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At UN, Attempts to Keep W. Sahara and SPMs Off 4th Committee, Israel On

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 8 -- While UN peacekeeping "in all its aspects" was the topic in the Fourth Committee on Thursday, still an argument was made that particular peacekeeping missions and their mandates, with or without human rights monitoring, should be be discussed there.

  The issue arose in the Right to Reply period at nearly 6 pm. Morocco chided Algeria for bringing up the MINURSO mission in Western Sahara, that does not have a right monitoring component largely due to the opposition of Security Council Permanent member France (and that also lacks freedom of movement, according to the UN's own reports).

  Algeria replied, how could this not be discussed under the peacekeeping in all its aspects agenda item?

  Morocco replied that it is the Security Council that sets mandates and it would be happen to debate the matter in the Security Council -- where it but not Algeria is a member.

(As an aside, it is not always that Council members try to block discussion in other forums. Recently Azerbaijan, which is on the Council, took on Armenia in a Fourth Committee debate on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Then, it was Armenia arguing that the Committee was not the right venue.)

  The US sent Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who argued among other things that Special Political Missions should not be discussed in the Fourth Committee.

  "Then you fund them," a Permanent Representative muttered, asking Inner City Press not to quote him by name (or presumably country.) We will have more on this, along with the UN budget's Scales of Assessment.

  Ethiopia's Permanent Representative urged that troop contributing countries be paid on time. His country is owed $56 million, as of the last report.

  During Thursday's "debate," Norway said it welcomes the compromise reached in by the Special Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

   When Inner City Press has asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the SAG report and whether Sri Lankan general Shavendra Silva will be credited in it, there has been no answer.

  So where does it stand, or SAG? There has been no reply, neither from Ban's Office much less from Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who openly refuses to answer any Press questions.

  Earlier in Thursday's debate, Morocco complained that the press is too fast to criticize UN Peacekeeping. Others wonder whether having a chief of UN Peacekeeping who openly says he won't answer questions from media whose coverage he doesn't like is good for DPKO at this time.

  Back in the parallel world of Right of Reply, Syria also spoke at the end of Thursday's session, accusing Israel of "insincere support" for UN Peacekeeping, citing a 1996 "targeting of the Fijian contingent of UNIFIL" in Lebanon as well as more recent incidents, and quoting Kofi Annan.

Friday the Fourth Committee turns to a pure Israel and Palestine agenda item. Israel did not reply at the end of Thursday's session.

  Meanwhile the Palestinians' draft resolution for UN Observer State status, which Inner City Press put online early Thursday afternoon, was picked up with credit by USA Today and elsewhere via AP, which added that the timing of the vote in the General Assembly will be discussed in meetings of the Arab League foreign ministers on November 12 and 13. Watch this site.

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