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At the UN, North Korea Sanctions Agreed On, Naval Searches and Murky Weapons Sales

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 14, 3:20 p.m. -- "Six days after the North Korean test, the passage of a Security Council resolution is imminent," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters just after noon on Saturday. By one o'clock Amb. Bolton emerged with Chinese Ambassador Wang to announce a vote by 1:30. "What led to the deal?" a reporter shouted.

            "Good diplomacy," Amb. Bolton deadpanned. Then he and Amb. Wang ambled north along the UN's second story hallway, surrounded by security guards.

Update of 3:15 p.m. -- in serial stakeout interviews following the Council's 15-0 vote, North Korea's Ambassador called the resolution "gangster-like," then strode down the hall, ignoring the questions shouted after him. Chinese Amb. Wang called the cargo inspection language "watered down." Amb. Bolton deadpanned that resolutions are binding.

  Inner City Press asked Argentine Ambassador Mayoral if this can really be called a resolution -- if it has been resuelto, in Spanish -- since it leaves a 14 day window to make final decisions.  Video here. Amb. Mayoral said Council President Oshima will decide how to use the 14 days. On this question of putting off finalizing what can and cannot be transferred to North Korea for 14 days, Russian Ambassador Churkin explained that even earlier today, he was pointing out to other delegations some unintended consequences of the proposed lists. After declining to answer Inner City Press' question about Georgia, Amb. Churkin also panned recent U.S. legislation which purports to cover other countries on transfers to both Iran and North Korea. Video here. He quickly added that he was not connecting those two countries. The scuttlebutt is that the U.S. will try to make the coming week all about Iran. Others are focused on the Venezuela - Guatemala vote(s) for Security Council membership, slated of Monday. Watch this space.

Update of 1:59 p.m. -- Chinese Amb. Wang, speaking after the 15-0 adoption of the resolution, now named Resolution 1718, said that China does not approve of cargo inspection and urges nations to avoid provoking North Korea. Apparently, the phrase "as necessary" in the resolution can be read any number of ways.

1:37 p.m. update -- The new Paragraph 8(a)(ii) puts off for 14 days a decision on the range of "items, materials, equipment, good and technology" which can't be transferred the North Korea. A UN diplomat explained that "Russia is not a party to the Australia list" [in the resolution, referred to via document S/2006/816] and so "we had to cut them a break." The scope of this loophole is in the process of being explored -- watch this space.

Watering down?

   Another U.S. diplomat provided further details: the most recent sticking point has been cargo inspections. The diplomat emphasized that "as necessary" would mean to nearly always inspect at this point, given the grounds for suspicious that North Korea is seeking imports to further its nuclear weapons program.

            "What about the annex?" a reporter shouted out.

            "There is no annex," the U.S. diplomat replied. Rather, the draft resolution refers to other UN documents that list the prohibited materials.

            The run-up to the vote demonstrated again that it is a five-member Council. The Tanzanian Ambassador spoke with reporters about a draft he'd seen at 7 p.m. on Friday, before the Permanent Five members' two-hour meeting on Saturday morning.

            The Ambassador of Ghana was stopped by reporters but said, "I don't know anything, they haven't told me anything."

   Greel Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, meanwhile, lost $5.10 in the automated food machine in the Security Council foyer by choosing, after paying, to open a box that was empty. Next to it, in a still-locked box, was the sandwich the Ambassador wanted. Amb. Vassilakis did a full rotation and tried to get at the sandwich. But for $5.10 you only get to open one box -- even if it's empty. And so it goes at the UN.

At the UN, Georgia Speaks of Ethnic Cleansing While Russia Complains of Visas Denied by the U.S.

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- In the blizzard of words accompanying Friday's six-month extension of the UN's observer mission to Georgia, several strange factual disputes, some of them surreal, were left unresolved. Before the passage of the resolution, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had said that a person he called the foreign minister of Abkhazia had been denied a visa to come to New York, and that the U.S. embassy in Moscow had tried to link granting the visa with Russia accepting changes to the draft resolution it had put forward.

            Inner City Press asked Ambassador Churkin, after the resolution's passage, if this individual might still be coming to New York to brief the Security Council in a so-called Arria formula meeting. No, Amb. Churkin said.

            Then will Russia complain to the Host County Committee of the UN General Assembly?

            Amb. Churkin said that yes, Russia would be filing such a complaint. Video here. Venezuela recently complained about the detention of its foreign minister at JFK airport, a complaint echoed by Sudan and supported by such countries as Mali and Belarus. Click here for Inner City Press' story, Axis of Airport.

