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At the UN, Cagey Council President of the GA on the Bottom of the Sea, of Stolen Chairs, Uzbek Human Rights and Georgia

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

   UNITED NATIONS, October 3 -- From deep sea bottom trawling to cagey answers on war crimes, the full range of the UN was Tuesday on display. Incoming Security Council president Kenzo Oshima took somewhat fewer than twenty questions on his plan of work for the month, from Lebanon to North Korea, Ban Ki-Moon to Cote D'Ivoire.

            Inner City Press asked about Uganda, where peace talks include promises of amnesty from indictments by the International Criminal Court, and about Somalia, where the Islamic Courts Union is consolidating power reportedly with the help of foreign fighters. Ambassador Oshima said that some, mostly African countries, want to revisit Somalia and so that will be done. To Inner City Press' question about UN agencies including UNDP and OCHA working with extremists, Amb. Oshima did not respond. On Uganda, he said the peace talks are ongoing and must be deferred to. He avoided the question of impunity if the ICC indictments are not enforced.

Bottom Trawling and the GA President's View

            Two hours earlier in Amb. Oshima's seat sat Sigourney Weaver, exhorting the press to tell the public about the damage to undersea worlds. The Ambassadors of Australia, New Zealand and Palau spoke in favor of a ban on bottom trawling. Inner City Press asked which countries are opposed -- Spain and Iceland were the two opponents named -- and for an update to its May 26, 2006 story about five specific rogue trawlers.

            Funny you should ask, answered a Greenpeace official. Those five boat have been stopped in Russia and their gear is being inspected. Written confirmation was promised. Also promised was an answered by the president of the General Assembly for her and Bahrain's view on stopping bottom trawling and this arrived by phone: "Bahrain has always depended on the ocean for trade, food and pearls," the spokeswoman began. She added that Bahrain wouldn't object to Australia's proposal as long as it takes into account those who make their living from the sea.  We get and report answers, then you decide.

Photo: Trying to fix the UN, in Georgia, see below

UNDP + YouTube = Spanish Seating Scandal

            There followed a briefing about an advertisement contest for the Millennium Development Goals. The head of the Japan-based advertiser Dentsu spoke, and then was applauded apparently by Densu workers. Inner City Press asked about an MDG ad gone bad in Spain. The briefer, Salil Shetty from UNDP, said the question was not appropriate for the forum and would be answered by press release. One later arrived from Mandy Kibel of the UN Millennium Campaign, who email signature block says the Campaign "supports citizens' efforts to hold their governments to account for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals," stating that

the video clip released recently on You Tube, apparently showing a group of people breaking into the Spanish Parliament and stealing the chair of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is fake. This has been confirmed by the local advertising agency responsible for this high profile stunt. The agency also confirms that at no time did the team break into the Parliament building or actually steal the Prime Minister’s chair. The team entered the building with due permissions and once inside obtained permission to film. In fact, the pictures of the 'fake' break-in to the Parliament were not filmed at the Parliament at all, but at a private building with full permission.  The group also confirms that the chair of the Prime Minister was never removed from the Parliament. The chair shown in the clip was an office chair and it was filmed as it was temporarily removed from the private building with permission. Millennium Campaign Coordinator in Spain, Fernando Casado, said that 'the make-believe stealing of the chair was purely meant as a humorous way to urge Zapatero to stand up against poverty.'

            We report, you(tube) decide. Working harder to get out his message was the new Ambassador of Georgia, Irakli Alasania. Inner City Press asked him to follow-up on his predecessor's claims, that the break-away region of Abkhazia is full of money laundering and that the Security Council shuts Georgia out due to Russia's veto power. On the former, evidence has again been promised. On the latter, "let's see what happens next week in the Security Council" was the answer. Okay.

            Outside the Security Council on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked Chinese Ambassador Wang for his position on Ivory Coast, where China and Russia last week blocked targeted sanctions. We have to support the peace process was Amb. Wang's answer.

