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UN Bash for US Independence Grows Cautious, Exclusions, Censors & Seals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 26 -- For the so-called Arab Spring, what a difference a year makes, at least as reflected by the US Mission to the UN's Independence Day bash at the Central Park Zoo.

  Last year defected Libyan Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi at the same event predicted to Inner City Press that Tripoli would fall in mid-July. Click here for that story.

  This year, his superior and even longer term Gaddafi official Shalgam was present, but despite US statements to the contrary, events in Libya are hardly unequivocally good. Militias rules whole areas; Africans are mistreated; even International Criminal Court staff are detained.

  The mood and invitations, it seemed, were less expansive than last year. There were some surprising inclusions, to some the second presence of the Press despite the context. While Sudan's white-suited Permanent Representative, freshly back from Rio like his South African and other counterparts, was present Tuesday night, decidedly not present was Syria's Bashar Ja'afari, or it seemed Eritrea's ambassador.

  Ban Ki-moon came and left quickly, while his right hand man who now goes under the title of Change Management was present at the end. Ban's speechwriter Michael Myer was there, and consummate UN insider James Traub.

  It was a comfortable crowd, perhaps befitting a Permanent Representative playing for a larger stage, playing out the clock.

   Of course there was learning to be had. Jan Egeland, who earlier in the day slavishly defended his new employer Human Rights Watch from the previous day's probing by Rwanda's foreign minister, was described as being from Norway's "deep south," who could have chosen between religious evangelism or this humanitarian impulse. But is HRW director Ken Roth now using Egeland and his humanitarian capital as ground cover?

  There were still the seals, and in a New York touch, Asian salad in Chinese take-out containers. China's Li Baodong, soon to throw him own bash, came to show his respects.

   There was a lot of talk about the right to reply, with ascendant countries saying that they chose not to use it, and others saying that their opponents couldn't take the heat and so were countered at every turn.

   There was talk of Nordic ghettos, and of elections on which the UN has to role the dice, including Madagascar.

   The jovial representative of a country with a long time leader, Cameroon, was this year not present, back in his country, Inner City Press was told, with the budget committee finished, hardly scrutinized.

   Those journalists there mostly hung together, or rushed up and embraced the hostess. Questions of free press and witch hunt were raised, but will be addressed in coming days. Not only for this reason, the mood was different and less hopeful. While of course part of this is projection, objectively even the exhibit of sea birds smelled. Who will be the host next year? And what will be different? Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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