UN and IDPs in Zugdidi

            Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton to address Amb. Churkin's statement about this gambit by the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Video here. From the transcript provided by the U.S. mission:

Inner City Press: On Georgia, Ambassador Churkin said that the Abkhaz foreign ministry called him, a person from Abkhazia.  Was the U.S. embassy in Moscow didn't give him a visa in exchange for somehow changing the language of the resolution on Georgia -- is that your understanding of what happened? He said it right here.
Ambassador Bolton: I have -- yeah, you know, I have no idea what that's about.

            Sources tell Inner City Press, however, that not only had Amb. Churkin made his statement about the visa in a televised interview which the U.S. State Department presumably monitors, but also that the visa issue had been discussed in the Security Council consultations prior to Amb. Bolton's above-quoted answer.  This followed:

Inner City Press: And was there any linkage between the two issues, you think, for the U.S. or Russia, between the language of today's Georgia resolution and the North Korea resolution?

Ambassador Bolton: Certainly not for the United States.  I'll let others speak for themselves.

            Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN had any reaction to Russia's allegation that the U.S. blocked this visa and tried to gain negotiating advantage in the Security Council. That sounds like a bilateral issue between the two countries, the spokesman answered. Video here.

            Inner City Press asked the spokeswoman for the General Assembly president what action has been taken on Venezuela's complaint, and to be told if and when Russia files a complaint. We'll see.

            On the Georgian side, the country's ambassador Irakli Alasania answered a half-dozen questions from Inner City Press, video here. Among other things Amb. Alasania said that attempts by a Permanent Five members whom he left unnamed to link the move toward independence of Kosovo to a similar status for Abkhazia are "troubling." He acknowledged that Javier Solana has spoken publicly about the linkage. Amb. Alasania repeated his call that the peacekeeping force in Georgia by transitioned from Russian troops to UN blue helmets.

            Amb. Alasania said that Georgia has raised the issue of the treatment of Georgian in Russia to the UN General Assembly's Third Committee. (Inner City Press has asked the spokeswoman for the GA President for an update on this.) He spoke of ethnic cleansing and military provocation, and disputed Russian Amb. Churkin's statement that the UN has found impermissible Georgian artillery in the Kodori Gorge.

            Amb. Alasania brought with him an individual he called the "Head of Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia," Malkhaz Akishbaia. Inner City Press asked Mr. Akishbaia how he had gotten his visa to come. Amb. Alasania cut in to answer the question, that they hadn't had any problems. Mr. Akishbaia told Inner City Press that his government has relocated from Tblisi to the Kodori Gorge, with a staff of some 20 people. A Georgian mission staffer promised again to provide Inner City Press with evidence of the money laundering in the parts of Abkhazia over which Georgia has no control; we'll see.

At the UN, Deference to the Congo's Kabila and Tank-Sales to North Korea, of Slippery Eels and Sun Microsystems

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- "If it's all night, it's all right." U.S. Ambassador Bolton said this phrase with relish to a gaggle of reporters at 6 p.m. on Friday.  While the reference was to the still-pending Security Council resolution response to North Korea's nuclear test six days ago, the night-right rhyme is from a lyric sung by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

            Heard on the grapevine is that Russia's opposition or delay springs from the inclusion of tanks in the list of weapons it could not sell to North Korea. A U.S. diplomat said Russia's opposition on Friday afternoon started out as technical, then became more substantive and intransigent. Amid reporters' questions about the draft resolution's provisions for searching North Korean ships and barring the sale to North Korea of armaments listed in the resolution's still not firm annex, no one asked for John Bolton's view on another James Brown lyric, "Say it loud, I'm black, I'm proud."

            A hour after being confirmed by the General Assembly as the next Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon held a 20-minute press conference. He took only six questions; it was not clear if any of the questions were answered. A question about Africa was left entirely unresponded-to. (See below in this Report.)

Ban Ki-Moon -- Slippery Eel or "Moves All The World"? (See below)

            So to at Kofi Annan's spokesman's noon briefing. In response to two questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the spokesman said that the DRC is a sovereign nation, not run by the UN. From the transcript:

Inner City Press question:  There is criticism of the Kabila Government replacing two ministers with military personnel, the Minister of the Interior and the Governor of Kinshasa.  I know Mr. Gambari is there.  On that or the previous things Iíve asked you on Mr. Bembaís helicopter, has he spoken on these issues?

