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UN's Ban Silent as China Sentences Liu Xiaobo to 11 Years and Five Uighurs to Death, of P-5 Internal Affairs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 25 -- As China in the past two days has sentenced five Uighurs to death and Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison for writing about political change, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said nothing.

  On Christmas Eve at UN headquarters, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if Ban had any comment at all on the executions of Uighur and the trial of Liu Xiaobo. Nesirky replied, "I’ll see if I can get something for you. I don’t have anything now."

  More than twenty four hours later, and after the announcement of the 11 year sentence for Liu Xiaobo and the repression of protests, still nothing from Mr. Ban. By contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in response that the Chinese government "still massively restricts freedom of opinion and of the press."

  Perhaps Ban and the UN are cowed by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu characterization of "outside" discussion of Liu Xiaobo's case as "a gross interference of China's internal affairs."

  But Ban is not even consistent in ignoring "internal affairs" and human rights. With small or African countries, the statements are churned out without hesitation. But in the case of China and other Permanent Five members of the Security Council -- any one of which could veto a second term for Mr. Ban -- there is silence.

  This has led even some of Ban's closest advisers to tell Inner City Press that the UN Secretary General should serve only a single term. Watch this site.

UN's Ban and China's Wen Jiabao on Dec. 17, Liu Xiaobo and Uighurs not shown

The theme of Ban's and the UN's view of human rights and what are "internal matters" arose again in Thursday's briefing, about Nepal:

Inenr City Press: in Nepal, I previously asked you about this return of Colonel Basnet who was charged with torture. The army has now said that he will not be turned over to a civilian court, that he won’t be put on trial at all. They have also named Major General Singh who was charged by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with torture, as the number two in the army, leading me to ask, either has the Secretary-General any comment on this or whether the UN will continue… at what point does the UN, in terms of using peacekeepers, I understand that their position seems to be as long as they return somebody everything is fine, but if the army from which they’re receiving peacekeeping troops names a UN-accused torturer as the number two in the army, does that have any impact on the use of troops or does, do things continue unabated?

Spokesperson Nesirky: There are a lot of questions packed in there and so I’ll try to unpack it if I can. The major you mentioned was repatriated from the UN Mission. He was sent back as soon as it became clear that there were these allegations or accusations or charges. He’s now back in Nepal. And as I’ve said here before, and others have also said, once the person has returned, it is a matter for the national Government, for, in this case, the Government of Nepal to handle. It is for them to deal with. On the question of the other appointee, that is not something that I can get into here.

Inner City Press: I’m sorry, and thanks for indulging me, I guess my question becomes, I mean, in Nepal there is a national commission on human rights which has said that he should be, this Major Basnet, should be put on trial. I mean, is the UN saying basically that it is an internal matter to countries and no matter how a military is run. I guess I’m just wondering, is there a point at which a military thumbing its nose not only at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but its own National Human Rights Commission, what are the standards for DPKO? Will they accept soldiers from any military in the world or what standards do they apply? Or is it purely an internal matter how a military runs itself?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, first of all it’s clearly, it’s… a national Government is responsible for national armed forces.

Just as, in Ban's apparent view, a national Government is responsible for imposing long sentences on its peaceful disadents: internal matters, all.

* * *

UN Mute As China Calls Even Uighur Babies Criminals, Cambodia to Return

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- Twenty two Uighur asylum seekers, two of them babies, have been in limbo in Cambodia for days. China has demanded their return as "criminals" -- even the babies. On December 15, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman

Inner City Press: China has said that there are these Uighur refugees, or attempted refugees, who’ve gone to Cambodia and have applied for asylum status. China has said openly that UNHCR should not accept them, that they’re criminals. Several of them are children. So I’m wondering if anyone -- the Secretariat had some things to say during the disturbances in western China, but whether the Secretariat agrees that children can be criminals and that these people, who may face either torture or execution if they’re returned, should be returned to China by Cambodia.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: I’ve also heard these reports. We’ve also heard about these reports about Uighur would-be refugees, asylum seekers, and I would refer you to UNHCR. They will probably have more detail on that.

  But UNHCR has not said anything either. And now Cambodia has said that the asylum seekers entered the country "illegally," and will be returned to China. Still, not a word from the UN.

