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W. Sahara Rights Fight Heads Through Sushi Down to Wire, Nigeria and Uganda Put Greentree Retreat in Play

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 29 -- The usually dry issue of Western Sahara has become a test of the Japanese presidency of the Security Council, as well of some Council members' commitment to human rights, namely France and Gabon which oppose rights in the mandate, and Uganda and Nigeria, which say they will fight to get it in.

  Already the vote slated for April 29 was pushed back to the month's (and week's) last day. The difficulty is that the Council is slated to leave for Greentree for a retreat with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about peacekeeping. This, and the traffic to get there, provide Uganda and Nigeria with leverage. But Morocco, France and Gabon are digging in their heels.

  Gabon was left alone to defend Morocco's position, engendering sympathy as delegations including Mexico's leveled criticism, how ever diplomatic. On the other hand China, which is not part of the Group of Friends on Western Sahara, told Inner City Press on Thursday they oppose any mix of human rights and the Security Council.

  At Japan's end of presidency reception Thursday night Yukio Takasu, this month's presidency, said his term cannot yet to graded, it all depends on how he revolves the Western Sahara issue tomorrow. Later in the reception, as the two bars were being closed and the sushi rounds were stopped, Takasu conferred with Uganda's Ambassador Ruganda. Some said Japan was or was trying to "put the screws" to Uganda.

Uganda's Ruganda and mission officials, pressure not shown

  Afterwards, Inner City Press asked Ruganda about his country's commitment to human rights in Western Sahara. We do not bluff, he indicated. One UN staffer canceled his Friday plans. But what about the retreat? Watch this site.

Footnote: at the Japanese reception, four of the P-5 Permanent Representatives were there. Susan Rice, however, was apparently in Washington, from which she will appear by video on Friday to tell the press about the NBT, for which Ahmadinejad will be the second speaker. At the Japanese reception, Alejandro Wolff filled in for her. But Ambassadors Araud, Lyall Grant, Churkin and Li Baodong were all there, along with their counterparts from Austria, Brazil, Bosnia and Uganda, among others. Noblesse oblige...

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On W. Sahara, Second Tier Titans Clash on Rights, Gabon and Uganda in Proxy War

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 29 -- The Western Sahara resolution, which was scheduled to be voted on in the UN Security Council this morning, has been dropped from the agenda.

  Sources tell Inner City Press that a dispute remains about a human rights component, or even language, in the resolution to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO.

  In what some call a battle of second tier titans, France on behalf of Morocco opposes any human rights component, while the UK favors its inclusion. France does not like to be seen in its opposition to les droits de l'homme.

  The battle, sources say, has been outsourced into a post-modern, but not post-colonial proxy war between France's Gabon and U(k)ganda.

France's Gerard Araud, UK (UN) official John Holmes, proxy war not shown

  Meanwhile MINURSO itself gave in, at least temporarily, to Morocco's demand that its suspend its subscription only news service on Western Sahara. Once inquiries were made, the service was revived. So, free press but still not human rights. Watch this site.

Footnotes: 1) Uganda has its own human rights issues, not only at home in Karamoja and the north, but also with its forces in Somalia. On April 28, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky for the UN's response to a report by HRW that Uganda's and Burundi's troops in Mogadishu fire indiscriminately into civilians areas in violation of the laws of war.

  Nesirky claimed that the UN didn't have to respond, despite its logistical support to these AU forces. (After being Pressed, he said he would seek guidance). Later, Inner City Press asked Uganda's representative for his country's response, which has been promised. Stay tuned.

2) While Western Sahara was removed from Thursday agenda, Lebanon is on it. On his way in, the UN's part time envoy on Resolution 1559, Terje Roed Larsen, told the Press he might, at long last, appear afterwards at the stakeout and take questions. "Only if nice, soft questions," he said. Only at the UN.

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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?

 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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