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At UN on Haiti, EU Ashton Dodges, Cannon Fires at Fowler, French Jet Unaddressed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 1 -- Amid the self-congratulatory Haiti fest at the UN on Wednesday, there was bragging by the European Union, Canada and others, corporate plugs for Coca-Cola, and many Haitian excluded from the conference.

  The EU's High Commissioner Catherine Ashton closed with the dramatic phrase about the scale of death "in 35 seconds." But earlier on Wednesday, when Inner City Press asked her about what's described as her powerplay to get EU development aid under an External Affairs Unit she is setting up, she dodged as in a quake. There's no controversy, she said. But that's not what development and poverty experts say.

  Inner City Press asked Ashton about two EU members, Germany and France. The former's been called stingy by German Agro Aid. French development minister Alain Joyandet spent over 116,000 Euros taking a private jet to a meeting about poverty in Haiti. Ashton smiled as that question was asked, but did not answer it. The German question she left to her Eastern European co-panelist.

  Upstairs at the stakeout in front of the Trusteeship Council Chamber, high profile participants praised the meeting and themselves. Canadian foreign Minister Cannon lauded his country's response. Inner City Press asked about the criticism by former Canadian (and UN) diplomat Robert Fowler, that the conservative Canadian government has turned more and more inwards, and taken sides in the Middle East.

Cannon said he would not respond to Fowler, only that he is -- and by implication Fowler should be -- grateful to the countries which helped get Fowler released from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, after he was scooped up in Niger working for the UN and perhaps Canadian mining interests.

EU's Ms. Ashton previously on Haiti, power play not shown

  Back downstairs the press spokesman of Japan's foreign minister Okada described his boss' trip to Washington, Ottawa and New York in seemingly great detail. But he omitted the discussions of the relocation of American forces on Okinawa. When asked by Inner City Press, he dutifully described the issue for the few representatives of Japanese media in the briefing room, as if they'd never heard of it. And then the briefing was over.

It all concluded with an unwieldy seven person press conference in the UN's basement. Only three questions were allowed, each apparently pre-selected. Ban's spokesman called on Spanish wire service EFE, which he had left off Ban's first trip to Haiti, whose president's spokesman called on a Haitian journalist from "Scoop." The U.S. State Department called on Reuters, which asked Hillary Clinton about Iran and the UN Security Council.

While Haitian President Rene Preval rolled his eyes and Ban urged that only Haiti questions be asked, Hillary Clinton, France's Bernard Kouchner and Brazil's foreign minister each answered the question. Brazil said as a non permanent member of the Council, it was not in the loop.

Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. viewed seeking Council sanctions as diplomacy, even negotiations. Kouchner said that "we did try to talk to the Iranians, we did." Why not allow a question or answer about his development minister's 116,000 Euro private jet trip about Haiti, then? And so it goes in the UN.

Footnotes: Some, including Haitians who had traveled to New York in good faith for the conference, could not get in. A misleading UN web site allowed people to register and even receive confirmation. They appeared prior to the conference but were told another step had been needed, and that the event was "for donors."

  This contrasted to Bill Clinton's statement, following his high security hobnobbing with Coca-Cola which has tried to brand the earthquake,  that the conference "heard from Haitian civilian society, and not just from me."

  Inner City Press also questioned the IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the stakeout, on the IMF's failure to yet forgive Haiti's debt, in contrast to the IADB. After reporting Strauss-Kahn's answer yesterday, Thursday morning Inner City Press asked for more detail at the IMF's bi-weekly briefing, on this it will report before the IMF's 10:30 a.m. embargo time. Watch this site.

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On Haiti, IMF's Strauss-Kahn Dodges on Debt Forgiveness, Past Conditions' Harm

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- Amid the congratulatory talk about help to Haiti at the UN on March 31, it emerged that the International Monetary Fund has yet to forgive Haiti's now over $270 million in debt to the IMF, while by contrast the Inter American Development Bank has forgiven all of its $479 million in loans to Haiti.

  Inner City Press asked the IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn why the IMF's loans had yet to be forgiven, and to address the IMF's previous conditionalities on Haiti which results, experts say, in the destruction of the country's rice industry.

  Strauss-Kahn scoffed at the latter question, saying that this -- a press stakeout in front of the pledging conference in the UN's Trusteeship Council Chamber -- was not the place to discussion conditionality. On the still unforgiven loans, he argued that they are not due until 2012, and bragged that Rene Preval is happy with the IMF's, and presumably his, performance.

  After the stakeout, Strauss-Kahn made a point of hanging around with President Preval in the hallway in front of the Trusteeship Council.

UN's Ban, Zoellick and Strauss-Kahn, IMF debt forgiveness not yet shown

  Soon, the representative of the IADB came out, and confirmed that full forgiveness of $479 million in loans. Inner City Press asked, what explained the IABD's fast forgiveness, and the IMF's continued delay?

   The IADB representative diplomatically mentioned the meeting of finance ministers in Cancun. But there are been a number of IMF Executive Board meetings and/or actions since Haiti's earthquake.

Some question whether Strauss-Kahn's perhaps related fixation on Greece -- where he's said the IMF would "intervene" if asked -- and his personal political trajectory, not only vis a vis Nicolas Sarkozy but also Martine Aubry, have made him and the IMF slow on Haiti. One wouldn't know it from Wednesday's bluster, but facts... are facts. 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.

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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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