  This is a pattern. On October 14, 2009, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: In China, in the wake of the disturbances in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and that six Uighurs have been sentenced to death after trials that involved no legal representation -- what’s the UN done on that issue since the single statement by the Secretary-General that there was some concern of unrest in western China? What’s been done generally and is there any comment on this in particular?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: I don’t have any particular comment on this, but I would refer you back, I believe that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, also made some comments; I would refer you back to the concerns that she expressed.

  So, no comment from the Secretary General on the death penalty for protesting minorities, at least not in China. Cynics note a reticence to critique any of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, each of which has veto power, including over an S-G's second term.

UN's Ban at Beijing's birdnest, Uighurs not shown

  On October 21, 2009, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: in western China that 43, at minimum, Uighurs had disappeared, not taken in trial, just simply gone. I’m wondering whether the Secretariat or anyone in the UN system, specifically, not just the comments made some months ago, but looking at that report. And also there is a report of a person jumping or falling to their death from the UN building in Vienna. Have you seen this report?

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: No, not the report you just mentioned on Vienna. I have nothing, but I am sure my Office is looking into it now if that has been the case. As for your other question, yes, I have actually specifically been told that Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay will be addressing this issue this afternoon.

  But Ms. Pillay that afternoon, when asked about it on camera by Inner City Press, did not make any statement. This is a pattern.

Footnote: Others have questions the silence of Ms. Pillay and her Office on the high profile human rights case of Aminatou Haider and her hunger strike. What is going on? Watch this site.

* * *

As UN Council Meets on W. Sahara, Ill Haidar Is Freed, Inner City Press Told by Sources

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, December 17, updated -- As the UN Security Council kept the request for a briefing on Western Sahara in the shadows on Thursday, word reached Inner City Press that seriously ill hunger striker Aminatou Haidar is being released and will return to Western Sahara. "It's good news," the well placed diplomatic source told Inner City Press.

Moments later, a Security Council ambassador emerging from the closed door consultations told Inner City Press of a cable from Spain, that the plane has left.

  Asked if the Council will continue to consider the request for a briefing, the source said yes. But several non-permanent Council members told Inner City Press that "Costa Rica doesn't have nine votes" in favor of its request, if it called for a procedural vote.

Aminatou Haidar, position of U.S. not shown

  Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, as she stood at the Council stakeout microphone, for the U.S. position on whether the Council should have a briefing on Western Sahara. Ambassador Rice walked away from the microphone, the question hanging in the air. "You have your answer," another correspondent told Inner City Press. A request to Mission staff on Wednesday likewise yielded no answer. Watch this site.

Update: as the Council consultations got out, an Ambassador who favored a briefing on Western Sahara said there will now be one. "When they can't defeat you, they go along," he said. The French Ambassador Gerard Araud is said to have adamantly opposed the briefing -- but lost. Of course, the decision came after Ms. Haidar was freed. Inner City Press is told she is returning to Western Sahara on a Spanish plane, with her doctor and sister.

  The U.S. said it was at a "sensitive" moment, and asked for delay. Three days or so, although it's left up to the Burkina Faso presidency. Before the end of the year -- when Burkina Faso leaves the presidency, and the Council...


* * *

W. Sahara and Ms. Haidar's Failing Kidneys in UN Half Light Limbo, Of Embassies

UNITED NATIONS, December 16 -- Through the half light outside the UN Security Council, Morocco's Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki passed on Wednesday afternoon. Inner City Press asked him, "How about a briefing?" The reference was to the request, first made by Costa Rica, supported by Uganda, Austria and to varying degrees others, for a briefing on Western Sahara in light of the extended hunger strike of human rights activist Aminatou Haidar.

  "There is no need for a briefing," Morocco's Ambassador replied. "Everyone knows everything in the UN... transparency."

  Further inquiry by Inner City Press finds that after Costa Rica made its proposal, and even suggested it would call for a vote, Mexico stepped forward for its own reasons with a compromise proposal, that this month's Council president Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso "reach out" to Morocco, the Frente Polisario and envoy Christopher Ross.

  The first two visited with Kafando on Wednesday, with the Frente Polisario presenting a letter among other things urging "the Members of the UNSC to immediately intervene to avoid a tragic end which will haunt forever the peace process."

  Ms. Haidar, according to an Inner City Press source who viewed a text message she sent on Wednesday, is suffering nausea and pain in his kidneys.

  Christopher Ross, UN sources tell Inner City Press, is in California on family business.