            At the noon briefing, Kofi Annan's spokesman said he'll ask the Office of Internal Oversight Services to finally come take questions, in light of a report on integrity and other violations that OIOS has put out. He was asked, in writing, about moving as a lame duck to name for a five-year term a new executive director World Food Program:

'You yesterday stated that the "normal procedures" would be followed.  Please elaborate on the "normal procedures." Specifically, is there a selection panel? Who is on the selection panel? Is there a shortlist? How many names are on the shortlist? Did the selection panel develop the shortlist, or are they only interviewing candidates on the shortlist? What is the timeframe for the selection? Will this process be completed within October, November, or December?  In previous cases of senior appointments, such as the chief of UNHCR, the UN announced the shortlist prior to the actual selection of Mr. Guterres. Was that "normal procedure"? In this case will the UN announce the shortlist? When?'

            We ask, and report answers when we get them. Asked for the Secretariat's view on the Human Rights Council's decision to confine its review of Uzbekistan and the killings at Andijan to a secret, closed-door session. "Transparency is good," the spokesman said. Indeed. Meanwhile UNDP continues to help Uzbekistan's Karimov regime to collect taxes, which are used another other things to demand the return of political dissidents and to torture them.

            The UN workday wound down with Alvaro de Soto speaking by video from the Middle East about a new Peacemaker web site, which he said he hasn't yet sufficiently surfed -- perhaps because it requires registration -- and by speeches on Western Sahara in Conference Room 4, one of the more stirring of which came from Botswana. "We cannot allow the passage of time to blunt our memory," Botswana's Ambassador Samuel Outlule urged. Indeed. The statement was followed by the UK bickering with Venezuela, and India and Pakistan trading barbs. And so it goes.

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At the UN, As Next S-G is Touted, Annan Claims Power to Make 5-Year Appointments, Quiet Filing and Ivory Coast Concessions

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- Ban Ki-Moon appears nearly certain to be the next Secretary-General, it emerged Monday afternoon after a Security Council straw poll. Rather than this month's Council President, Japan's Kenzo Oshima, it was Chinese Ambassador Wang who delivered the news to a crush of reporters, who had assembled to await the equivalent of the Vatican's white smoke signaling a new pope. On the side of the stakeout, the numbers trickled out.

                       Encourage - Discourage - No Opinion

Ban Ki-Moon        14               0                  1

Shashi Tharoor      10               3                  2

   Tharoor's discouragements reportedly included the veto of China. Soon after Amb. Wang's king-maker announcement, word spread that Shashi Tharoor would come down to deliver his concession. When he did, he declined to comment on Ban Ki-Moon's qualifications, beyond the congratulatory fax he'd sent. He was asked, willl you return to India? "I've had no plan B," he answered. And now the planning starts. Including, some say, for one or more last minute stabs in the coming week.

  It was already 5:40 when Kenzo Oshima spoke. By gentlemen's agreement, he said, I cannot give the results. I hope there are many gentlemen. Nor would he confirm the Council confirmation vote on October 9, the date named by Ambassador Bolton. Gentlemen, indeed...

   On the day the Security Council decided on its nominee as the next Secretary-General, beginning a five year term on January 1, the spokesman for outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters that it is Mr. Annan's position that he can and will hand out five year appointments even in the less then three months remaining in his term. 

S-G/Ban Ki-Moon

  Inner City Press asked about the candidates to replace James Morris at the UN World Food Program, including the U.S.'s pick, Josette Sheeran Shiner. "That selection process is ongoing," the spokesman said. "We do expect the appointment to be made."

            But is it Kofi Annan's position he can and should make five-year appointments at this time?

            "His position is that he can," the Spokesman said.

