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On UN Payments to France, Araud Said "Ask Spox" But Spox Refuses Question

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 12, updated with video -- The UN's lack of transparency hits new lows daily.

  On December 10 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told Inner City Press that the amount the UN it paying to France for airfield services in Mali is "not public," nor are any of UN Peacekeeping's Letters of Assist through which they pay out public money.

Inner City Press went to the Security Council stakeout and asked France's Ambassador Gerard Araud how much France was getting paid for Mali services by UN Peacekeeping -- run for the fourth time in a row by a Frenchman, this time Herve Ladsous the country's former deputy ambassador in the Security Council during the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

Araud's first reply was that Russia gets paid more. But this is through competitive, public bids, not secret letters of assist like France's.

  Araud then told Inner City Press, on camera and as transcribed by the French Mission to the UN, "I am sure you are going to rush to the spokesperson of the UN to ask why French corporations actually donít get their fair share of the tenders of the UN and why Russia is getting much more of the tenders of the UN."

  Inner City Press went to the December 12 noon briefing wanting to ask at least two questions, both Mali related. The first because the UN would be expected to at least publicly oppose censorship involved threats from Mali's government to the Maliactu website, to take down an article linking the Malian Army to killings and body-dumping near Timbuktu.

  Ban Ki-moon's main spokesman Martin Nesirky had already taken three questions in a row from another journalist long associated with the United Nations Correspondents Association a/k/a Ban's UN Censorship Alliance (it has sought to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN and has not reformed since but continues in essence spying for the Secretariat and hosting Ban, at least twice this month).

  But when Inner City Press moved to ask the second Mali question, about procurement and the Letter of Assist to France, including any involvement by Peacekeeping chief Ladsous, Nesirky refused to take the question, instead awarding the UNCA officer a fourth question.

  Inner City Press repeated its request to be permitted this second question and was told, "No." While no reason was given, it came in a noon briefing the first part of which was a presentation on malaria in which Nesirky automatically gave the first question to UNCA's "Holy Seat," as he always does.

  If time is so limited -- and to be fair to the spokesperson that might have been the concern -- then the first question should not automatically be given to any organization.  Particularly not one which has engaged in censorship (about Sri Lanka, here) and which is, yes, in the midst of accepting a donated Samsung television passed or laundered through the South Korean mission and then the UN, all the while claiming that there is no mission involved in the donation of the television equipment.

  It seems fair to expect to be able to ask two questions at the UN's noon briefing - particularly if other correspondents are being given four. It seems fair that a question to the UN, which repeatedly claims to be transparent, about non-public payments to France by a department headed four times in a row by a French national should be answered.

  Tomorrow Herve Ladsous is the guest at the UN's noon briefing. He has been allowed to refuse to answer Press questions, for example about mass rape by the UN's partners in the Congolese Army. Video here, UK coverage here. One might have expected the UN to at least take two peacekeeping mission related questions about Mali before Ladsous' appearance the next. But that expectation is not how the UN is operating. Watch this site.


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