nigeria and ECOWAS want, like authorization for intervention.

The back story is the while the French mission at the UN had intended to confer with South Africa on elements of a resolution, South Africa was not going to join in at least until the African Union meeting. Since President Nicolas Sarkozy had announced on Thursday night that France was drafting a resolution for Friday, a new partner had to be found. Whether this serves Nigeria is unclear. Watch this site.

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On Cote d'Ivoire, France's Brief Humility Ends, Sarkozy Seizes Le Pen for Resolution

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 25 -- The enmity between France and Laurent Gbagbo, the defiant leader in former French colony Cote d'Ivoire, is long standing.

  But during the post-elections moves in the UN Security Council, the French Mission to the UN has tried to take slightly more of a back seat, engaging -- or some say hiding behind -- the African members, spending time to try to get them on board before unveiling new proposals in the Council.

  Not so this time.

  Despite talk among Council members in New York that France would share, even devise, “elements” of a new resolution on Cote d'Ivoire with African members, particularly South Africa which has been accused, unfairly the South Africans say, of supporting Laurent Gbagbo, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on March 24 just couldn't hold back.

The French are drafting a resolution to ban heavy weapons,” Sarkozy told the press in Brussels Thursday night. He was answering questions about Libya, specifically the United Arab Emirates' second about face, in which the UAE now says it will give planes, seemingly in exchange for some secret anti-Iran deal regarding Bahrain.

At first Sarkozy said he would only answer on Cote d'Ivoire “tomorrow,” March 25, when he said that the Security Council was meeting on the subject. But he went on, saying that Gbagbo is using heavy weapons, and that “the French are drafting a resolution.”

As one wag snarked in real time, so much for France not holding Le Pen.

Sarkozy and Ban, military planners?

  In the Council, the country which drafts resolutions on a particular country or topic is said to “hold the pen. Le Pen is, well, Le Pen.

The recent tough military talk by the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire, known by its, yes, French acronym ONUCI, is said to respond to criticism by the supporter of Alassane Ouattara that while Ban Ki-moon's envoy Choi Young-jim is sufficiently hawkish on Gbagbo, ONUCI's military commanders have not been.

 Now they are jumping into action, speaking against and essentially threatening to shoot down a helicopter they say Gbagbo's forces are repairing.

Some call it a de facto no fly zone imposed by Ban and Choi Young-jin, without a clear mandate. But France now drafts the mandate. Watch this site.

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In Cote d'Ivoire, As UN Speaks Again of Gbagbo Helicopter, No Fly Zone?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- Has the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire declared a no fly zone over Abidjan?

  After bringing in attack helicopters from Ukraine, and accusing defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo of trying to bring in attack helicopters from Belarus, the UNOCI Mission has now accused Gbagbo of “repairing” an MI-24 helicopter, and has warned it should not be used.

   The pro-Gbagbo forces see this has just another example of the UN taking sides. The pro-Ouattara force, including his diplomats at the UN whom Inner City Press has spoken with, see UNOCI's action as too little, too late.

   Ban Ki-moon's envoy Choi Young-jin is “sufficiently pro-Ouattara” for them, but they don't think the UN's military force commanders have done enough.

At the March 22 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: On Côte d’Ivoire, there is the mission there, UNOCI has apparently put out a statement saying that they believe that [Laurent] Gbagbo forces are, quote, repairing an MI-24 attack helicopter, and that any attempt to use this will not be allowed, or not be accepted... is it illegal for them to fly a helicopter? What exactly is the mission’s statement? Where did this helicopter come from, given the past statement that they were coming in from Belarus? And is there a no-fly zone in essence over Côte d’Ivoire? How seriously do they take this and do they agree finally with Mr. [Alassane] Ouattara’s side who says that 832 people have been killed by the pro-Gbagbo forces since the beginning of this stand-off in the election?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: A considerable number have certainly been killed, and I am sure that my colleagues who are carefully monitoring this in Côte d’Ivoire would be able to provide an update on figures. As you know, they have been… human rights colleagues, humanitarian colleagues who monitor this, have been fastidious in providing detailed figures. So, I would anticipate that we would be able to provide more. On the helicopter, its exact provenance, I would need to ascertain. I do not have that information. The mission in Côte d’Ivoire, as you know, has a Security Council mandate to protect civilians. And it will do all that it can within its mandate and with the resources it has to protect civilians in the country.

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, UNOCI, had put out a statement stating that “recently, the mission has observed that this camp is repairing an MI-24 attack helicopter in the military wing of Abidjan airport and is also getting BM21 multiple rocket launchers ready in Abidjan”.]

UN"s Ban gets out of a copter, explanation not shown

Inner City Press: But what I couldn’t tell from the statement is whether they are saying to the Gbagbo forces “don’t fly the helicopter at all”, or “don’t use it to kill civilians”, which obviously is, I mean, what are they saying? What is their current status? What’s the, what message are they seeking to send with this statement?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The message is that the mission is there to protect civilians in the country. And that it is doing under a very clear mandate from the Security Council.

Inner City Press: Do you remember this previous question about there was a particular, you know, killing of civilians that was attributed to the pro-Ouattara side by Human Rights Watch and others? And you, I mean, I don’t mean to… has UNOCI actually, did they report that in real time or have they said anything on that? I know that they are very fastidious, but on that one, I still haven’t heard anything back to show that they reported that as equally as they do the other side.

Spokesperson Nesirky: We’ve consistently said and the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also been quite clear on this. Any human rights abuses on either side would need investigating and should be condemned. And if I have any further information on that I would let you know.

And eight hours later and counting, there was no further information. 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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