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As Yemen Saleh Official Says All's Well with UN, Agreement from UN But Not on Customs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- Amid complaints in Yemen that the immunity deal signed by Ali Saleh leaves his officials and system largely in place, the UN on Friday called its coordination with the government "very good" -- even though this government has blocked the UN from bringing in "essential equipment for [its] operations."

  Yemeni state media quoted Interior Minister Mutahar Rashad al-Masri praising to the Director of the UN's Electoral Assistance Division Craig Jenness on December 1 "Yemen’s relations with the UN in all areas, particularly the humanitarian and security coordination."

  Inner City Press on December 2 asked UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator Catherine Bragg if this is accurate, and if the UN now is dealing with the same exact people it dealt with before Saleh traveled to Saudi Arabia and signed the immunity deal.

  Bragg said, "I think the coordination of humanitarian action has been very good, with the government, we have been working very well, on IDPs, we have good relations with the ministries involved." Video here, from Minute 12:47.

  Then, after Inner City Press quoted from a UN report to the contrary, Bragg acknowledged "problems bringing in essential equipment for our operations." She said there is "no universal or standardized arrangement in place" but said that is "not atypical for a country like Yemen which does not have that."

  It seemed circular: the lack of easing entry of humanitarian goods and equipment is typical for a country which does not so ease, and is still somehow "good coordination."

   The UN report says

"The process of reaching a global custom agreement with the Yemeni government, which started in September 2010, is ongoing. The steps so far taken include the submission of necessary documents, explanation of the necessity and impotence of these documents, and training for customs officers. The shortage of fuel (particularly diesel) continues in the country, causing long queues for fuel when it is available. Fuel prices in petrol stations have reportedly increased from 150 YER per litre to 350 YER per litre. Response: Follow up contact was made with the custom authority this week, and the information obtained is that the documents are under review."

  Bragg explained it as a change in scope: the UN was dealing with 300,000 in the north and tens of thousands in the south," but now with "3.8 million."

   Isn't some of that increase due to the actions of the Saleh government with the same UN says its gets "good coordination" from?

  Al Masri told Jenness he was "hailing the UN’s efforts and significant role in the success of the Gulf-brokered initiative and its implementation mechanism signed in the Saudi capital last week by all political parties in Yemen."

  The people demonstration in the street and getting killed did not sign, and don't agree with, the immunity deal, nor does Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman.

  On December 1, a self described "senior Western diplomat" told Inner City Press regarding Saleh's immunity, "That was a Yemeni decision, a decision of the GCC. The best option was to support that, without cherry picking." If accountability is a cherry... Watch this site.

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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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