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March 1, 2011: Libya

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Fleeing Volcanic Ash & Fiasco in Sudan, UN Council Returns to Problems in NY, Syria Resolution Circulated

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- The UN Security Council's trip to Africa, which has seen Sudan's vice president and foreign minister cancel their meetings with the Council, was to have extended through May 26.

  But sources tell Inner City Press that by May 25 most Council members have cut the trip short and returned to New York, citing the Iceland volcano ash as the reason. After the fiasco of the Sudan leg of the trip, then, Somalia was given short shrift.

While Security Council members, led by President for May Gerard Araud should be giving a read-out of their travels, this much is clear: when they set out for Sudan, there were civilians and a mixture of Southerns in Abyei.

By week's end, at least 20,000 civilians had fled Abyei, Northern tanks rolled in and President Omar al Bashir rejected requests that his forces be pulled out. The situation was worse at the end of the trip than the beginning.

  And Abyei was supposed to be the focus on the trip -- for it, there was no visit to Darfur, where the government has re-started air strikes and measles are spreading.

Susan Rice and Mark Lyall Grant, Darfur not shown

  With Somalia truncated, what was accomplished with the African Union in Addis Ababa? As reported, the AU's Ramtane Lamamra criticized the Security Council's and NATO's approach of bombing Tripoli.

  While the members abstaining from Resolution 1973 haven't been able or even tried to stop the bombing, at least three among them are said to use the experience as a basis to block even the weakest of Council statements on Yemen and, at least until now, Syria.
  European members of the Security Council bragged Wednesday that they'd circulated a resolution, decidely weak, to other Council members on Syria. Watch this site.

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As UN Won't Lay Blame for Abyei, France Says Little, No Notice on Libya

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 -- Four days after an attack in Abyei on a convoy led by UN Mission in Sudan peacekeepers, the UN still won't say who was responsible for the attack.

  The Press Secretary for US President Obama on May 21, and the UN Security Council on May 22, blamed this initial attack on “Southern forces.”

  But when Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky on May 23 who was responsible for the attack, Nesirky merely pointed back to what he'd told Inner City Press last week: that an investigation is necessary.

  What does the US and Security Council know that the UN doesn't?

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky, and he pointed to a statement about subsequent burning and looting in Abyei, which likewise doesn't say who is doing the looting, only that the Sudan Armed Forces is responsible to stop it.

  As in Darfur, which the Security Council chose not to try to even visit on this trip, the UN appears loath to lay blame for attacks. Perhaps that's one of the roots or causes of the problems in Abyei.

  Meanwhile, the Security Council too is having its communications problems. It put out a press statement in Khartoum, which was transmitted to UN correspondents in New York as a faint Adobe PDF file, barely legible.

  The Council has no ongoing spokesperson: the country that is the president for the month is in charge. While as noted US President Obama, and the foreign ministers of the UK and even Norway have spoken out about Abyei, little has been seen from officials of France, the Council president for May.

  President Sarkozy was in Cote d'Ivoire, gloating about French Force Licorne involvement in ousting Laurent Gbagbo, as France ships more attack helicopters to Libya.

  Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Nesirky on Monday at noon if Ban has gotten any notice, under Council Resolution 1973. No, Nesirky said. Ah, communications.

Susan Rice, Sangqu of SA, Haile Menkerios- why is this man smiling?

The fog of Security Council communications and travel led, it seems, to misattribution of quotes by the US' Susan Rice to Russia's Vitaly Churkin, who was quoted about Sudan lossing a chance to speak with the Council - Rice's line - instead of Churkin's actual “get well” to Sudan's Ali Karti.

They'll be on the road to Thursday. But we'll still be reporting. Watch this site.

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In Sudan, UN Council Rebuffed By VP & FM, Somewhere Haroun Laughs?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 -- Timing is everything. Even before the UN Security Council set sail for Sudan on its current trip, it decided not to visit Darfur, where the government is bombing civilians. The rationale was that the focus should be on the North - South conflict, particularly the dispute region of Abyei.

  Then the Abyei leg of the trip was put into question by whether International Criminal Court indictee Ahmed Haroun would be at the Kadugli airport to gloat and greet the Council. He's been indicted for organizing nomadic trips to commit war crimes in Darfur.

  On May 19, the day the Council left, a convoy of UN peacekeepers and Sudan Armed Forces troops fell under fire. Khartoum then sent tanks and took over Abyei's main town.

While the UN refused to assign blame for the attack, on May 21 the US blamed Southern Sudan forces, and on May 22 the Council did. But still Sudan's Vice President and Foreign Minister canceled meetings with the Council, further limiting the scope of the trip.

So what will be accomplished in Juba, and after that in Kenya? Watch this site.

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As UN Council Cancels Abyei Trip, Georgian Echoes Amid AU Diagnosis of Narcissism

By Matthew Russell Lee, News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 -- What does it say about the UN Security Council that outright war broke out in Abyei between North and Southern Sudan just as the Council prepared to visit the contested area?

  Before the Council members left New York for Addis Ababa then Sudan, they negotiated the “logistics” of visiting Abyei while attempting to downplay the possibility of Ahmed Haroun, National Congress Party governor of South Kordofan and International Criminal Court indictee, showing up to greet and try to meet them on the way to Abyei.

  UN officials told Inner City Press confidently “we can definitely protect the Council in Abyei, it's only a question of landing first at the airport in Kadugli or Wau.”

  Things change, obviously. But why? An Council member left unnamed is quoted that the North invaded Abyei in order to discourage the Council's visit. Beyond what some see as the narcissism of the statement, even if true, would this mean that the Council's visit inflamed rather than de-escalated tensions?

