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At UN, Deiss Says Not Paid By Swiss, Then Admits Swiss Apartment & Airfare

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 14, updated -- Joseph Deiss on his first day at President of the UN General Assembly was asked by Inner City Press if he is paid by the Swiss government. Video here, from Minute 21:37.

  No, Deiss replied, there is “no involvement by the Swiss government.” He said he is “totally free from the Swiss government.” Video here, from Minute 23:15.

  But later he conceded that the Swiss government pays for his apartment -- “I get from the government... a flat to live on” -- and for his airfare. Video here, from Minute 25:10. Those are payments, and the contradiction between the unequivocal claim of “no involvement by the Swiss government” and the subsequent admission he receives a free apartment from the Swiss government does not bode well.

  Deiss also said without further specificity that he has “some activities outside the government that [he] can reduce but continue to receive a salary.”

  What ARE those activities? Should they not be disclosed, for possible conflict of interest?

  The UN budget of the PGA's office pays for a total of four professional level posts, and $289,00o for expenses. Inner City Press has been told that fully three of these posts are being given by Deiss to Swiss nationals. When asked, Deiss responded vaguely about his commitment to diversity.

  Deiss seemed to say that two or three Swiss will be put on the UN payroll, in the four professional posts he controls. Inner City Press understands that these will also be receiving Swiss goverment pension payments.

  Inner City Press was told months ago that in order to beat out Belgium's Louis Michel for the nomination of the Western European and Other Group to become President of the GA, Deiss bought the vote of Finland by promising a post -- one of the four -- to a Finn. Inner City Press asked Deiss' transition team the question weeks ago, without answer.

When Inner City Press asked Deiss about this on September 14, he denied it. We'll see.

UN's Ban and Deiss - trades of posts for power and openness not shown

Deiss speech to the GA said that “we must advocate for a[n] open General Assembly.” Inner City Press asked, for example, if Deiss favors that the meetings of the GA's Committee on Relations with the Host Country, which fields visa and other complaints about the US, should be open to the press.

After some on stage whispering, Deiss countered that this was a Secretariat matter. But it is not -- it is a committee of member states of the GA, staffed by a secretariat. After Inner City Press' last story, the following answer was provided:

Subject: Your question on the Host Country Committee
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <>
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Date: Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 2:41 PM

At the 238th meeting of the Host Country Committee on 23 July 2008), the Chairman at that time indicated that "...while the meeting is open to any interested delegations in their capacity as observers, it is not open to members of the press or the public". This was also reflected in the Journal. This practice has been followed for subsequent meetings. The change was prompted by a request for clarification by Mr. Lee, as in the past the meetings were not formally identified as "closed" in the Journal, and DPI did attend and provide a summary of the meetings (it no longer does so under the revised arrangement). A detailed summary of the discussions remains available through the annual reports of the Host Country Committee to the General Assembly.

There IS a General Assembly role. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Full Secrecy for Host Country Committee under Cyprus, No More Summaries of Visa Complaints by Nicaragua, Iran

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- The UN has become even less transparent in the past three years. Take for example the Host Country Committee, which deals with complaints about the treatments of diplomats in their missions by the United States. In 2007, Inner City Press attended the committee and wrote about it.

  In 2008, Chairman Andreas Mavroyiannis of Cyprus barred Inner City Press, but allowed the UN itself it issue a press release summarizing the meeting. Mavroyiannis also offered to do a press briefing summarizing the Committee's work.

  On September 1, 2010, Inner City Press went to a meeting of the Host Country Committee. Before it began, Inner City Press was asked to leave. The new chairman, Mavroyannis' successor as Cypriot Ambassador, Minas Hadjimichael, came over and said that instead of opening the meetings to the independent press, the decision had been made to discontinue even the UN's own press releases.

Who made the decision? The Committee by consensus -- that is, without a vote. Inner City Press stood outside the meeting, asking those who came out after the thirty minute session what had transpired inside. Some said it was boring: oral complaints by Nicaragua about denied visas, written complaints along with same lines by Cuba and Iran. Why then make it secret?

Minas Hadjimichael, access to or summary of Host Country Committee not shown

  Committee secretary Surya Sinha told Inner City Press he will dig up the citations justifying the exclusion of the Press. Would a request from the media to attend be taken up by the Committee? No, was the answer. The request would have to come from one of the 19 countries which are members of the Committee. One member told Inner City Press they will raise it next time. We'll see. Watch this site.

Footnote: Ironically, while Hadjimichael claims that the meetings are closed so that problems can be solved, it was the Press which by asking got the UN to urge the US to loosen travel restrictions on those from Iran, Belarus and others. So who is served by the Committee's secrecy?

* * *

As US Restricts UN Staff to 25 Miles from NY, UN Complains, After Press Asks

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- The United States, which is required to allow entry by diplomats from countries like Iran, Cuba and Belarus to attend the United Nations in New York, requires these diplomats to register and seek permission to travel more than 25 miles from Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

But recently Inner City Press learned that the U.S. has been imposing the same restriction on UN staff members from such countries, despite the fact that UN staff are deemed to be international civil servants, not working for the countries where they were born. (In fact, some such UN staff are opponents of their governments.)

On August 19, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky about this:

Inner City Press: It’s come to my attention that there are UN staff members from countries that are on United States sanctions lists that, whereas diplomats from these countries are precluded from travelling beyond 25 miles outside of New York without getting permission of the State Department, that there are UN staff members that, although they are international civil servants, are similarly being required to check with the State Department to travel beyond 25 miles. I think that there are Under-Secretaries-General aware of their staff members in this situation. I wanted to know whether the Secretariat believes it’s appropriate that UN staff members who are international civil servants, not working for their underlying Government, are subject to this restriction. Why hasn’t the Secretariat fought for the rights of its staff members right here in the United States?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Where you’re sitting now is not in the United States, Matthew.

Inner City Press: No, no, I understand. I’m saying that the State Department, in granting the G-4 visa, has imposed the condition that these individuals, UN staff members…

Spokesperson Nesirky: No, I heard what you said, but I need to find out. I don’t have anything for you on that. But thanks for the question and we’ll look into it.

Inner City Press asked the question because it was aware of situations in which UN Under Secretaries General threw up their hands and said nothing could or would be done.

UN's Ban looking up at Obama, restrictions on UN staff not shown

  But when the UN answered Inner City Press' question, here is what they said:

Subject: Your question on immunities for UN staff
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <unspokesperson-donotreply [at]>

I can confirm that, in answer to your question, we have the following response:

"The United Nations Secretariat has indicated to the United States Government its position of principle concerning the treatment of its staff solely on the basis of their nationality and has requested that all travel restrictions be removed by the host country as soon as possible."

On September 1, Inner City Press asked when it was that the UN “indicated to the U.S. government its position of principle.” No answer was given -- some assume because the UN only belatedly raised the issue to the U.S. government AFTER the question was raised. Watch this site.

 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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