  Ban Ki-moon, who met without success with Morocco's foreign minister asking for some humanitarian move, was in Copenhagen, speaking

  We have more, as well, on Mexico's position, on which we reported yesterday. The Frente Polisario maintains an embassy in Mexico, despite Moroccan pressure to close it.

  Perhaps due to language as well as historical leftist and anti-colonial ties, Polisario is on the move in Latin America, opening embassies in Panama and Uruguay. Meanwhile, it had to close its embassy in Kenya, due it is said to pressure not only from Morocco but also Saudi Arabia.

Morocco's Ambassador to the UN, Ms. Haidar's kidneys not shown

  To return full circle to Wednesday afternoon's meeting, Burkina Faso was part of a move, driven by Morocco and France, to ejected Western Sahara from the African Union. It didn't work, but it happened.

  The second of the Burkina Faso presidency's two meetings ended with two options on the horseshoe table: no briefing, as urged by Morocco, or a briefing about Ms. Haidar and the wider situation. How would the choice be made between the two, and what role would be played by France, which in other circumstances has demanded briefings about Myanmar human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi? Watch this site.

* * *

As W. Sahara's Haidar Starves, Mexican Diplomats Call It Sensitive -- For Them

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 16 -- A day after this month's UN Security Council president ducked the Press after consultations on Western Sahara and the hunger strike of Aminatou Haidar, Inner City Press on Tuesday got him on camera explaining what took place. Through a translator, Ambassador Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso said that while some members want a briefing on Western Sahara, others oppose it. As a compromise, he is reaching out to UN envoy Christopher Ross, who is traveling to New York. Video here.

  Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Mexico's Ambassador Claude Heller for his country's position on the briefing. We have to be cautious, Heller said. As such, his position differed from that of Costa Rica, Uganda and Austria, which have requested the briefing.

  Subsequent reporting by Inner City Press gleans that Western Sahara is an issue for opposition parties in Mexico. It's not so much that the Frente Polisario has a crack diplomatic corps overseas. Rather, the issue of independence for Western Sahara is iconic for the Left. Hugo Chavez has spoken on the issue; that Cuba supports the Frente goes without saying.

  So governments like Mexico's, by no means the worst in this regard, just want to stay out of the cross hairs. When they call the Western Sahara issue "sensitive," they are not referring to the dynamic between the parties, but rather to their own domestic politics.

Mexico's Claude Heller, Aminatou Haidar not shown

  Lost in all this is that the people of Western Sahara were promised a referendum on independence, under UN administration. The promise has been broken. And the stink will not go away.

Footnote: Earlier this year, while Mexico initially raised in the Security Council Sri Lanka's "bloodbath on the beach," after Sri Lanka made reference to the "sensitive, internal" matter of Chiapas, Mexico in fact gave some assurances to the Sri Lankan government that it would modify its position. This is how the Security Council works, or doesn't. This is how and why the members make decisions.

* * *

At UN, France Opposes Briefing on Western Sahara, Morocco Blames Haidar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 14 -- Weeks after Morocco arrested seven activists from the Polisario Front, and as Aminatou Haidar's hunger strike gets belated media coverage, the UN Security Council met Monday behind closed doors about Western Sahara. Costa Rica, which leaves the Council next month, asked for a briefing. Inner City Press' sources in the Council, from other continents, say that France opposed even a briefing.

Those looking for consistency won't find it. France has in the past demanded Council meetings about Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi. Now a human rights activist from Western Sahara, opposed by French ally Morocco, is on a hunger strike, and France's position is different.

While sources in the meeting say that this month's Council president, Burkina Faso's Michel Kafando, has been instructed by the members to reach out to UN envoy Christopher Ross, a Burkinabe staffer emerged from the Council to tell the Press that Kafando would not speak.

Inner City Press asked why not, given what happened in consultations. Nothing substantive happened, the staffer responded. By whose definition?

UN's Ban and Morocco's foreign minister, Ms. Haidar not shown

  On December 11, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Morocco's Foreign Minister Taïb Fassi Fihri. Afterwards, the minister briefed the press. He blamed Ms. Haider for her problems. Inner City Press asked about the seven other arrestees. The minister replied that they'd met with Algerian military and intelligence officials, that's why they were arrested. He claimed they will be treated fairly by the Moroccan judicial system. We'll see.

* * *

UN Violates Law in Congo, Leaked UN Legal Memo Shows, Doss on Grill in NY

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 13 -- What are the consequences if the UN violates international law, as defined by the UN's own Office of Legal Affairs? The question is now squarely raise by an October 2009 memorandum to the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC) from chief UN legal office Patricia O'Brien, obtained by Inner City Press and published online here.