  When President Barack Obama's Press Secretary said on May 21 that the initial May 19 attack in Abyei was the responsibility of “Southern Forces” but drew a disproportionate response, it brought to mind the Georgian - Russian conflict in which Georgia is said to have tried to retake South Ossetia, then Russia rumbled down into Georgia itself.

  In hindsight, some say Georgia erred in giving Russia the pretext to take land. So might the “attack by Southern forces” of May 19 be viewed in somewhat the same way?

Susan Rice at Khartoum airport May 21 - in October, confronted Sudan about $15 fee

  Or is Southern Sudan smarter than Georgia, triggering a response from Khartoum, under the nose of the Security Council, that will meaningfully rebound against Omar al Bashir, Haroun and the National Congress Party? Watch this site.

Footnote: In the Addis Ababa leg of the Council's trip, Ramtane Lamamra of the African Union derided the Council for overriding the AU in authorizing and not stopping the continued bombing of Libya by NATO. While numerous Council members including two with veto power agree that action has gone beyond Resolution 1973, others note that Lamamra's from Algeria, more supportive of Gaddafi than most AU members...

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UN Admits 2d Flight of ICC Darfur Indictee Haroun to Abyei in Sudan, Impunity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4, updated -- The UN has for a second time offered a free UN flight in Sudan to Ahmed Haroun, under indictment by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, the UN admitted Friday in response to questions from Inner City Press.

  On March 3 the UN Security Council met about renewed fighting in the disputed Abyei region. Back in January, Inner City Press got the UN to acknowledge they had flown ICC indictee Haroun from South Kordofan, where he serves fellow ICC indictee Omar al Bashir as governor, to Abyei.

  The UN has defended this controversial flight by saying that Haroun and Haroun alone could stop violence in Abyei. The UN never explained why the government of Sudan, which has an air force currently bombing civilians in Jebel Marra in Darfur, couldn't itself fly Haroun.

The UN said it was a scheduled flight, then UN Mission in Sudan chief Haile Menkerios admitted to Inner City Press that it was a special flight. Inner City Press is told such flights cost $40,000, and the UN has confirm no reimbursement has been sought from the Bashir government.

But now the violence has continued, making the UN flight of ICC indictee Haroun harder to justify even by the UN's own argument.

  March 3 in front of the Security Council, Inner City Press asked Council president for March Li Baodong of China if the UN Peacekeeping official who briefed the Council, Atul Khare, had mentioned if Haroun would again be flown in a UN helicopter. Li Baodong did not directly answer.

At the March 4 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky to confirm or deny that that the UN would once again fly ICC indictee Haroun to Abyei, even now that his work in connection with the first flight has proved ineffective.

Nesirky said he would check. Ten minutes later, Nesirky's deputy Farhan Haq announced by speaker to all UN correspondents that yes, Haroun attended today's meeting in Abyei, and yes, “he was transported” by the UN.

  This UN promotes impunity, even for one of the few people indicted for war crimes by the ICC. Meanwhile Ban Ki-moon brags about the Security Council's partial referral of the situation in Libya to the ICC -- a referral that Ban Ki-moon did not even call for until after the Council voted to make the referral.

  This UN is promoting and enshrining lawlessness, with no transparency or accountability. Watch this site.

Update of 3:48 pm -- Human Rights Watch, via Richard Dicker, submitted this comment:

This is the second time in recent weeks the UN has transported Ahmed Haroun who is charged by the ICC with war crimes in Darfur. We have real concerns because the U.N. should not be in the business of transporting Haroun. There needs to be an extremely high threshold of urgency for such action by UNMIS.”

Responses have been sought from the Missions to the UN of France, the UK and the US, with the latter two asked if they knew in advance of the UN's new flight of ICC indictee Haroun. Given her statements this year about social media, & after hours of non-response by the US Mission to the UN,@AmbassadorRice has been asked directly as well. Watch this site.

Update of 4:30 pm -- Then this, from UK Mission to the UN spokesman Daniel Shepherd:

As spokesperson, I would only reiterate the message that my two Ambassadors have both said on the record (and published by Inner City Press) first time around: that we aren’t going to second guess how UNMIS fulfills its mandate to provide good offices to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) parties in efforts to resolve differences through dialogue and negotiations. I’d only add that this work is particularly important at this sensitive time, to contain any potential escalation after the recent Abyei violence.”

We could note again that violence has persisted despite the UN flying ICC indictee Ahmed Haroun in the first time, and that it is the role of UN member states to oversee the UN Secretariat, not to defer in this case to what some see as its promotion of impunity - but at least the UK would put its position on the record.

Update of 4:43 pm -- this too has come in, perhaps in response:

Date: Fri, Mar 4, 201
Subject: Haroun and Abyei
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

You guys ask great questions! Have you noticed perhaps that the United Nations seems to be unaware of who is causing the violence in Abyei. And yet "diplomatic sources" report seeing the burial of 33 bodies - all southerners.

The Arab nomads say the violence started when SPLM police shot at them (Hitler used a similar ploy to invade Poland) - and today thousands of civilians fled Abyei fearing another crisis like in June 2008. The Dinka Ngok villages north of Abyei, such as Maker, have been burnt to the ground. The end explains the means. There is a creeping ethnic cleansing going on in the Abyei region despite the agreements of 2005 and the Court of Arbitration ruling in 2010.

Why fly Haroun to Abyei - what is his cv? It is, as you correctly point out, that of arming arab militias to burn villages. I hope to see more of your questions pinning the UN to the responsibility to protect.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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