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With Ban Ki-Moot Mute, Obama's US Nixes Gaza Investigation Cite in UN Council

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- Returning voiceless from the Gaza Strip and Israel, the UN's Ban Ki-moon sat Wednesday afternoon in the Security Council chamber, listening as his American chief of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe read out his call for an investigation of Israel's bombings of UN facilities, in the first instance by Israel itself, and for humanitarian aid and reconstruction. While the shift to self-investigation became the focus of the press corps waiting impatiently at the stakeout, inside the consultations room the negotiation of a Council press statement took a surprising turn.

   Libya proposed, and most members agreed to, a paragraph mirroring Ban's muted investigation call. But the United States, represented for now by civil servant Alejandro Wolff, was having none of it. Inner City Press is told by sources in the meeting that the US would not agree to any reference to investigations. These sources marveled that, even with Obama now in power, this would be the US position. They contrasted it to the Council's reaction to an Israeli bombing in Lebanon during the 2006 war, or to an immediate denunciation of a Sudanese attack on a convoy, which after denying, Sudan apologized for.

  Is this the change you could believe in, the source asked. It remains to be seen. Council leadership predicted that new US Ambassador Susan Rice will arrive in New York on Monday. But even absent his Rice, isn't Obama already in charge?

   The Secretariat's press availability, like the Council briefing, was handled by Lynn Pascoe. Inner City Press started it off, asking who exactly it is that Ban wants to do the investigation. Pascoe reiterated the new line, "in the first instance... a report from Israel." Video here, from Minute 1:58. 

UN's Ban in Gaza, with Lynn Pascoe and Kim Won-soo

  But reporter after reporter zeroed in on the change. The Washington Post followed up on Inner City Press' question, noting that both John Ging and John Holmes had called for an independent investigation.

  Pascoe grew testy, reminding the Press that Ban went to get a ceasefire and got one, we're not saying he got it alone -- Ban's spokesperson used this very same formulation -- but it was gotten. Give Ban the man a break, was the implication. And one wanted to, at least for a day. But he runs the risk of morphing from Ban Ki-Mute to Ban Ki-moot.

  On the Obama front, Inner City Press asked Pascoe is he anticipates any change in his status, will it remain the same? Pascoe dodged that part of the question, saying that of course the UN wants to work with the US. As he walked away from the microphone he was asked, "Did you vote for Obama?" Amid laughter, he did not answer. Video here, from Minute 16:05.

Footnote: Ban to his credit, even unable to speak, did come to the stakeout. When the open meeting ended, he emerged with his entourage. While they may have preferred that he make a bee line to the elevators, Ban came over to the Press, shaking hands. An otherwise critical correspondent commented of Ban, he's a gentleman. Ban apologized for his voice, and for not taking questions. Why not by e-mail, Inner City Press asked. If Obama's glued to his BlackBerry, how to engage with Ban Ki-Mute?

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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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