  In the October 12 memo, marked "Priority Confidential" and addressed to top UN peacekeeper Alain Le Roy, MONUC's policies for providing assistance to the Congolese army (FARDC) are found to violate international law. Specifically, MONUC's policies, then and now, do not provide for suspending assistance to operations of the FARDC in which laws are violated, but rather only partial suspension to particular units.

  OLA notes that MONUC, even in the cases (so far only one) in which is suspends assistance to a particular unit, might just increase support to other units in the operation. Before publishing this memo, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky for an answer, and received a three paragraph UN Peacekeeping response which does not even address OLA's critique of the lack of a policy for initiating support to an FARDC operation.

  The UN's own Special Rapporteur on extra judicial execution Philip Alston has noted that MONUC worked with - and continues to work with - units under Colonel Zimulinda, which he charges with murder and mass rape.

  These decisions are made by the chief of MONUC Alan Doss, embroiled since the summer in a nepotism scandal in which as exposed by Inner City Press he asked the UN Development Program to show him "leeway" and give his daughter a job, in violation of applicable rules.

  Doss is scheduled to be in New York from December 14 on, to brief the Council -- but perhaps hide from the Press -- on December 16. In the interim there will be press conferences about among other things MONUC's violations of international law under Doss' tenure. Watch this site.

In Congo, UN's Doss under fire, legal violations not shown

  As noted, Inner City Press before publishing this October 2009 OLA memo asked the UN about reports its own Office of Legal Affairs advised MONUC not to work with units of the Congolese army involved in these and other crimes. The response:

Subj: your question on the DRC
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 12/10/2009 1:33:20 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

I. The tasks carried out by MONUC are determined by the Security Council. The mission has a mandate to provide support to the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) in disarming illegal armed groups while protecting the civilian population. MONUC continues to give the highest priority to protection of civilians.

II. In furtherance of this mandate, MONUC and DPKO requested advice from the Office of Legal Affairs regarding the conditions governing their collaboration with the FARDC. In full transparency, the Secretariat and the Mission advised the Security Council of the risks involved and potential consequences of cooperating with the FARDC. The Security Council has repeatedly expressed their unanimous support for MONUC and for the joint operations with the FARDC against the FDLR, with full respect for International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Refugee Law.

III. After extensive consultations between the Secretariat the Mission and OLA, a policy was developed, setting out the conditions under which the Mission would support FARDC. This policy was transmitted to the DRC Government in November. It specifies that all MONUC participation in FARDC operations must be jointly planned and must respect international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law. The policy also includes measures designed to improve FARDC performance as well as to prevent and sanctioning violations. This 'conditionality' provision is why the Mission suspended support to a specific FARDC unit believed to have been involved in the targeted killing of civilians in the Lukweti area of North Kivu.

But this response does not address the October 2009 memo, which says that MONUC should have had a policy before begin to support FARDC operations, and should suspend assistance to entire operations, rather that particular unit. Watch this site.

* * *

IMF Studies Congo Deals by India and China, Quid Pro Quo by Canada at Paris Club on Mining, UN's Kivu Spin

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 11 -- The Congo battles for and is embattled by its natural resources, the International Monetary Fund made plain on Friday, perhaps inadvertently. During a press conference call explaining the IMF's $550 million facility to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the IMF's Brian Ames put the DRC's external debt at $13 billion.

  Inner City Press asked about new debts to China and prospectively India, about conflict and mining in the East, and Canada's use in the Paris Club of debt relief to strong-arm for two of its mining firm.

  Ames, who traveled to Kinshasa to negotiate about what he called the "China deal," described how with IMF pressure the deal decreased in size from $9 billion to $6.2 billion, with "only" $3 billion guaranteed by the Congolese government.

  Even this guarantee, he emphasized, could only become due in 25 years. Still, the IMF urged the restructuring of the China deal. Inner City Press asked about a newly reported loan proposal by India to the Congo, for $263 million.

  Ames said that was just an announcement, when Congolese officials were in India. To Inner City Press, a connection with the Congo's loud demand that Indian peacekeepers leave the UN Mission in the Congo, MONUC, is inescapable. India is paid by the UN and makes money on these peacekeepers. How does this sum relate to whatever concessional rates India will offer to the Congo?

