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As Egypt's IMF Rep Quits, Its Ambassador Wants UN Job Like Choi - & Kouchner?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 6 -- With Egypt's Permanent Representative to the UN Maged A. Abdelaziz set to meet on Monday with the returned Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, there's been scant reporting of a topic the two have discussed for some time now: a top UN job for Maged.

  For many months the UN Secretariat has been abuzz with Maged's demands for a UN job. When the number two post at the UN Development Program opened up, Maged tried to become the African Group's candidate. This lead to a split; the job was awarded to a candidate from Costa Rica.

  Since then, a senior UN official repeated to Inner City Press on February 4, Maged has continued to press for a UN posting, even as his name circulated in the pre-January 25 days as a possible foreign minister. “Now that chance is off the table,” the UN official told Inner City Press. “So Maged will just have to push the UN harder.”

  Meanwhile Egypt's now deposed finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali resigned as head of the Monetary and Finance Committee of the International Monetary Fund. He could have tried to stay on, but didn't. A lesson for Mubarak?

Maged Abdelaziz makes point to Ban: UN job offer not yet shown

  The UN in recent years has handed top posts to a number of former Ambassadors, for example giving its Somalia post to Augustine Mahiga after he was Tanzania's Permanent Representative to the UN. The UN's envoy to Cote d'Ivoire, Choi Young-jin, was South Korea's Ambassador to the UN, along with masterminding Ban Ki-moon's campaign to become Secretary General.

  Now the buzz is that deposed French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner wants to become the head of the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH. Not only NGOs and many Haitians, but even other UN officials, think it would be a “terrible decision,” given France's history with Haiti. But this is Ban Ki-moon's UN. Watch this site.

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In UN Council, Whole Lot of Nothing Predicted: No Egypt or Gbagbo Sanctions, No Vote on Settlements or DPRK Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 1 -- As protests spread from Egypt to Sudan and even Albania, February's UN Security Council president Brazil undertook Tuesday to meet with each of the Council's members about the month's program of work.

  Just outside the chamber, Inner City Press asked Ambassadors questions as they emerged, starting with whether Egypt might be considered in the Council, at least in the “horizon” or big-picture briefing by the Department of Political Affairs.

  Without exception, the Ambassadors said that it would not be considered. “It'll be talked about, but not here around the horseshoe table,” India's Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri said on his way out.

  On his way in, when Inner City Press asked about the month's “hot topics,” he said that the hot topics would not be dealt with in the Security Council. Some wonder: then why want so badly to be on the Council?

  The morning began with Bosnia, January's president, passing the torch to Brazil -- or the “hot potato,” as Bosnia's Ivan Barbalic put it to Inner City Press.

   Next came Russia, with its usual troika of Vitaly Churkin, Konstantin Dolgov and the ubiquitous Vladimir. Asked about the truth of the US pushing additional Cote d'Ivoire sanctions in the Council, Churkin said no, given the African mediation efforts, no new sanctions would be discussed.

France's Gerard Araud, next in line, agreed that additional sanctions would not proceed in light of the African mediation -- which includes Chadian president Idriss Deby. Inner City Press asked Araud -- and UK Deputy Permanent Representative Philip Parham -- about Sudan international justice issues, which will be the subject of a separate story.

Brazil's Perm Rep casting biggest vote to date: Egypt not shown

  India's Hardeep Singh Puri said, of Sudan, that there might be one meeting instead of the planned two about the Southern Sudan referendum, and that Brazil's Permanent Representative Ribeiro Viotti-- he called her by her first name Maria Luiza -- would consult, “as a mature member,” and decide.

Asked if he envisioned the draft resolution on settlements by Israel being considered, he said on the record that he did not, that leaving it “in blue” for an extended period of time would not be a problem.

Many Arab Ambassadors are saying this as well, noting that the US under Barack Obama is under pressure to veto the resolution, and that “would not help anyone.”

The next Ambassadors spoke, among other things, about the new report on North Korea: when would the 1718 Committee consider it? It has been circulated, was the response, and will follow the normal procedure. Inner City Press asked for a response to the cynic's view that China will not want the report to proceed anytime soon. “That's a cynic's view,” was the response.

The wild card for the month will be the Department of Political Affairs briefing. Inner City Press asked if it would include reference to Egypt and Tunisia, even Jordan and Yemen. “Probably not,” came the response. “That is too big picture.” And so it goes in the UN Security Council.