 Spokesman:  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a sovereign Government.  The helicopter is for the Congolese Government to settle.  It is my understanding that the helicopter was provided to Mr. Bemba in his capacity of Vice-President.  Obviously, Mr. [William Lacy] Swing has been trying to smooth the relations between Mr. Bemba and Mr. Kabila, but the issue of the helicopter is not one, as far as I understand, that we are getting directly involved in.  On the issue of ministers, once again, it is the prerogative of the Government to appoint its ministers.  The Congo is not a UN-administered territory. 

            This hasn't stopped the UN Secretariat and its envoy from routinely exhorting the Congolese to remain calm, to disarm, to eschew hate speech and the like. But when Joseph Kabila, three weeks before the run-off election, puts his military staffers in control of the Ministry of the Interior and the governorship of Kinshasa, the UN then has no comment, out of respect for sovereignty. Even on the open question of Mr. Kabila not having fulfilled his previous pledge to replace his opponent's destroyed helicopter, the UN has no comment. Thus even in a disarmed Kinshasa is ammunition given to those Congolese who allege that the UN has spent half a billion dollar merely to re-anoint Joseph Kabila.

            Speaking of money's ability to talk, Friday afternoon as part of a briefing about the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit, the high-tech company Sun Microsystem was presented as a UN partner, for sponsoring a web site for the summit. Inner City Press asked how Sun Microsystems was selected to partner with the UN, and whether Sun was asked, as Intel was recently asked by Inner City Press, what safeguards it has in place not to use conflict coltan from the Congo. Video here, from Minute 31:24.  Sun was described as a long-term UN partner. But there are more questions: Sun is known to have assisted for Internet blocking and surveillance both China and Myanmar. Global Compact, anyone?

[Transcription on Africa question and non-answer:

"Question:  you are coming at a time when Africa is at two extremes. We have, on one side, nations that are reforming economically and politically and, on the other side, nations that are in deep conflict. I want to know your program specifically for these African nations.

     Mr. Ban Ki-moon: As I have just been appointed, I will have some time to reflect on these issues, and by the time I take on my duty as Secretary-General next year, I'll be able to give you some basic, broad concept of my work plans. But, if I may tell you, in principal matters, I'll try to change the culture where the United Nations has been operating. We need to bring new, fresh wind to the Secretariat, to bring management reforms to make Secretariat staff working on the professionalism, working on the highest level of integrity."

            In fairness to Ban Ki-Moon, after his 20-minute, six-question briefing in Conference Room 2, he met with Korean media and was more expansive. He explained that his nickname, Slippery Eel, can be transcribed in Chinese as "Moves All The World," a moniker he prefers. In his speech to the General Assembly, he spoke eloquently of modesty. He told reporters he plans to appoint a special envoy for North Korea.

            Another hotspot on which Inner City Press will be reporting more, shortly, is Georgia and its contested Abkhazia region. Watch this site, over the weekend.

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At the UN, Annan's Africa Advisor Welcome Chinese Investment, Dodges Zimbabwe, Nods to Darfur

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 -- "I can assure you the Africans welcome investment from the Chinese." So said Kofi Annan's Special Advisor on Africa Legwaila Joseph Legwaila on Tuesday. Inner City Press had asked him about reports of Russia expanding its business with Zimbabwe to $300 million, in the context of allegations that Russia and Chinese are blocking UN Security Council action on Zimbabwe and, more visibly, Darfur.

            Of China, Mr. Legwaila answered, "If their national interest in the Security Council clashes with the other members, it's not for us to second guess... as long as they support NEPAD," the five-year old New Partnership for Africa's Development. Mr. Legwaila described NEPAD as African-initiated and African-run, and emphasized that all regions of the world, not only "the Continent," have corruption.

     He pointed out that 25 of the African Union's 53 members are going through NEPAD's Peer Review Mechanism, which will certify them on good governance. While declined to directly answer Inner City Press' question about Zimbabwe -- earlier on Thursday, a UN diplomat told Inner City Press that the U.S. has been pushing since January for Security Council action on Zimbabwe -- Mr. Legwaila went out of his way to say, "One of our interests is that the conflict in Darfur must end." Video on UNTV, Minute 28:55 to 33:42.

AU in Darfur

            Sudan is one of the 25 countries which "have so far acceded" to the African Peer Review Mechanism. Inner City Press asked Mr. Legwaila if this mechanism might be used with respect to Darfur, which must be considered a governance as well as human rights issue. "Certainly," Mr. Legwaila responded. "The review is tough, it is not by diplomats like me." Mr. Legwaila previously served as Kofi Annan's envoy to Ethiopia and Eritrea.

