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As Obama's Speech Omits Sudan, Susan Rice Says Jobs Come First, Gration on Case

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 28 -- Just as the motorcade of U.S. President Barack Obama left Capitol Hill on Wednesday night after his State of the Union speech, a coalition of Darfur activists issued a press release expressing "disappointment that President Obama did not highlight Darfur, Sudan or genocide prevention during his State of the Union address.... 'We are very far from the unstinting resolve on Sudan that President Obama promised in the campaign.'"

  The next morning at the UN in New York, when U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, a "long time friend" of Mr. Obama, stepped to the Security Council stakeout microphone to speak about Somalia and Ivory Coast, Inner City Press asked her about the activists' disappointment.

  Were they misreading the omission of Sudan and genocide from the lengthy speech as reflecting a lessing of commitment on these issues by the Obama administration?

   Yes, Ambassador Rice said, this is a misinterpretation. She said the speech has correctly focused on jobs and the American economy, not every foreign policy issue could be mentioned. She said the Administration remains "deeply committed," and mentioned for the second time this week the work of U.S. envoy on Sudan Scott Gration. Video here, transcript below.

  That Ambassador Rice has spoken to the press at the UN twice this week is "something of a record," one reporter noted. The Mission is known to have bristled at recent negative coverage. Inner City Press has previously documented the fall off in media access and U.S. advocacy since Ms. Rice arrived at the Mission, and has been told 2010 may be different. We'll see.

US' Obama, Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton: no Sudan in SOTU '10

Footnotes: on Ivory Coast, when Inner City Press asked if the U.S. agrees with holdover President Laurent Gbagbo about the over 400,000 names on the voter list that he is contesting, Ambassador Rice said there was an incident of a "false list." The UN has not acknowledged that the list is false, and France has only said that it, like all other complaints, should be investigated.

  So is it the U.S. position that the list is false? If so, cynics might say that the U.S. backs up Gbagbo more and more, to gain even more influence in Abidjan assuming Gbagbo remains in power.

  On the anti-corruption front, Inner City Press recently exposed and got confirmed that the nephew of the UN's top envoy in Ivory Coast then got employed by the UN system in the country, which even UN investigators have described to Inner City Press as highly problematic. But has the U.S. Mission said anything about this? Or about the even longer standing nepotism problem surrounded the UN's Congo envoy Alan Doss? We will follow this.

From the US Mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: On Cote d'Ivoire, does the US have a view: President Gbagbo has said that there's almost half a million improperly registered people and he has called for investigations. They say that's why it's being delayed. Do you have a view as to whether that is a legitimate claim?

And just one other I wanted to ask you, the Save Darfur Coalition took somehow umbrage that last night's State of the Union address did not mention Darfur, Sudan or genocide prevention. Are they misreading that? Does this reflect any lessoning of a commitment?

Ambassador Rice: Absolutely not. I think if that is their interpretation I would characterize that as a misreading. I think as all Americans saw and all Americans feel, the President's focus last night was appropriately, principally on jobs and the economy. And the very concrete steps that he is taking and that he is calling on Congress to take to put our economy back on track and put Americans back to work. It was the right focus and clearly not every foreign policy issue of consequence was dealt with or could have been addressed in that context. The President is deeply committed to ending the killing and the suffering and the genocide in Darfur, and our work here at the United Nations and indeed the work that General Scott Gration and that the U.S. Government is doing to try to end the conflict and ensure the protection of civilians is as important today and yesterday as it is any other day.

Coming to Cote d'Ivoire, as you know the elections have been delayed repeatedly. This is a source of real concern for the United States and for the Security Council. There was a very unfortunate incident in which a false voter list was released and that has set back the process further. It is our view that the steps need to be taken by the Ivoirian authorities to ensure that the elections happen properly but that also the conditions for it are as such that the people of Cote d'Ivoire can all participate, that all eligible voters are allowed to cast their ballots, and that it happens in a transparent and legitimate fashion.

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UN Silent on Sudan Vote Boycott Call, US' Rice on Chad and DC, But Not Corruption

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 26 -- In the run up to elections in Sudan, the SPLM rebels have called for a boycott of voting in South Kordofan state. Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky on January 25 for the UN's response.

  Mr. Neskirky replied, "I’m sure my colleagues on the ground are aware of it, and we’ll need to get full guidance from them on that." But 24 hours later, no UN "guidance" had been provided.

  On January 26 following UN Security Council consultations on the subject, Inner City Press asked U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice what the she makes of the SPLM call for a boycott, due they say to problems with the census. Video here, from Minute 4:05.

  Ambassador Rice replied that there are unresolved or unimplemented parts of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including how to deal with the census. She said it "merits the close attention of the parties." If the lack of UN response or guidance for more than 24 hours is any guide, perhaps it merits more "close attention" from the UN.

  Inner City Press also asked Ambassador Rice about Chad's statement that it does not want the UN's MINURCAT peacekeeping force extended when it expires in March. She replied that there have been such "reservation" about the continuation of UN peacekeeping presence in Chad "and elsewhere."

  This seemed to refer to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where President Joseph Kabila pushed to limit the mandate extension of MONUC to a mere five months. Some say Chad's interest is more monetary. We'll see.

Susan Rice at the stakeout, neither the US nor UN speaks on corruption

  Ambassador Rice was asked about a recent piece by the spokesman for her predecessors John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Grenell. She said she hadn't read it, but rattled off Security Council votes taken in 2009.

  She explained her three days a week in Washington DC as a product of being in the Cabinet and National Security Council. More recent family health issues, cited to many writers by the US Mission, were not mentioned.

  But while one of the critiques is a failure of achievement on UN reform, even as the number in investigations by the UN's OIOS had radically declined, Ambassador Rice did not address this. More recently, a U.S. indictment in Florida raises issues of corruption in UN Procurement. On January 25, Inner City Press asked Mr. Nesirky:

Inner City Press: There is a New York Times article that took place either Friday or Saturday with a headline “Contractor charged with trying to get corruption from UN procurement” but the actual indictment, USA Vs. Bistrong, seems to indicate that the contractor actually got what he was looking for, that is he was able to influence the bidding practice within the UN. I just wondered whether, in response to these allegations, the UN is going to conduct its own investigations, whether through that OIOS unit or otherwise?

Spokesperson: Well, the Office of Internal Oversight Services has completed an investigation into a matter where many of the facts at issue here were with respect to Mr. Bistrong. And I think you can expect a report from OIOS. It’s forthcoming.

And while the criminal information refers to a UN agent, the United Nations considers this person to be an individual already investigated by the United Nations, who has been separated from service and convicted by the United States authorities. And the United Nations will, however, confirm with United States authorities to ensure that there are no other UN personnel implicated.

Inenr City Press: Are you referring to Mr. Jacob Loeb [Yakoblev], just to be clear who we’re talking about?

Spokesperson: I’m telling you what I have here. I can also give you a couple of other details. The events reported in the press refer to actions which occurred in 2001 to 2006. And since 2006 procurement processes have been tightened to ensure the bid-rigging and bribery described in the criminal information are no longer possible. The UN Procurement Division (UNPD) believes that the allegations refer to persons who are no longer employed by the United Nations.

And the Procurement Division is aware of the issues referred to in the criminal information filed on 22 January 2010 against Richard T. Bistrong. And in consultation with the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and Office of Legal Affairs, the Procurement Division is reviewing the matter to identify what actions are warranted. And also, following a review, existing or prospective procurement vendors will be referred to the Senior Vendor Review Committee for appropriate action.

  But where is the US Mission to the UN on these issues? 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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