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At the UN, A Day of Resolutions on Gaza, North Korea and Iran, Georgia as Side Dish

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 -- Just as there are big countries and little countries, at the UN there are big issues and then other issues, sometimes called non-issues. On Wednesday at the UN, there were serial stakeouts by the Ambassadors of France and the United States, off the cuff comments by the Ambassadors of Russia, China and the UK, and side speeches by the Palestinian Permanent Observer and the UN's head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno.

    Taking questions from a half-dozen journalists at the noon briefing -- where Inner City Press asked about a UNHCR conflict-of-interest investment with Ivan Pictet, who's on the UN Investment Committee, click here for that article -- was the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini, soon to leave her post and return to Switzerland. Still she was diplomatic, preferring not to comment on yesterday's outbursts from Georgia's parliamentary speaker and the Russian ambassador, rather referring obliquely to "mis-information" being a problem in Abkhazia.

            Inner City Press asked if she views as mis-information the allegations of money laundering, including for terrorism, in Abkhazia.

            "Thank God my mandate doesn't include bank regulation," she replied. She went on to describe Abkhazia as a "dark area" where certainly money laundering could happen.  In response to Inner City Press' second question, about South Ossetia, she described the Abkhazians as more professional, and having a longer independent history, than is the case in South Ossetia. Asked if Georgia should be allowed to speak before the Security Council when it is on the agenda, she respond that she personally thinks that's right, but it is of course up to the Security Council. In the hall outside Room 226, the Georgia ambassador noted that Russia should not be able to block Georgia's attendance and speaking, since these are procedural and not substantive matters. That and a token, a New York wag replied.


            At another stakeout, Inner City Press asked the UN's head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno for more information on the release of the final five of the peacekeeper in Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Guehenno replied that the problem in Ituri is "young men with guns," and that even those are disarmed can't find a job. He said, in a sanitized on-camera version, that those negotiated with, Peter Karim, changed from day to day.  Inner City Press asked if in his briefing to the Council about the African Union summit in Banjul, the issue of the Secretary-General's new deference to a "Mugabe-selected mediator" came up. Mr. Guehenno replied both that it had not come up, and that he was not sure if the mediator was Mugabe-selected. Inner City Press asked, "what is the mediator's mandate? Between whom is he mediating -- Mugabe and the Blair government in the UK, or Mugabe and the opposition in Zimbabwe?" Mr. Guehenno said he is not the one to ask, that the question should be directed to and answered by Department of Political Affairs. Okay then.

            The main action was dueling resolutions: the Qatari resolution on Gaza, not expanded to cover Lebanon, texts and more texts on North Korea, and forthcoming text on Iran. In the midst of these, all covered elsewhere, French ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere let drop that he met with the Thai candidate for Secretary-General. Inner City Press pursued at the stakeout the fate of the Gaza electrical power plant, which UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said Tuesday should be repaired by Israel. Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton if he had any comment on this. He replied, "I don't have any comment." Dan Gillerman, the Ambassador of Israel, said that his country has "no intention to punish" civilians, but that he has "no information on the plant." Inner City Press asked to be updated, and asked OCHA to amplify Jan Egeland's reference to an "American insurance company" now possibly barred from paying out on the policy due to sanctions against Hamas. Who paid the premiums? Especially, after the insurance company became arguably barred from paying on the policy?  Developing....

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