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At UN, Eritreans Grilled in Sanctions Committee, Somalia on Tap for July 25

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- After UN Security Council members met behind closed doors Friday afternoon about Somalia and Eritrea sanctions, Inner City Press asked committee chairman Hardeep Singh Puri of India if new sanctions on mining and funds from the Eritrean diaspora were discussed.

We need a meeting on that,” he said, adding that he had invited Permanent Representative Desta and presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab -- who Inner City Press interviewed on July 22, click here for video -- to respond to the “outlines” of the forthcoming monitoring committee report.

My goal is compliance with Resolution 1907,” Hardeep Singh Puri said, “not to box anybody in.”

The discussion take place as the Somalia's Al Shabaab, which Eritrea is accused of supporting, vacillate about allowing humanitarian groups in to the drought ravaged areas under their control.

Security Council sources told Inner City Press Friday morning that a briefing is being scheduled for July 25 at 11 am on Somlia -- “only on humanitarian issues.”

Previously, Indian peacekeepers in Asmara, Badme not shown

  Some said that holding the briefing might “raise expectations” that the UN could or would do something in the face of Al Shabaab's humanitarian blockade. But later Friday it was confirmed: the briefing will proceed.

Eritrea's foreign minister Osman Saleh Mohammed is slated to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on July 25 at 3:30. And later in the week, sources say, the monitoring group's report should be made public. We'll see.

* * *

At UN, Eritrea's Yemane Interviewed on Sanctions, Somalia & Human Rights

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 21 -- After the Eritrea meeting of the UN Security Council on July 19, which Inner City Press was one of only two media outlets to go to cover, and of the two the only one to write about it, Eritrea's Mission to the UN reached out to offer an interview with Yemane Ghebreab, special political adviser to President Isaias Afwerki.

  Afwerki had met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on July 8 in Juba, the day before South Sudan's independence. In the UN read-out afterward, and in response to questions from Inner City Press, the UN insisted that the topic of Somalia was not discussed, that “the read out speaks for itself.”

  But Yemane Ghebreab on July 21 told Inner City Press that Somalia was in fact discussed with Ban. Video here.

  As sources in the Security Council's closed door July 19 meeting said happened there, Yemane Ghebreab denied that Eritrea has supported the Al Shabaab rebels in Somalia. For this proposition, he argued that Eritrea is a secular country, half Christian, and would not support Islamists.

  Yemane Ghebreab said that in the close door meeting the US, represented by Ambassador Susan Rice, had urged further sanctions on Eritrea, including some that would bar the diaspora from sending money home for development projects, and block investment in mining, including by American firms.

  Inner City Press asked Yemane Ghebreab to contrast the positions of the US under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Yemane Ghebreab replied that “we knew Susan Rice when she was with the Clinton administration,” but now things were very hostile, that the US alone wanted more sanctions. (Other Security Council sources later disagreed with this assessment, while identifying the US as “the most anti-Eritrea.”)

  Yemane Ghebreab said that the US will support Ethiopia whatever it does, including “violating international law” by holding on to Eritrean territory including Badme, and buying 200 tanks while asking for aid money. Inner City Press asked if he thought that Ethiopia being tapped as provider of troops for Abyei in Sudan further isolated Eritrea. We do not begrudge them their peacekeeping role, Yemane Ghebreab in essence replied.

  Inner City Press asked Yemane Ghebreab about the recent defections by Eritrean athletes; he replied that was merely “migration."

 Inner City Press asked if military aged males are not allowed passports. There is “national service,” he said, like the draft the US had in the Vietnam War era.

  Inner City Press asked if the family of people who defect are punished. “Only if they are complicit,” Yemane Ghebreab said. He said his country became independent as the Cold War ended and things have not worked out in the Horn of Africa as they had hoped. He said there is hope. We'll see.

* * *

At UN, Eritrea Gets “Bashed” Despite Badme Land Claim, Sanctions Threatened

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 19 -- Last month Eritrea asked the UN Security Council to meet with it, and on Tuesday the meeting was granted. Also present, however, were representatives from Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda, who “bashed Eritrea” as one Permanent Representative leaving the meeting told Inner City Press.

The Council wanted the meeting to be closed to the press and public, but cannot invite non Council members into its consultations. So it was called an interactive dialogue and was held not in the Council chambers but on the second floor of the UN's temporary North Lawn building.

  Chinese Deputy Permanent Representative Wang shook his head and told Inner City Press he did not think the Council could solve this problem.

  In the middle of the meeting, French Ambassador Gerard Araud emerged, bought a pastry and stood eating it while studying a three dimensional carving of the 1269 B.C. treaty of Hattusilis and Ramses II, given to the UN by Turkey in 1970. Next to him was a stone carving given to the UN by Syria, a topic he's said to have raised in the Council's consultations on July 18.

  Passing to reporters, Araud quipped of the Eritrea meeting, “They are not kissing each other.”

  Another Permanent Representative bemoaned the format that developed for the meeting, saying that further “Eritrea bashing is not productive."

Eritrea Perm Rep Araya Desta, present at the meeting

  Another added, of Eritrea, “they are isolated in their neighborhood, their neighbors do not like their foreign policy including in Somalia.”

  Inside Eritrea emphasized that while it had won a court decision that Badme and other land belongs to it and not Ethiopia, the decision has not been implemented. One Council member said that additional sanctions may be imposed on Eritrea.

This seems like a spiral: where will it end? Watch this site.

Footnote: the last we heard from Eritrea at the UN, one of their representatives gave a long speech at dawn before the meeting to approve the UN Peacekeeping budget could be approved. Eritrea at the UN is always well spoken....

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

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.

* * *

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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