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On Kosovo, UK Says "No Country" Supports Russia, Council President Says Some Do; UNMIK's Ruecker Does Not Disclose Finances

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 17 -- At the Security Council on Sunday, there were wildly divergent interpretations of the Council's 1999 Resolution 1244 on Kosovo, and no court to decide which interpretation is correct. Russia says that Kosovo's declaration of independence, and collaterally any country's recognition of it, is contrary to Resolution 1233 and therefore violates international law. The U.S. and European Union members disagree. UK Ambassador John Sawers said that no Council member agreed with Russia's request to deemed Kosovo's declaration of independence null and void. Video here, from Minute 0:25. Then the president of the Council, Ricardo Arias of Panama, said that "some members" deem it illegal. Video here, from Minute 2:37. Inner City Press asked Amb. Arias to confirm the obvious, that "some" means more than one. But Amb. Arias said he would not say more. Video here, from Minute 4:17.

            Inner City Press asked Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin,  who does he expect to rule on the legal argument about Resolution 1244. Churkin replied that he hoped Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would instruct his representative in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, to announce that the declaration of independence is contrary to Resolution 1244. Video here. But Ruecker has already said that he views the current situation of Kosovo as untenable. And Ban Ki-moon has dodged questions about Kosovo since he took office, and continued to do so on Sunday. In fact, he did not even dodge: he simply announced that he would not be taking questions until after Monday afternoon's Council debate, at which Serbia's president will speak. By then, it is predicted, most European Union countries and the U.S. may already have granted recognition to Kosovo.

    An aside on Ban and Ruecker: while Ban has urged all of his senior officials, including Ruecker, to voluntarily make public financial disclosure, Ruecker has declined, checking his form that "I have chosen to maintain the confidentiality of the information disclosed by me." Click here to view.

            Sources told Inner City Press that Russia had for some reason really hoped that Ban Ki-moon would on Sunday issue some statement useful to their cause. Summoned by a Permanent Five member of the Council, Ban clearly had to come. (Whether he wished he was out of New York, as he so often is, drives speculation among the press corps.) And his staff installed a full wooden rostrum, seen for the first time at the Council stakeout, for Ban to rest his prepared remarks on. The rostrum came with its own blue fabric cover, apparently hand-sewn in the UN, and was whisked away before Russia's Ambassador Churkin spoke.

Ban Ki-moon speaks Sunday at rostrum, questions must wait for Monday

            The press corps grumbled about returning on Monday afternoon, a U.S. holiday and technically one for the UN. Some opined that the only purpose of the Serbian president appearing would be to create video footage to be shown in Serbia: "Look, I did everything I could." The matter of precedent will last longer. Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff what the U.S. would say if Russia recognized, for example, Georgia's break-away regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent. Video here, from Minute 1:02. Amb. Wolff maintained that Kosovo is unique; he has said that Russia had essentially agreed as much by voting for Resolution 1244 back in 1999.  When Inner City Press asked Amb. Churkin about this, he replied that the word "unique" is nowhere in the resolution.

And if resolutions allowing the UN to administer a troubled region temporarily play out later this way, will it be any surprise that in the future, other countries will not consent to such administration, or even to increased UN presence? UN-intended consequences...

At the UN just after noon on Sunday, a body was removed from the South Lawn just outside the Council's windows, a UN worker in her 40s who apparently jumped from the 19th floor, click here for Inner City Press' first story.

* * *

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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540