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Araud of France Gives Economic Read of Iran Sanctions, Ban's Sri Lanka Inaction

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 -- "The United States for historical reasons has almost no economic relations with Iran," French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud said on Thursday night, explaining the U.S. push for sanctions on Tehran. In a dig at the U.S. position, Araud paraphrased a French philosopher, that "you are always ready to accept the sacrifice of your neighbor."

  Speaking under the high painted wood ceiling of his country's consulate across from Central Park, Araud said that because of the invasion of Iraq purportedly to find weapons of mass destruction, now the "legitimacy" of Russian and Chinese support is needed for the next moves on Iran. Araud urged against a "black and white" view, saying for example that "economic interests are good reason" for a country's position.

  Araud said the the UN is only a player where no one else wants to go. In the "Middle East conflict, the UN is hardly doing anything," he said. He was France's Ambassador to Israel. "If and when there is a peace process," he continued, the UN will be called in to provide the legitimacy of a Security Council vote, he said. Until then it can continue its humanitarian work in Gaza.

  Inner City Press asked Araud to assess the the action or non-action of the UN, specifically the Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon, on the slaughter of civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009. You know the reason, Araud said, in a manner that more than one observer later described as angry. "The Secretary General can't go against member states" which did not want to intervene.

  But a UN Secretary General is not entire the slave of the member states: he or she has an independent moral duty and diplomatic role. And if Ban Ki-moon couldn't do anything, why did he travel to Sri Lanka and then issue proclamations that he would follow up on accountability for war crimes, and reconciliation?

  Araud said that there was a sense of relief that the Sri Lankan government killed off the LTTE. The price for civilians was high, he said, perhaps too high.

Araud on Planet UN

  Araud was speaking, refreshingly candidly, after his country's consulate's screening of a pro-UN documentary by French filmmaker Romuald Sciora. As it turned out, Inner City Press has already seen and reviewed the film, Planet UN, click here for the review. But after this screening, James Traub lobbed questions to Araud and Sciora. When Inner City Press asked about Sri Lanka, Sciora merely said that he "agrees with Ambassador Araud."

  Afterwards, Sciora told Inner City Press that the book version of Planet UN is more nuanced. His introduction begins with a day in 2003 he spent with UN official Staffan de Mistura, most recent named top UN envoy to Afghanistan.

  Earlier on Thursday de Mistura complained loudly at the stakeout in front of the Security Council about Press coverage of his hiring of the Secretary General's son in law, and the role his may have played in the Secretary General naming him to the Kabul post.

  (In fact, this son in law also served in India's Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, policing Tamil lands, which some connect to his father in law's later inaction -- but that's another story.)

  Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman if de Mistura could come to answer questions on the record later on Thursday. No, was the answer, he would not be answering questions. And from Planet UN, so it goes.

* * *

At UN, Russia Slams MOU with NATO, Georgia "Technically" on Council Agenda

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, in an increasingly rare on the record session with the Press, trashed the UN's "semi-transparent" memorandum of understanding with NATO while praising the "CIS Symphonic Orchestra" and a road safety resolution sponsored by the Russian Federation.

Since he's called the MOU "semi-transparent," Inner City Press asked Ambassador Churkin if he had seen the whole agreement and if so, why not release it? Churkin laughed. "You underestimate our persistence here," he said, adding that Russia saw the MOU the day it was signed. Video here, from Minute 23:09.

  His complaint, he said, was the NATO's Secretary General has been misrepresenting this "modest document... out of proportion," most recently at the Munich Conference. Churkin said Russia had been "unpleasantly surprised at the way it was done." It was done under UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Inner City Press asked Churkin about Mr. Ban's naming of Finland's Antti Turunen as his Representative for Georgia, replacing Johan Verbeke of Belgium -- does this mean that Georgia is still on the Security Council agenda? "Technically it is," Churkin replied.

  He said that Turunen will represent the UN at the Geneva talks, and that his appointment has the subject of a letter of information from Mr. Ban to the President of the Security Council which didn't require a reply.

Finland's Stubb and Russia's Churkin, Turunen to Georgia not shown

  On road safety, earlier on Tuesday Inner City Press asked WHO's Etienne Krug, does the drive for better roads simply lead to more driving and pollution? Inner City Press asked -- video here, from Minute 8:39 -- but Krug said that the UN is also in favor of more and safer public transportation.

  Inner City Press also asked about the UN's own drive practices. Krug said that road accidents are the leading cause of death of UN staff worldwide, and that the UN should improve its practices. But will it?

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

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

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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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