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UN Admits Paying France In Mali, Amount Secret, Araud Points at Russia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 10, updated -- The UN decided to pay France for airfield services in northern Mali through a non public, non competitive process, spokesperson Farhan Haq acknowledged to Inner City Press at Tuesday's noon briefing.

  Inner City Press asked Haq how much the non public "letter of assist" is for, and why such letters are not disclosed by the UN, since public money is being spent. Neither question was answered.

  So when France Ambassador Gerard Araud emerged from the UN Security Council on Tuesday afternoon, Inner City Press asked him how much France is getting paid by the UN for airfield services in its former colony Mali, and why France didn't choose to donate those services to the UN.

  Araud took the opportunity to accuse Russia of being more opportunistic than France, saying that Russia gets 14% of UN "tenders" compared to France's 2.5 to 2.6 percent of "tenders."

Tenders would seem to mean public competitive procurements, and not letters of assist which the UN says are confidential (thereby precluding even France, unless through Herve Ladsous its fourth head of UN Peacekeeping in a row, from accessing information about Russia and others).

Inner City Press asked Araud if the figures he cited included letters of assist; he said he was not sure. We hope to get that information, and to have more the UN's non public contracting in Mali, and prospectively in the Central African Republic.

Update: on his way into the Security Council later on Tuesday for the Council's 4 pm consultations on Mali, Araud stopped and told Inner City Press that yes, France will get paid for services "in Kidal... no one else could do it." He said he believed it is below market. And we add this as an update, minutes later.

Of CAR, Inner City Press on December 5 asked Araud, as transcribed by the French mission to the UN:

Inner City Press: There is some criticism that the African forces today have not come outside of the capital come out of their bases and defended people? How would this resolution change that? Also people look at the intervention in Mali, your presence in Mali and they say we are back to the “françafrique”, the idea of France and its former colonies. How would you say these two actions are different, is there any economic interest of the country behind either of the two?

Araud: As for the mandate, it is simple. The African force needed a stronger mandate. The MICOPAX didn’t have it. Now it has a mandate under chapter VII. The spokesperson of the African Union here said it intends to implement this mandate, I quote him in French “de manière aggressive”, in “an aggressive manner”.

Secondly, they needed personel. The MICOPAX, the previous force, had around 2,000 troops. Now it should be 4,000. It will be also reinforced in its structure, in its headquarters, in its command structures. It will also be able to rely on the support of the French forces. The French forces will go from 450 to more than 1,200.

As for the action of France, I am not here to give a qualification. I think, and nobody can say that there is any economic interest in the CAR.

I’m proud of my country. Nobody wanted to go there, nobody was really interested by this forgotten crisis in a largely ignored country. So we are doing the job, and I think it is really great. But doing the job means supporting the Africans. It means also that as soon as the African forces are able to monitor, to control the situation, we will withdraw our own forces. We go there because we are needed but we have absolutely no particular thirst to be engaged in the CAR.

  Now perhaps France had no "particular thirst" to be in northern Mali, either. But they are charging the UN and its member states for airfield services. What is or will France be charging in CAR? Watch this site.

Footnotes: On CAR, Araud chided Inner City Press for asking on December 9 of reports that former minister Nourdine Adam had been arrested. On December 10 Araud said it hadn't happened and Inner City Press shouldn't have asked, You have to have sources.

  Inner City Press replied that the question had been based on reporting from Bangui from Al Jazeera. Araud said you need two sources. To even ask a question?

  Similarly, Haq after reading the answer about airfield services made a point of saying that in Mali the UN is not paying the companies Inner City Press had asked about: Sodexho, Thales, GEOS and "France Expertise Internationale," which is goverment owned. Haq said, you were wrong.

  First, it was a question by Inner City Press, one that belatedly yielded an answer. Second, as are most questions at the UN noon briefing, it was based on published reports, asking the UN to confirm or deny them. Third, since "France Expertise Internationale" is a French government owned firm, and the UN now admits paying the French government in Northern Mali, we may have more on this.

Prospectively, why AREN'T UN "letters of assist" through which they spend public money public? And why hasn't the UN answer another Inner City Press question, about donations it has solicited or received, for example from Samsung of television equipment some of which the United Nations Correspondents Association stands to get for free, having been assured by the far from transparent UN that is it not a conflict of interest? Watch this site.


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