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At UN, Ban's Issues Do Not Include Ukraine, Only 4 Qs, Gaza Softballs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 12 -- When the UN said that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would hold a “press encounter” at noon on August 12, this ensured that there would be no other question and answer briefing for the day.

  But when Ban arrived, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban would take only four questions. The first one was pre-selected; to the next, on Ukraine, Ban read a one sentence answer off a note card. This is today's UN.

  On Gaza Ban was not asked in the four questions if he will set up a Board of Inquiry -- Inner City Press said the phrase several times at the end but Ban waved, or waived: he did not answer.

  Ban's three topics did not include the stand-off in Ukraine, including about aid access, an issue on which one might think the UN could play a mediating role. But not this UN.

  Ban began with Iraq, saying nearly exactly the same things as US President Barack Obama. Ban said that “Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abbadi now has the important task of forming a broad-based government acceptable to all components of Iraqi society,” and said “it is imperative that the security forces refrain from intervening in the political process.”

  But Obama and his vice president Joe Biden both spoke with Abbadi, or Abadi as they spell it. Did Ban?

  Of Mount Sinjar, Ban said that “air drops of food and water are reaching some of the trapped people.”

   But what coordinating role, if any, is the UN playing in these airdrops by the US and UK, as well as in air strikes? No one asked. The first question was set aside for the UN Correspondents Association, proud to play softball soccer with Ban.

  On Gaza Ban made sure to say ““Israel’s duty to protect its citizens from rocket attacks by Hamas and other threats is beyond question.” He added that “I expect accountability for the innocent lives lost and the damage incurred” -- but did not say, and in the pre-selected questions was not asked, if he will set up a Board of Inquiry.

  When he did in 2009, as revealed in a cable published by Wikileaks, Ban put in his cover letter -- first published by Inner City Press -- exactly what he was told from across First Avenue.

  Ban's third topic, to the surprise of many, was not Ukraine. It was ebola, and named his previous bird flu guru David Nabarro -- a fine man -- the UN's coordinator on ebola.

 That's a good appointment - but what about Ban's spokespeople refusing to confirm what the UK has announced, that Bernardino Leon is replacing the ousted Tarek Mitri as “Ban's” envoy on Libya?

The UN's non-answering, and selectivity and set-asides, are now opposed by the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which asked Dujarric why there would be no regular briefing (for example on topics like South Sudan). Dujarric called this normal, deference to a four question "encounter." We'll have more on this.

 What about allowing Ban's adviser Ray Chambers to serve on a commission for Chris Christie the governor of New Jersey? What about unanswered irregularities by UNDP and Ban's UNAMA mission and UN Department of Safety and Security? Dujarric said he'd get back with any answers. We are waiting. Watch this site.


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