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On Western Sahara, Spain for Human Rights Mandate, Polisario Says UN Canceled its Stakeout "for Morocco"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- As France and the UK face off on whether to include a human rights mandate in this week's UN Security Council resolution on the Western Sahara mission MINURSO, Inner City Press on Monday asked Spain's deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega if her country supports the inclusion of the right mandate.

  Yes, Fernandez de la Vega said. She said human rights must be part of the mandate. Until now, this had not been known to be Spain's position. But even in response to a follow up question, Fernandez de la Vega confirmed the position. Video here.

  She was speaking at the UN Television stakeout position on the second floor of the UN's Temporary North Lawn Building, after she met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. On Friday, Mohamed Abdelaziz, Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario, had met with Ban. The Press was told that he would speak at the stakeout at 5:15 on Friday.

  But shortly before that, the UN announced over a loudspeaker that Mohamed Abdelaziz' stakeout had been canceled. Later on Friday, Ban issued a statement about the meeting.

  On Monday, Inner City Press was told by a Polisario representative that Mohamed Abdelaziz' stakeout was canceled "after pressure from Morocco" to which the UN gave in. "The UN preferred to issue Ban Ki-moon's statement," the representative said. But by what right, one wondered, could the UN tell or even suggest to a party to a UN mediated conflict to not speak to the press?

UN's Ban and Fernandez de la Vega, rights and canceled stakeout not shown

  There is a history here. Back when the Security Council was on the UN's second floor, the Polisario's representative was speaking before a UN TV camera went suddenly it went dark. When Inner City Press inquired, the UN's response was that it was an electrical problem. But it emerged that a Moroccan former UN official had called UN TV and told them to pull the plug.

  Last week, Morocco's Ambassador was seen buzzing around the Security Council, even as they met about Chad. To cover their side of the argument, they point to an OLAF report that the Frente Polisario over estimates the number of people in the camps in order to get more food rations than are needed from the UN World Food Program, and then re-sell the rations for profit.

  Fernandez de la Vega, after her statement that Spain supports inclusion of a human rights mandate in MINURSO, said that the big picture us a solution that both parties can agree to, allowing for self-determination. This seems a long way off. Will human rights monitoring be a start? The resolution will be adopted on Thursday. Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press also asked Fernandez de la Vega if Spain's Alberdi, who got the top post at UNIFEM over an Indian candidate in a process determined, some say, by Spanish monetary contributions, is a candidate to head the forthcoming UN gender "super-agency." Fernandez de la Vega said that she is. "Now it's official," a Spanish correspondent said. So too with Spain's position on including a human rights mandate in the Western Sahara Mission?

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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.

 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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