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Legwaila to address the involvement in Somalia of Ethiopia, Eritrea and other counties. Mr. Legwaila added Djibouti to the list, and opined that countries are understandably concerned by instability on their borders. "I am not saying they are justified to do that which we read in the newspapers," Mr. Legwaila quickly clarified. "Somalia has had more than enough of misery." Indeed.

            Asked about the recommendation by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, that Laurent Gbagbo be given another year in power in the Ivory Coast, until a now twice-delayed election, Mr. Legwaila said he's seen official documents on this recommendation. Kofi Annan's spokesman added that the recommendation next goes to the Security Council. But what are Mr. Annan's views on the breakdown in Ivory Coast?  Many feel that as Secretary-General he can't keep deferring to ECOWAS, or Mbeki, as he has done to date to Ben Mkapa on Zimbabwe. We'll see.

News Analysis: Georgia on its Mind, Russia Delays North Korea Nuclear Resolution with Abkhazia Allusions

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 -- As the U.S. called for a Friday vote on sanctions for North Korea's nuclear test, China and Russia said more time and a softer approach should be taken. U.S. proposals for travel bans, shipping inspections and assets seizures are in question. At the UN on Thursday, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called for a "cool-headed reaction."

            News analysis: admitting the difficulties of knowing anyone's mind, it occurs to Inner City Press that the Russian position on the North Korea draft resolution may not be unrelated to Russia's desire to get the U.S. on its side on the questions of Georgia and Abkhazia. In a purportedly unrelated statement on Thursday, Amb. Churkin said that the "foreign minister of Abkhazia... an internationally recognized party to this conflict" had applied to the U.S. embassy in Moscow for a visa to come to New York. Russia had proposed that he speak to the Security Council in a so-called Arias style meeting.

   According to Amb. Churkin, the U.S. tried to condition the visa on Russia softening its draft resolution on Abkhazia. "The U.S. embassy in Moscow apparently believes that Abkhazia is part of the Russian Federation," Amb. Churkin deadpanned. "It is not." It was reminiscent of the airport abuse claims recently made by Venezuela and others, click here for that Inner City Press story.

Hard road in Abkhazia

            Friday at the UN, the Ambassador of Georgia, with what's being called a "special guest," will be holding a press conference. Perhaps Georgia will complain that beyond having its issues linked with Kosovo, now it's held hostage to the North Korea issue. It's not easy being a former Soviet republic. To be continued.

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

As UN Checks Toxins in Abidjan, the Dumper Trafigura Figured in Oil for Food Scandal, Funded by RBS and BNP Paribas

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The UN and Nagorno-Karabakh: Flurries of Activity Leave Frozen Conflicts Unchanged; Updates on Gaza, Gavels and Gbagbo

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At the UN, Micro-States Simmer Under the Assembly's Surface, While Incoming Council President Dodges Most Questions

"Horror Struck" is How UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments Would Leave U.S., Referral on Burma But Not Uzbekistan

Security Council President Condemns UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments, While UK "Doesn't Do It Any More"

At the UN, Incomplete Reforms Allow for Gifts of Free Housing to UN Officials by Member States

Rare UN Sunshine From If Not In Chad While Blind on Somalia and Zimbabwe, UNDP With Shell in its Ear on Nigeria

Annan Family Ties With Purchaser from Compass, Embroiled in UN Scandal, Raise Unanswered Ethical Questions

At the UN, from Casamance to Transdniestria, Kosovars to Lezgines, Micro-States as Powerful's Playthings

Inquiry Into Housing Subsidies Contrary to UN Charter Goes Ignored for 8 Weeks, As Head UN Peacekeeper Does Not Respond

Congo Shootout Triggers Kofi Annan Call, While Agent Orange Protest Yields Email from Old London

On the UN - Corporate Beat, Dow Chemical Luncheon Chickens Come Home to Roost

UN Bets the House on Lebanon, While Willfully Blind in Somalia and Pinned Down in Kinshasa

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UN Decries Uzbekistan's Use of Torture, While Helping It To Tax and Rule; Updates on UNIFIL and UNMIS Off-Message

At the UN, Lebanon Resolution Passes with Loophole, Amb. Gillerman Says It Has All Been Defensive

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UN Knew of Child Soldier Use by Two Warlords Whose Entry into Congo Army the UN Facilitated

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Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

For reporting about banks, predatory lending, consumer protection, money laundering, mergers or the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), click here for Inner City Press's weekly CRA Report. Inner City Press also reports weekly concerning the Federal Reserve, environmental justice, global inner cities, and more recently on the United Nations, where Inner City Press is accredited media. Follow those links for more of Inner City Press's reporting, or, click here to contact us with or for more information.

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