  Also, the spokesman responded to Inner City Press' question about Mr. Annan's financial disclosure form by stating that the form was filed "eleven days ago," subsequently specified as September 22. When last Inner City Press raised it, the spokesman committed to tell reporters when it was filed. From the September 19 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press question:  An issue arose at his press conference about his financial disclosure.  I know many people thought he gave an answer that was unclear and then, Friday, Mark Malloch Brown called the New York Times and said he would be filing.  I guess my question is, when will he be filing?  Will you tell us when he’s filed?  Will any portions of it be made public?  Why was there the unclarity about the filing?  He said he spoke to lawyers that advised him not to file.  Where these UN lawyers?  And how do you decide to release information that many people had been asking for?

Spokesman:  None will be made public.  That form will not be made public as any of the financial disclosure forms of any UN staff members are not made public.  They are handled by the ethics office.  I think Mr. Burnham, on a number of occasions, gave you detailed briefing on how those forms would be handled and you had the ethics office here as well.  The legal advice the Secretary-General gets is privileged, as the legal advice anyone is entitled to get.  The Secretary-General from the first moment he entered office, has abided by every commitment required of him by the Organization.  If you go back to the Volcker report of 2005, as part of the Volcker investigation, he had to release to the investigators his finances.  He did so.  I would urge you to look at the conclusion of that report, which says his financial records did not raise any suspicion.  As you know, the Secretary General is not a staff member of the Organization.  He stopped being a staff member when he became Secretary-General.  However, to avoid any misinterpretation of his position he’s decided to voluntarily submit his financial disclosure form.  And, I will be happy to tell you as soon as that is done.

  But the Spokesman did not announce it, on September 22 or thereafter, until Inner City Press asked again on October 2. Apparently the desire was to have the issue drift away. Now, the filing has been covered by AP.

  Meanwhile the UN's Mission in Congo carried Reuters on discussion of the European Union pulling its troops from the Congo on November 30. Even candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba says that's too fast. Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the Secretariat has a position, and whether it or MONUC have communicated with the EU.

            The spokesman said he would check into such communications, but that the UN would like to "see sustained engagement by the international community in Kinshasa and the greater DRC." We'll see.

            Also arising at Monday's noon briefing was the statement by UN-installed and -supported prime minister of Cote D'Ivoire, Charles Konan Banny, that

"My mission consists of normalizing the situation, with priority given to unification, freedom of circulation, restructuring the administration, but also identifying populations to pave the way for free, open elections. "Elections should crown this program" and "not constitute an end in themselves."

   Monday Inner City Press asked, does this mean that the UN Secretariat is paving the way to allowing Gbagbo to continue to stay in power, despite twice overstaying his mandate? The spokesman answered vaguely that he has no guidance on this.  Video here, from Minute 9:45.

  Meanwhile, some say that Gbagbo is thumbing his nose at previous commitment as he seeks to cement business ties not unrelated to gaining veto support on the Security Council. Developing.

U.S. Candidate for UN's World Food Program May Get Lame Duck Appointment, Despite Korean Issues

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, September 29, 3:05 p.m. -- With three months remaining in the term of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a search is on to pick the next executive director of the UN's World Food Program. A memo circulated by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, obtained by Inner City Press, names the U.S. candidate for the position. She is Josette Sheeran (Shiner), with perhaps notable ties to Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church including praise for North Korea.

            Tuesday at the UN, before the WFP nomination had become public, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters that Kofi Annan's appointment of new UN officials would only be okay if these officials' contracts ended "soon after January 1." Video here, at Minute 4:43.

            Friday at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if the U.S.'s position is that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) could be given a five-year WFP term even before Kofi Annan leaves the UN in three month. Ambassador Bolton answered that the appointment could be made before January 1, that "the precedents have differed." Video here, from Minute 8:15, the US mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: On the secretary-general transition and the World Food Program looking for a new executive director, I've heard that the U.S. put forward Josette Sheeran Shiner. Is it your position that this should not be done until January 1st or that she could be appointed and given a five-year term prior to that?

Ambassador Bolton: She could be appointed prior to January 1 or thereafter. And the precedent has differed from reappointment to reappointment.