  Inner City Press asked what the IMF thinks of Canada's delay of a Paris Club vote on debt relief to the Congo based on contracts canceled to Canadian mining firms. Ames agreed that this had happened, saying it was really about 1st Quantum. But what about Toronto-based Lundin Mining, whose 24% stake in the Tenke Fungurume mine and its $1.8 billion contract are being "re-negotiated"?

  After Ames said that Canada had, after a week's delay in November, agreed on a conference call to go forward with debt relief, Inner City Press him if 1st Quantum's contract was restored. No, he answered, but the Congolese government, which already won a round of litigation in its own courts, has agreed to international arbitration.

Congo's Kabila and China's Hu Jintao, Indian UN peacekeepers and IMF and Canadian pressure not shown

  Ames' colleague, whom Ames instructed to "earn his paycheck," added the 1st Quantum has other mines in the Congo, that the dispute involves only one mine. Yes, but that is the $553 million Kolwezi copper and cobalt project.

  Inner City Press asked if the IMF has concerns, similar to those evidence on the China deal, about the prospects of an Indian infrastructure loan. It is just a proposal, Ames said, adding that it would be for two hydro electric projects and one water project. Actually, the third would be $50 million towards the rehabilitation of the rail system in Kinshasa.

  When Inner City Press asked about reports, including by the UN's Group of Experts, of illegal mining in the Kivus, Ames said that since this revenue stream has yet to go to the government, its diversion does not have an impact and is not considered. Actually, the UN Group's report shows that units of the Congolese army are involved in the illegal mining.

  Inner City Press asked the UN about reports its own Office of Legal Affairs advised MONUC not to work with units of the Congolese army involved in these and other crimes. The response:

Subj: your question on the DRC
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 12/10/2009 1:33:20 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

I. The tasks carried out by MONUC are determined by the Security Council. The mission has a mandate to provide support to the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) in disarming illegal armed groups while protecting the civilian population. MONUC continues to give the highest priority to protection of civilians.

II. In furtherance of this mandate, MONUC and DPKO requested advice from the Office of Legal Affairs regarding the conditions governing their collaboration with the FARDC. In full transparency, the Secretariat and the Mission advised the Security Council of the risks involved and potential consequences of cooperating with the FARDC. The Security Council has repeatedly expressed their unanimous support for MONUC and for the joint operations with the FARDC against the FDLR, with full respect for International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Refugee Law.

III. After extensive consultations between the Secretariat the Mission and OLA, a policy was developed, setting out the conditions under which the Mission would support FARDC. This policy was transmitted to the DRC Government in November. It specifies that all MONUC participation in FARDC operations must be jointly planned and must respect international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law. The policy also includes measures designed to improve FARDC performance as well as to prevent and sanctioning violations. This 'conditionality' provision is why the Mission suspended support to a specific FARDC unit believed to have been involved in the targeted killing of civilians in the Lukweti area of North Kivu.

Let's remember that the IMF is ostensibly part of the UN system. We will continue to follow this -- watch this site.

* * *

IMF Murky on Angola's Oil, Bond and China Deals, Doles Out $1.4 Billion

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 25 -- Days after announcing a $1.4 billion arrangement with Angola, the International Monetary Fund held a press conference call to offer explanations. At the end, things were murkier than before. Inner City Press asked if the IMF had been able to fully assess the income and distribution of revenue from the state owned oil company Sonangol.

  The IMF's Lamine Leigh, who led the Fund's missions to Angola in August and September, replied that "in the context of our negotiations, Sonangol participated fairly well." Inner City Press asked, since Sonangol has accounts in off shore financial centers and tax havens, if the IMF had gotten to the bottom of these accounts.

  After a long pause, Lamine Leigh proffered another answer, that the government has "committed to steps in the more general area of resource revenue transparency." But what about the Sonangol accounts?

Oil in Angola, Sonangol's accounts not shown

  Inner City Press asked about the statement by IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair Takatoshi Kato that in Angola "measures will be taken to strengthen further the regulatory and supervisory framework." The IMF's Senior Advisor on Africa Sean Nolan replied that the IMF analyzed the effect of the exchange rate on borrowers and "on the banks."

  In fact, Angola's government has gotten billions in pre-export oil loans from, for example, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank. The latter has made similar loans in Turkmenistan, assailed by transparency and human rights advocates. How much of the IMF's new arrangement benefits these banks?

