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UN Unaware of Saleh Siege in Yemen, No Arab League in Syria, Stonewalls

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 14 -- Perhaps the UN or its Spokesperson's Office go to sleep in August.

  On Tuesday Inner City Press asked about an attack on the Defense Ministry in Yemen by supporters of dictator Ali Saleh.

  The Deputy Spokesman replied, "I see nothing about that, we’ll have to look into it and get back to you on it."

  But five hours later, there was nothing. Nor had Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson's Office responded to question referred back to them by the President of the General Assembly's office about Inner City Press' exclusive on Yemen's UN dues check bouncing. Ah, the Arab Spring.

  Where this Spring stalled out, Syria, was the subject of another unanswered question. Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: there’s some discussion that, as was true under Kofi Annan, Syria will only recognize whomever the person is, whether Mr. Brahimi or some other individual, as the UN’s special representative, not as the Arab League’s representative, and I wanted to know, is that acceptable? And they’ve said that publicly, that they see this role as UN, not Arab League –--is that acceptable to the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Well, to the best of my knowledge, the Secretary-General is in close consultations with the League of Arab States’ Secretary-General, and it will be a joint decision.

Inner City Press: On whom to appoint. But I’m saying, if Syria says openly that they’re only accepting him as a UN person…

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I haven’t seen that report, Matthew.

Well, here it is, at least to see. Five hours later, nothing; no announcement of Brahimi as some said Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi had confirmed, nothing.

And so Tuesday's noon briefing ended with two more unanswered questions:

Inner City Press: the UN’s own staff in South Sudan is protesting in 10 different states, saying that they would like to be paid, not necessarily the same rate but in the same currency as international staff are…And they seem – it’s a peaceful protest, but it’s a pretty extensive one. I’m wondering what the UN’s response is to it?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to look into that, Matthew. We’ll have to check and see what the regulations are and we’ll have to see what the policy is. I don’t have any information on that. OK, last question?

Correspondent: No, I don’t have any other thing. Thanks.

Deputy Spokesperson: Ah, OK. OK, last question, Matthew.

Inner City Press: I just wanted to make clear what I was asking you about in terms of Côte d’Ivoire. You sent me a response yesterday; I was glad to get it, but it was about the wrong report. There was an incident about three weeks ago -

Deputy Spokesperson: No, no – I know which one you mean. That report has not been finalized. It’s in the process of being worked on, and as I said, or as I’m saying now, once we have something to share, we’ll share it.

Inner City Press: Because Mr. [Bert] Koenders, right after the event took place, has said, “that we reject all the allegations, we did the right thing”. And I’m just wondering: is that statement somehow on hold, pending the report?

Deputy Spokesperson: We’re not going to prejudge what the report says; let’s see what the report says and then we’ll see what we comment on that. OK?

Not really. But hey - it's mid August.

Footnote: perhaps these questions will be answered on August 15, on the August day's delay, as was Inner City Press' Monday story and question about Ibrahim Gambari being replaced in Darfur. Del Buey confirmed it Tuesday at noon, and later Gambari himself returned an e-mail. Watch this site.

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