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To Visit Sri Lanka, Ban Ki-moon Called “Too Busy” by UN Sources, Despite Japanese Urging and Invitation

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 7 -- In the face of a “bloodbath on the beach” in Sri Lanka, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “feels that if it can save lives, he will definitely consider” making an invited visit to the country. Inner City Press has learned that during Mr. Ban's little noticed bilateral meeting with Japan's Ambassador Yukio Takasu on May 4, Ban was briefing on the visit to Sri Lank by Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi, and was urged to make his own trip. Click here for Inner City Press' exclusive account of Ban's mysterious dash into the Council while it met in consultations on May 4.

    But now Secretariat insiders tell Inner City Press such a trip, for now, is unlikely. Ban has to attend Russia's May 11 debate on the Middle East,they say. And he intends to be in New York for a May 15 meeting with China's deputy foreign minister, so “there is no time,” they've been told. Some question his commitment.

UN's Ban on UN plane, Sri Lanka trip not shown

Ban spoke genially to the Press at a World Press Freedom Day event at the residence of French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert on Wednesday night. While wishing to give full off the record treatment to Ban's comment, Inner City Press did ask him about going to Sri Lanka, taking the Press, pushing the country's leadership for real investigations of the deaths of journalists. Perhaps on the record answers will be given.

At Thursday's UN noon briefing, just before publication of this article, Inner City Press asked Ban's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq to confirm Ban's meeting with Japan's Takasu, and that May 11 and May 15 commitments (with “Chinese diplomats”) make it unlikely Ban will go to Sri Lanka. “Scheduling is a separate issue,” Haq said. “If he can make a difference... then he will go.” Video through here. We include this denial, and emphasize if necessary -- in light of sensitivity the UN Secretariat has shown in the recent past -- that the "too busy" characterization is from senion UN Secretariat staff, anonymous for fear of retaliation, and not from Ban himself.

    Haq did confirm Ban's meeting with Takasu and said “we don't provide read outs of meetings with Ambassadors.” Why wasn't the Takasu meeting -- about Sri Lanka -- even put on Ban's public schedule? “It came up all of a sudden when he had a bit of timing.” Timing is everything. Watch this site.

Footnote: UK and French foreign ministers Miliband and Kouchner are said to be requesting a Security Council meeting on Sri Lanka when they are in New York on May 11. This, perhaps, is what US Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff meant when on May 4 he told Inner City Press, maybe we won't need a footnote on Sri Lanka in May's program of work for the Council. We'll see.

   On May 6, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson about a widely seen piece on Britain's Channel 4, filmed in an IDP camp with allegations, on camera, of the disappearance and rape of young women. Video here, from Minute 17:42. "You know I do not comment on press reports," the spokesperson said. "I haven't seen it, and I don't think the S-G has seen it either." Well maybe he should:

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time weeks later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. On April 21, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman the following day cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." But they are still detained as of this writing. As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on 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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