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UN Sudan Meeting Has Weak Communique, Little Darfur Focus, “Big-Footing” by US

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 24 -- This afternoon's closed door meeting on Sudan at the UN has been presented as a watershed, a highlight of this year's UN General Assembly. US President Obama's “14 minute speech” has been hyped by his Special Adviser Samantha Power, when Inner City Press asked why Obama had not mentioned Sudan in his General Assembly speech.

  The UN Secretariat has bragged to reporters about its role in putting together the Communique to be issued after the meeting.

Inner City Press has obtained a near final draft of the Communique and it putting it online here in advance of the meeting. Of its 14 paragraphs, three deal with Darfur and one with Eastern Sudan. The Communique is a surprisingly weak statement, human rights advocates say. “How could this be the highlight of the US' involvement?” one asked Inner City Press.

  Sudan's Vice President Taha will participate in the meeting, and is slated to speak to the Press afterward. The day before, Inner City Press asked African Union Commission President Jean Ping what the AU hopes to come out of the meeting.

  Ping said the AU takes a “holistic” approach, which some view as a codeword for “drop or suspend the International Criminal Court indictment of Omar Al Bashir for war crimes and genocide.”

  Less than four hours before the meeting, Inner City Press asked Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan what if he thought the meeting -- and by implication, the Communique -- dealt sufficiently with Darfur, where Nigeria has peacekeeping battalions controlled by former Nigerian diplomat Ibrahim Gambari.

Obama & AU president, Sudan not seen in speech, Darfur hardly in meeting?

   President Jonathan spoke about Darfur but also about the referendum, saying that the borders should be clear before the vote, scheduled for January 9, 2011. It seems unlikely that the borders, much less the division of oil revenue, will be decided before then.

  While the US “big foots,” as one advocate put it, nearly unilaterally stalling a planned Security Council trip to Sudan due to a reticence for the US Permanent Representative to meet or take a photo with Omar al Bashir, smaller non-Permanent Council members try to do what they can.

  Mexico is on record as favoring the Council trip to Sudan, even if “some P-5 Ambassadors stay in their hotel rooms.” Austria has offered legal expertise to both sides, in meetings Friday with Khartoum's foreign minister Ali Ahmed Karti and two ministers from South Sudan.

  When told by Inner City Press of this work and these complaints by non Permanent Council members on Sudan, a senior UN official this week replied, “I'd hate to be a small member state.” And so it goes at the UN. We will be Tweeting and live blogging from outside the Sudan meeting: watch @InnerCityPress

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As Obama Omits Sudan in GA Speech, Trip “Is Dead,” Power Speaks of Kitchen Sink

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 23 -- The UN Security Council's long planned trip to Sudan in early October “is dead,” a non Permanent member of the Council told Inner City Press on Thursday.

  Sudan insisted that Council members meet with the country's President, Omar al Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide. To the US, at least the US Mission to the UN, this was a non-starter.

   Inner City Press asked US Presidential senior adviser and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs Samantha Power about the trip, and the absence of the words Sudan much less Darfur from President Barack Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday morning.

  Ms. Power acknowledged the absence of Sudan from the speech, saying that “he didn't mention it, you're right, in the General Assembly today” but “the truth is the President is giving a very substantial set of remarks on Sudan tomorrow, so the judgment was, let's do this right, you'll hear alot about Darfur, a lot about the CPA.”

But it's not either - or: if Sudan is so important, it could have joined such topics as Poland and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in the speech.

  On the trip, Ms. Power said “the details and logistics are still being worked out, it's still very much in play, as part of this drumbeat...pretty much the kitchen sink is being through at this challenge, the trip is being seen in this light.”

   But multiple sources tell Inner City Press that the trip is dead, killed by the US' resistance to meeting with Omar al Bashir. Several Council members expressed frustration to Inner City Press, that the US and UK monopolized the deliberation on the trip. Some said the US wants to get all the credit if things “somehow work out in Sudan” -- a “strange multilateralism,” one called it.

Samantha Power viewing rights (commissioner), SC Sudan trip not shown

  In terms of Obama delivering a 14 minute speech at the September 24 meeting, the UN's planners of the meeting, bragging about Ban Ki-moon's role and five minutes speech, have indicated they hope all participants keep themselves to five minutes. The US now seems to think that's good to know.

  There is a dispute about whether the opening of the meeting will be open and can be filmed. The US seems to want there to be footage of Obama talking about Sudan at Friday's meeting. But he could have done it in the General Assembly on Thursday. We'll see. Watch this site.