  In fact, the questioner after Inner City Press, cutting off follow up, was from Standard Bank. Other than Inner City Press, the only other media questioner was from Reuters.

  Before the call ended, Inner City Press was able to ask about Angola's reported $4 billion bond sale planned for December. Sean Nolan said that the IMF's "understanding" with Angola does involve a "fundraising effort," but that the timing was not agreed to, the IMF does not "micromanage" to that extent. Nolan added that there is an agreement on an "overall limit."

  "Is it four billion dollars?" Inner City Press asked.

  Nolan replied that the precise limit will be "clear in the documents," which have yet to be released. Why play hide the ball?

 Nolan praised the country for "appointing reputable financial and legal advisers for the transaction" -- JPMorgan Chase will be the manager.

  Nolan continued that the actual size of the bond sale will depend on how much "concessionary lending" Angola gets from "countries with a strong record of financial support to Angola."

  Inner City Press asked if the size of China's loans to Angola -- China gets 16% of its foreign oil from Angola -- were known by the IMF or considered.

  "That hasn't figured in our discussions," the IMF's Nolan responded. Why not? Watch this site.

* * *

IMF's Report Buries Its Icesave Conditionality, Enforcer's Duplicity?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 3 -- While the IMF has acknowledged that its second round of disbursements to crisis-hit Iceland was delayed for months by the country's failure to placate those in the Netherlands and UK who did business with IceSave, the IMF's just released report on Iceland buries the issue on page 30 of the 98 page report. The IMF states that

"[t]he terms and conditions of Nordic loans, amounting to $2.5 billion, have been finalized. Their disbursement has been linked to resolution of the Icesave dispute with the U.K. and Netherlands over deposit insurance liabilities. After protracted discussions, the three governments have reached an agreement on this"

  Once that agreement was reached, on October 18, the IMF then went forward with a letter of intent and memorandum of understanding for the second tranche of financing. But, as with the IMF's moves in Latvia for Swedish banks, some see the Fund operating as an enforcement or collections agent for creditors who even less would like to show their hand.

Iceland / Icesave protest, but is the heartfelt sign true?

  Since the IMF does not like to admit or reveal its degree of control over the countries it lends to, the de facto conditions for loans, such as paying off on IceSave, are often not explicit in what purport to be full agreements containing all express and implied terms.

  In fact, the IMF has claimed that it "no longer" engages in conditionality. But the Iceland report has an entire chart about conditionalities. It's just that the most important one was left unsaid. Is this diplomacy or duplicity?

  The IMF's Iceland report continues, about other loan requests including from Russia:

"A loan from the Faroe Islands ($50 million) has already disbursed, and a loan from Poland has been agreed ($200 million), and will disburse alongside the next 3 program reviews. A $500 million loan originally committed by Russia is no longer expected, but the $250 million in over-financing in the original program, an expected macro-stabilization loan from the EU ($150 million), and use of an existing repo facility with the BIS ($700 million, of which $214 million is outstanding) will more than offset this."

   Offset may be the right word. Last year, in the midst of Iceland's abortive run for a seat on the UN Security Council, the country announced it had to seek a $4 billion loan from Russia. It was after that that the IMF loan commitment was made -- an "offset," some saw it -- and after talks in Istanbul, on October 15 the already whittled down loan request to Russia was formally rejected.

  Then the deal with the UK and Netherlands, and the IMF's releasing. While the IMF calls these types of moves only technical, others call them power politics. Watch this site.

* * *

IMF Plays Ukraine, Zim and Pakistan As "Technical" Questions, Pushes Tax Hikes in Serbia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 -- Are the International Monetary Fund's negotiations with countries about the level of taxes and salaries for public sector employees, the pricing of electricity and the privatization of social services political, or merely "economic and technical"? The questions arose Thursday in connection with Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, among others, in the IMF's first press briefing since its annual meeting in Turkey.

  IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson fielded questions for half an hour, leaving unanswered one submitted by Inner City Press about Serbia, where the IMF's Paul Thompson has been quoted that "if the Serbian delegation has a concrete pan for decreasing expenses, we will support it, if not, they will have to agree with us and think about increasing taxes." Left unanswered: how is raising taxes merely "technical"?

  Ms. Atkinson did respond to Inner City Press' questions about Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. While a full transcript is available online here, and video here, in sum the Q & A went as follows:

 Inner City Press asked, In Ukraine, the opposition party is critical of the IMF as funding the campaign of Tymoshenko. What is the IMF's response to the opposition's criticism? Ms. Atkinson replied that IMF funds go to the central bank, and that the IMF has a team on the ground in Kiev for a third review.

