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Inner City Press Podcast --

At the UN Some Middle Eastern Answers, Updates on Congo and Nepal While Silence on Somalia

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 7 -- With the Franco-American draft resolution on Lebanon stalled in the Security Council, questions have arisen about continued violence and abductions in Gaza. UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi answered Inner City Press' questions by stating that from August 1 through August 6, 17 Palestinians including five children have been killed. While he had no prepared statement on what Inner City Press termed the arrest of Aziz Dweik, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Mr. Fawzi said, "It's the sort of thing that does not help the eventual two state solution, abductions and targeted extra-judicial killings, and will only lead to a further escalation of current tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians." Video here, Minutes 25 through 27.

            Inner City Press asked how the UN system would monitor for or be aware of any use of depleted uranium in the conflict zone. Mr. Fawzi asked for copies of the reports of the transmission of depleted uranium-tipped GB 28 "bunker busters" to Israel, and said he would have to "consult before reacting." Video here, from Minute 27 onward. The articles have been provided and response will be reported in this space.

Smoke over Beirut c UNHCR

            In other increasingly ignored global news, the Security Council met for eight minutes Monday about Cote D'Ivoire, where already on-overtime president Gbagbo has announced his intention to remain in power whether the delayed elections are held on October 31 or not. At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked why there had been no update on the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on which the UN states that it has spent $450 million. Inner City Press asked for a response to the South African ambassador's characterization of the atmosphere in Kinshasa as "poisoned," and on reports of the burning of ballots. The response, which was in writing at the podium but only delivered once the question was asked, as that the UN's MONUC "remains satisfied" and states that the burned ballots were, due to a "pre-existing technical arrangement," able to be "recovered electronically." Video here, from Minutes 6:10 to 7:50.

            In other happy UN news that goes without update unless requested, Inner City Press asked about reports of the breakdown of negotiations in Nepal, mere days after Kofi Annan's envoy Staffan de Mistura expressed "optimism."  The response was that Mr. de Mistura is meeting with Kofi Annan on Monday afternoon. The meeting was and is not on the Secretary-General's formal schedule, and while it has now been requested that Mr. de Mistura take questions from reporters, it is not clear when that will happen.

            On Somalia, the spokesman quoted SRSG Francois Lonseny Fall as welcoming Ethiopia's mediation within the Transitional Federal Government. Inner City Press asked if Mr. Fall UN has asked the Ethiopian officials with whom he speaks if Ethiopia has troops in Somalia. The response was that the UN is not in a position to confirm the presence of Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia. No response was given to the ongoing question of whether Mr. Fall or anyone else in the UN has even posed the question to Ethiopia. The one-line response to Inner City Press' question about the previously-reported UN assessment mission to Mogadishu is that "the most recent UN humanitarian assessment mission to Somalia was completed last week Tuesday." But what is the read-out? What was found, and what will be done? Developing.

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