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Obama Does Not Mention Bashir, Whose VP Taha Praises Obama at UN Sudan Meet

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 24 -- The open portion of the UN Sudan meeting was as surprising for what was not said as for what was. US President Barack Obama in his ten minute speech did not once mention Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide.

  Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Taha on the other hand, or perhaps in reciprocation, praised “the next direction and the emergent spirit of the United States of America of positive and constructive engagement.”

  Inner City Press was allowed in the meeting for the first four speakers, and got the first copy of Taha's prepared speech. That the praise of Obama was in the prepared text may imply that Taha and his government knew that Bashir would not be mentioned.

  Similarly, after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Taha earlier in the week, Inner City Press asked her spokesman PJ Crowley if Bashir, and specifically whether he would require a meeting and photo op if the UN Security Council visits the country as initially planned on October 4 to 11, Crowley said Bashir “did not come up” in the meeting.

  After being asked to leave Friday's Sudan meeting after Ban Ki-moon, Obama, Taha and Salva Kiir spoke, Inner City Press asked a Security Council Ambassador if any progress had been made on scheduling the Council trip to Sudan, which members such as Austria and Mexico want.

  No, the Ambassador said, maybe after the meeting. Asked by Inner City Press about Obama not mentioning Bashir, the Ambassador nodded and added, “it will be interesting to see how many of the African heads of state present mention Bashir and how.” Yes, it will.

Rwanda's Paul Kagame left the meeting after the first four speakers, as did Nick Clegg of the UK. The EU's Catherine Ashton left while Salvia Kiir was talking, after having sat near the back of the room typing on a laptop. It is expected that top UN Peacekeeper Alain Le Roy will take questions from the Press after the meeting is over and the Communique is issued.

Obama, UN's Ban and Le Roy on Sept 24, Bashir not shown, (c) M.R. Lee

Earlier today -- before the meeting -- Inner City Press published a near final draft of the Communique. A reader has quickly written in:

"This draft communiqué is the very embodiment of international helplessness and lack of commitment to the cause of a just peace for Sudan. In tone it barely rises to the level of mild exhortation. In substance it is vacuous, or at least entirely redundant, given what the UNSC and international actors of consequence have said previously. And some of this is downright pernicious, e.g., the celebration of the “Government of Sudan’s new strategy for Darfur.” .. This “New Strategy” has been rejected by the rebel groups, by the SPLM, and by Darfuri civil society; it has been endorsed by Gration and Mbeki, and with this document, by the UN. It is utterly shameless capitulation before a move that promises explicitly to demote the peace process (Doha or elsewhere), and to “domesticate” that process…such a “strategy” implemented will be the peace of the dead.

Paragraph 12: “In this context, they took note of the Government of Sudan’s new strategy for Darfur and the important role it could play towards a comprehensive solution to the conflict in the region.”

  More like a 'final solution.'"

   At Friday's noon briefing at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to describe the role of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Political Affairs in the Communique. Nesirky, who should answer this question, has yet to. Watch this site.

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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

* * *

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.

 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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