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As Clinton Meets Sudan VP, Bashir “Does Not Come Up,” UN Dodges on Darfur

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Tuesday with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, somehow the topic of President Omar al Bashir and his indictments for genocide and war crimes by the International Criminal Court “did not come up,” Clinton's spokesman PJ Crowley told the Press.

Some wonder how this is possible, not only given the US' claimed interest in accountability for genocide but also Bashir's importance in the processes in South Sudan and Darfur. Could Clinton meet about Zimbabwe and have Robert Mugabe “not come up”? Could she meet about North Korea and not mention Kim Jong Il?

In fact, the UN Security Council's planned trip to Sudan about the referendum and Darfur, slated for October 4 to 11, is being blocked by the stated concern of the UK, France and the US to not have to have a photo op with Bashir.

On September 19, a Permanent Five Council member Ambassador told Inner City Press that the issue of the trip, and of having to meet Bashir, would be raised with Taha as early as Monday night's dinner hosted by the Sudanese. So how could the issue, and Bashir himself, not come up in Clinton's meeting Tuesday with Taha?

Crowley said that there will be other meetings throughout the week, in the run up to the meeting involving President Obama on September 24. He also to his credit promised answered to other questions at his next briefing in New York. We'll see.

Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair & UN's Ban in past, Bashir not shown - "did not come up"

Meanwhile, Inner City Press on Tuesday asked UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky five questions about both Darfur and South Sudan:

Inner City Press: First, can you confirm that some staff members of UNAMID in South Darfur were attacked and injured near Muhajeriya. Do you have anything on it?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I have heard some reports. I don’t have details. I would need to get some details on that. I don’t have that.

Inner City Press: And I guess there is a few, yesterday I had asked you this question…

Spokesperson: Media reports is what I am referring to.

Inner City Press: Right. Yesterday I had asked you this question of whether the Commissioner of the Referendum, the Secretary-General of the Referendum Commission for South Sudan, was a UN staff member previously serving with United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in Western Sahara. Were you able to get the answer on that?

Spokesperson: I think my colleagues in Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) will be in touch with you. But as I understand it, the person concerned was a UN staff member, but is no longer.

Inner City Press: Right. Okay. And also, I mean, maybe it will be in connection with that. I have heard that, in fact, the UN, while saying publicly that they will be opening 80 monitoring stations throughout South Sudan for the referendums scheduled for January, in fact expects to open no more than 55 or so. That seems the number, the difference between internal and external presentation seems so wide that I wonder if you can confirm that.

Spokesperson: I am not aware of any change in the intention to open the number of monitoring stations that has already been publicly stated. Let me find out if there’s been a change. I am not aware of that.

Inner City Press: And just one last one. This is a Secretary-General question rather than DPKO, I believe. Can you, I guess, confirm that the Secretary-General intends to name this panel of eminent persons, three-person panel to monitor or at least he is attempting to name this before Friday’s meeting? And can you give any sense of what the back and forth is or whether it will contain a Head of State? There is a lot of interest in this panel and not a lot of information.

Spokesperson: Well, I can fully understand that there is a lot of interest in the forming of a monitoring panel, which is something that, as you know, was mentioned in a Security Council press statement last week, if I am not mistaken, that the Security Council supports the request that there has been for such a monitoring panel. This is something that is in the works. We will have something to announce when it is finalized. I think we are getting quite close to that. The intention is to have something in place and the people in place in good time for this to be useful for all concerned.

Inner City Press: Even to participate in Friday’s meeting?

Spokesperson: I beg your pardon?

Inner City Press: Even to participate in Friday’s meeting [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: This I don’t know, this I don’t know.

Inner City Press: Okay.

Spokesperson: More important at the moment is simply to make sure that the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are in the right place. This is something that is being worked on and I hope that we will have a little bit more to say about this in the next couple of days.

Watch this site.

Footnote: Secretary Clinton, after her 3 pm meeting with the Middle East Quartet, was scheduled to appear at a 4 pm press conference at the UN on the topic. The presser was canceled, Inner City Press was told by the UN, due to a power outage. But Clinton's name plate wasn't on the rostrum, even before the lights went dim.
   Crowley said that Clinton had planned to meet with Tony Blair. But as one reporter pointed out, Blair's name plate WAS on the rostrum. More than a little strange.

 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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