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At UN, Empty Talk of Egypt and Culture Wars on Lesbian Rights, of Muslim Peacekeepers and Decay under Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 1 -- Amid protests by Egyptians in Cairo, New York and elsewhere, the UN Security Council held its end of presidency reception Monday night, hosted by Bosnia in a rooftop space a half dozen blocks from the UN.

That Egypt is the big world news but not present in the Security Council, nor meaningfully addressed by the out of town Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was the talk of the night.

Inner City Press asked the Permanent Representative of one of the Council's permanent members why Egypt had not even been mentioned in consultations. “It's an internal matter,” he said. “We're following it closely, it's a question of timing and that it must be done without violence.”

The spokesman for a Western member said that “the capitals are studying it, they have to get their own positions clear before even thinking of acting through the Council.”

The UK has been most clear, in statements by David Cameron and foreign minister William Hague: Mubarak is a “friend of Britain” and the prospect of Muslim Brotherhood involvement in a subsequent government is abhorrent. To some it echoes the Cold War: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. For thirty years of “emergency” rule.

There were of course other topics. Inner City Press, which reported earlier in the day on attacks in the ECOSOC Committee on NGO on a women's group from Serbia which mentioned discrimination against lesbians in its application for consultative status, asked Serbia's Permanent Representative about the group. He was jovial but hadn't heard of this new Serbian showdown.

The irony is that after Serbia's lower down representative spoke in favor of the group, so did the US and Bulgaria, as well as Belgium and the EU. On the other side were Pakistan, Russia, Sudan and Morocco.

Inner City Press asked Morocco's Permanent Representative about his country's opposition to to the group, the Autonomous Women's Center. “It must be on behalf of the OIC,” he said. Later another Moroccan said his country represents the Arab Group this year in the NGO committee, replacing Egypt whose staffer famously said of a gay rights applicant for consultative status to the UN, “We've asked questions but we just can't get any straight answers from them.”

Now that Egyptian regime is on the rocks, despite its long time Permanent Representative trying to act otherwise at the UN on Monday, delivering a speech to the UNDP executive board as if nothing was happening.

So while the world sees and talks about a wave of change sweeping the Arab world, this leaves no mark inside the UN, where Arab countries like Morocco score points by opposing gay rights.

There was talk of Islamic peacekeeping, with an Asian Muslim country's Permanent Representative telling Inner City Press his country has offered troops to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government if the force ever “gets blue hatted,” or comes under UN command. He said that same of Afghanistan: his country will only send soldiers if the UN is in charge, not ISAF.

While several members characterized Bosnia's presidency in January as rather sleepy, its reception got higher marks from the crowd of diplomatic Epicures, noshing on Kobe beef sliders and burek like Bosnian pastry filled with meat and spinach.

  The Bosnian missions first couple ended the evening by dancing, as the lights of midtown Manhattan flickered through the glass roof. Their Deputy was congenial, having served her country through thick and thin.

  Inner City Press' question to the Perm Rep about a new documentary about UN peacekeepers in Bosnia buying women -- where was the Autonomous Women's Center then? -- met with a smiling “I'm not working tonight.” But of course he was. And through the course of January he got more accessible and comfortable at the Council stakeout, to his credit, unlike some in the UN.

Team Bosnia in the Council, Egypt & Ban's spokesman not shown

The deterioration under the Ban Ki-moon “regime” as one called it was also in the air. A well placed Council source recalled “Martin [Nesirky] got excluded from the Council's consultations and all we got was a letter from [Vijay] Nambiar.” Ban's chief of staff Nambiar was in attendance Monday, but chief adviser Kim Won-soo did not seem to be. Susan Rice was nowhere to be seen, nor it appeared was her UK counterpart Mark Lyall Grant.

  The Permanent Representatives of France, China and Russia were all present, along with those of just left Council members like Austria and Turkey. Israel's prime minister is much concerned of regime change in Egypt. Israel's hard line Permanent Representative was not seen at that reception Monday night, but earlier on Monday Israel joined the defense of the Serbian group on lesbian rights. And so it goes at the UN.

Footnote: earlier on Monday several dozen UN correspondents discussed the lack of information coming out of Ban Ki-moon's UN, unfavorably comparing Ban's answering in New York to what he does, for example, while in Addis Ababa the last few days, including a France 24 interview against deferring announcing a campaign for a second term.

  Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky was reviewed, called alternately rude and “in a tough spot” not getting any information from Ban. We'll address this going forward - later today, and in this new month when Brazil heads the Council, holding a debate on Security and Development on February 11. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

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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