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ICP Asks UN Envoy IOCA of WFP Ship, He Refutes Yemen PR, On Staff

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 17 -- On February 16, Inner City Press asked the President of the UN Security Council for February, Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela, about what UN Relief Chief Stephen O'Brien said in the Council, that the Saudi-led coalition diverted a UN World Food Program ship, the MV Mainport Cedar, from Hodeidah to the Saudi port of Jizan.

  Ramirez said this had been discussed and that the UN's Stephen O'Brien is trying to clarify it.

  On February 17, before the Security Council heard from UN enovy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Inner City Press asked Yemen's stated Permanent Representative to the UN Khaled Alyemany about the WFP ship.

  Alyemany said that that ship had been found to have Iranian military equipment. Video here. Inner City Press immediately asked OCHA and then three spokespeople for WFP for comment; three hours later, no comment.

 But Inner City Press was able to asked UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, about the WFP ship and about where his staff are and what they are doing. Video here, embedded below. has transcribed his responses to Inner City Press' questions:

"In regard to the first question, I would like to say that this ship of WFP did not contain any material apart from the UN material. This equipment of telecommunication, and I was a humanitarian coordinator in Yemen andin Syria, and I have worked in different places like DRC when I was in UNICEF. In any place, we need communication, to be able to maintain communication with our international staff, and national staff too. So itís very important, you have to realize we never, UN agency never. So the whole equipment, containing this ship of WFP, was UN controlled equipment totally, total conformity with what UN imports, any UN agency. So I want to make it very clear.

"In regard to the specifics about my staff, I would like to reiterate today that nobody is working from home. Thatís to make it very clear that there has been official,  in that regard I cannot. But what we are doing is, obviously we are trying to keep our staff as close as possible to the real crisis... The place of work is New York, but you spend the least time, because it has to be Sana'a, it has to be in Riyadh for conversation with the parties, it has to be Muscat when we meet the parties, we have been also in Jordan, where we have been meeting a number of political parties, so I can assure you it is very small, in comparison to a UN mission, when you take a comparison of the UN mission we are meeting, and the staff are very high caliber and they are trying their best, and they are very, very difficult circumstances. And in fact they are very motivated. Nobody is depressed. I can assure you of that."

We'll have more on this. For now, another video:

 In the Security Council, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed among other things said, "Deep divisions persist that prevent me from calling for the next round of talks. The parties are divided over whether a new round of talks should be convened with or without a new cessation of hostilities. I have not, unfortunately, received sufficient assurances that a new cessation of hostilities, should I call for one, would be respected."

  It had been said the talks would resume in March.

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