    While there has reportedly been some dissention within the Bush administration regarding the nomination, open-source research finds that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) was an active member of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church from 1975 through at least 1996. After that date, it is reported that she went "into the world," including into William Bennett's Empower America organization and then the U.S. State Department, in order to spread the Unification Church's message and position. Beyond controversial views on abstinence, mass-marriage and other matters, including the UN, these include business ties with and praise of North Korea.

WFP's outgoing Jim Morris

            The internal U.S. State Department memo obtained by Inner City Press states that

"For the past several weeks, we have been working with the White House to search for a highly qualified candidate to succeed Jim Morris as Executive Director of the World Food Programme. We now have an excellent candidate in Ambassador Josette Sheeran (Shiner)... Through the course of a distinguished career in government, business and journalism, Ambassador Sheeran has excelled as a diplomat, humanitarian, business leader and development policy leader."

            The reference to journalism is to Ms. Sheeran's tenure as managing editor of the Moon-owned Washington Times.

            In that capacity, in 1992 Ms. Sheeran went on an 11-day visit to North Korea, leading up a feature article commemorating the 80th birthday of Kim Il-Sung's 80th birthday. "Even if the sky is falling down on us, there will always be a hole for me to rise up through," said Kim -- a sentence Sheeran-Shiner later recollected, as recounted by the American Prospect, as "this wonderful thing which I printed in the paper."

            Sheeran-Shiner's interview with Kim Il-Sung painted him as a "self-confident, reflective elder statesman rather than the reclusive, dogmatic dictator he is usually portrayed as in the West."

            Now Kim Il-Sung's son is being portrayed by Ms. Sheeran-Shiner's nominator as a threat to international peace and security. More documents on the North Korea - Moon connection are online here.

            Josette Sheeran's first appearance in the media was in Time magazine of November 10, 1975, in an article entitled "Mad About Moon" --

"One typical worried parent is New Jersey's state insurance commissioner James Sheeran, three of whose daughters—Vicki, 25, Jaime, 24, and Josette, 21—are Moon converts. He wants laws to protect people from 'cruel and exotic entrapment of their minds, souls and bodies.' Late one night last August, Sheeran decided to act when Josette, normally compassionate, showed little interest upon learning that her grandmother was in the hospital. He, his wife and a son drove to Moon's school to seek Josette. Fifteen Moon men materialized, a scuffle ensued, and state police arrived amid mutual charges of assault."

            Inner City Press' sources say that also in the running to lead WFP are Canada's ambassador to the WFP in Rome, Robert Fowler, as well as senior foreign aid officials from Switzerland and Norway. Given that the latter two countries already have nationals in Under-Secretary General positions, these sources say, the WFP competition for now is between the U.S. and its neighbor to the North. Friday Amb. Bolton expressed his view that the U.S. has the best candidate so "I'm sure we're going to prevail."

   But whether either should be considered for a five-year term before the next Secretary-General is in office is an open question. At deadline, a UN official -- who has asked to be identified as such -- indicated that while Mr. Annan may want to make a five-year appointment as a "lame duck," the incoming Secretary-General would also have to assent.

   On that, speculation at the UN concerns whether the "discourage" and "no opinion" ballots for yesterday's South Korean front-runner Ban Ki-Moon ("no relation," the UN diplomat joked) involve France and/or the U.K... "Japan is not a fan," the UN diplomat notes. An unrelated update: the U.S. Mission has yet to release to the public and press a copy of the Secretary-General's response about housing subsidies from governments by UN officials. The wait continues. Developing...

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For reporting about banks, predatory lending, consumer protection, money laundering, mergers or the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), click here for Inner City Press's weekly CRA Report. Inner City Press also reports weekly concerning the Federal Reserve, environmental justice, global inner cities, and more recently on the United Nations, where Inner City Press is accredited media. Follow those links for more of Inner City Press's reporting, or, click here for five ways to contact us, with or for more information.

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