  The opposition was not, it seems, saying that money from the IMF is being used by Tymoshenko for advertisements or to pay poll workers, but rather "MP and opposition government's finance minister, Mykola Azarov, said this at a meeting with delegates of an IMF mission, 'We must say that the program of cooperation with the IMF has turned out to be ineffective, and nothing is left but to consider the IMF's assistance as politically motivated, as funding of one of the candidates running for the presidency.'"

  When another reporter asked a follow up question about Ukraine, wondering if with the IMF mission on the ground, the upcoming election "is an issue," Ms. Atkinson said the IMF does not comment while a mission is in the field, negotiating a program, but that information -- and one hopes some questions and answers -- will be provided once the mission is completed

IMF points the way, in budgets... and politics?

  On Zimbabwe, Inner City Press asked, "NGOs are critical of the IMF for, they say, pushing Zimbabwe to privatize its social services system. Has the IMF pushed for that, and how does it respond to the criticism?" Ms. Aktinson, while saying she can get back to Inner City Press with more information, argued that the IMF does not favor or disfavor particular privatizations, but must be pushing to strengthen the social service sector to help the poor.

  But speaking just ahead of civil society's consultative meeting with an IMF team under Article IV of the Fund's Articles of Agreement, NANGO said "'we are opposed to some IMF polices such as privatization of basic social services. We know it from the past that some IMF policies have worked against people in this country. They have affected the social services sector and their polices are anti-people and negative'... [NANGO] said some of the IMF instigated polices which had brought suffering to the people were the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) and Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (ZIMPREST)." It's a pretty specific critique, and we'll publish the IMF's response upon receipt.

  Following up on Inner City Press' questions and article from August 2009, it asked "in Pakistan, the IMF in August extended for a year the country's time to eliminate electricity subsidies. Now, while the IMF says 2 price increases will be implemented, others say this is not possible politically. What is the IMF's thinking on consumer power pricing in Pakistan?"

Ms. Aktinson replied that "as I believe you know, the issue of issue of electric subsidy is typically done by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank," that IMF gets involved due to the budget."we will be having another review of the Pakistan program in early November." We'll be there....

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On Food Speculation, UN's Expert Says Nothing's Being Done, S. Korean Land Grabs from Madagascar to Sudan, Brazil on Ethanol

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 21 -- After many speeches at the UN about the need to crack down on financial speculation in food, nothing has been done, the UN's expert on the right to food told Inner City Press on Wednesday.

  Olivier de Schutter, a Belgian law professor just back from a visit to Brazil about, among other things, the loss of land for food to ethanol, replied that "nothing is moving at the inter-governmental level." This despite a statement by the G-20 in April favoring the regulation of hedge funds which present systemic risk. The argument is that commodities index funds which speculate in food present systemic risk to net food importing countries. But nothing has been done.

   De Schutter spoke about the monopolization of the seed industry, and made a slew of recommendations for governments. The three top monopolizers -- Monsanto, Dupont and the Swiss-based Syngenta -- are all members of the UN Global Compact, and claim to comply with human rights. De Schutter pointed out the antitrust law is directed as national and not global or subnational markets. It is all very heady but one wonders what effect it has.

  Brazil might be one of de Schutter's claims to impact. He spoke glowingly of President Lula, saying that Brazil has said that only 19% of land can be used for sugar cane for ethanol, and has committed to monitor labor rights. But what about, for example, Indonesia and Malaysia?

De Schutter, action on food speculation not shown

  After De Schutter's briefing, Inner City Press asked his staffer for an update on the proposed land grab in Madagascar by South Korea based Daewoo, which was reputed after the coup in that country. De Schutter had been scheduled to visit, but it was put off by the coup. The same thing happened in Honduras. So perhaps De Schutter does have an effect after all, mused one wag.

Footnote: immediately after De Schutter's briefing, the UN's Haile Menkerios was scheduled to speak to the Press about Madagascar. While the UN usually compartmentalizes its work such that a rapporteur looks at land grabs, while the Secretariat remains on "political affairs" narrowly defined, this land grab played a role in the change of government. Now it's said the South Korean deal is being pursued from India, while South Korea appears to have moved on to 690,000 hectares in Sudan. 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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