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Secrecy Up at SC on Afghan and Yemen Plans, Mind Reading Not Possible

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 3 -- Will the UN Security Council make a formal visit to Afghanistan, and a less formal mini-trip to Yemen? Due to security concerns, those questions will not be answered in this piece, which follows up yesterday afternoon's report.

  Rather, the focus here is on some on the Security Council's approach to secrecy and press coverage. After yesterday's Inner City Press piece, when the Council reconvened Wednesday afternoon all "outside parties" were barred from the meeting, including the UN's envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar. The emphasis was on "no leaks" of the Council's travel plans.

If and when a request for confidentiality is made, Inner City Press respects it. But it is not possible to read minds, particularly not the minds of 15 delegations (and a UN Secretariat that pulls in different ways) all at once.

After yesterday's piece, it was conveyed to Inner City Press that one reason that individual officials of various countries have been able to visit Afghanistan, and to a less degree parts of Yemen, is that there is no advance notice of their arrival.

Frankly, it is difficult for fifteen countries to keep something secret. But if that is what the Security Council wants to try to do, maybe they shouldn't hold their meetings about the trips in the Council consultation room, which the Press goes to cover for news ranging from Syria to Sudan and Haiti.

In fact, more than one source said that some are trying to use the "leaking" of information about the possible trips as a way to get out of them. "Some members don't want to go to Yemen," a source said. "And so they use this."

  Wednesday afternoon things became surreal. During the morning session, Inner City Press reported that Turkey's Permanent Representative Apakan and entourage went into the Council and Apakan afterward exclusively told Inner City Press that it was "shell related."

  In the afternoon, after the return of fire, interest grew in what might happen in the closed -- very closed -- Council consultations. Some even tied the Security Council's Wednesday afternoon meeting with one of NATO and surmised that the meeting was barred to staff due to Syria. But it wasn't. Watch this site.

Footnote: Who was driving Wednesday's secrecy? Starr is known to desire, but not ask in advance, for secrecy about trips. And the host country, as once before, seemed very interested in with whom staff speak -- this time, eight days after President Obama's speech in the UN General Assembly about, among other things, freedom of the press. We may have more on this.

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