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At UN Council, Goldstone Report Draws Surreal Speech Giving Crowd

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 14, updated below -- With the Goldstone report on Gaza now coming back to life at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, at the Security Council in New York what passes for a debate began, on the Middle East and Goldstone. France, it was said, would "mention" the report, but it would "not be the thrust" of the Gallic prepared speech.

  Agence France Presse was chided for misreporting Israel's letter to the Secretary General and Council president, making an explosive complaint under Resolution 1701, but not (as AFP reported) asking for a Council meeting.

One wag, a Netanyahu yahoo, opined that the Council should just call for a vote on referring the report to the International Criminal Court, and let the U.S. veto it. Another responded that maybe the U.S. might abstain, as China did when Darfur was referred to the ICC.

  The yahoo replied, even the Europeans might veto, since in his view by this logic NATO's acts in Afghanistan could be referred. But might the Taliban be a more serious military threat than Hamas?

The man himself, Goldstone, UNSC speeches not shown

   The yahoo noted that Israel's Permanent Representative to the UN, approaching the Council, was asked to show her UN identification card. "She doesn't come her much," he said, "if she's not even recognized." And still the Ambassadors poured in, including a representative of Sri Lanka. Their position may be of particular interest. Watch this space.

Update of 10:29 a.m. -- on Goldstone, the speech of the UN's Lynn Pascoe, himself embroiled in controversy, click here then here, is essentially a defense of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. "Members will recall that, at the beginning of this year, the Secretary General visited both Gaza and southern Israel... [he] hopes that the institutions of the UN and its Member States can reach a consensus on the way forward." He calls for domestic investigations.

Update of 10:41 a.m. -- as Fatah's Malki speaks, the Libyan Ambassador whispers to Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour, who in turn taps on the shoulder of Riyad al-Malki, who stops and listens to the whisper.

Update of 10:57 a.m. -- Israel's Ambassador Gabriela Shalev begins by saluting the UK's outgoing Permanent Representative, next head of M-6, John Sawers, wishing him good luck. Intelligence... Her written text, in its conclusion, calls debating the Goldstone report "a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." And at 11:08 a.m., she said it.

Update of 4:05 p.m. -- as the debate drones on, now Sudan's Ambassador is railing, without irony, about brutality and crimes against humanity and a violation of the Geneva Convention...

Update of 5:39 p.m. -- Iran's Ambassador, formerly in that country's film industry, is decrying "the Zionist regime" and urging the Security Council to defend its credibility. He rejects the "smears" of Israel, trying to divert attention from its own nuclear arsenal.

Update of 6:08 p.m. -- and now, for Norway, it's Deputy Permanent Representative Mona Juul, she of the leaked memo slamming Ban Ki-moon. Some wondered, in the leak's wake, if she could continue at the UN, or if her husband Terje Roed Larsen could. But here they are....

Update of 6:13 p.m. -- For Sri Lanka, itself accused of war crimes in its war in the north this year, Ambassador Palitha Kohona says that Sri Lanka suffered under terrorism. "We have consistently endorsed the two state solution," he says -- in Palestine, that is. He says his government was concerned by events in Gaza, events which led to increase or tension and loss of civilian life. Is he referring to his own country? He looks forward to debate in the Human Rights Council, he says -- but not about Sri Lanka.

Update past 7 p.m. -- it ended with a whimper, not a bang. Ambassadors streamed out of the Council chamber. Even Fatah's Al-Malki walked by the microphone without speaking. He slowed, he was tempted, but there were not journalists waiting there. Inner City Press stood by the stairs, asking if the Council president would come out to take a question. No, apparently. A reporter, already bundled up, asked, "so the lid is on." Yeah. The lid is on.

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At UN, Libyan Gaza Resolution Dies With a Murky Turkish Assist, Israel Says It's Up to Ban

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 13, updated -- On the UN's Gaza report, the Security Council on Wednesday responded with short “remarks to the press” by Vitaly Churkin of Russia, this month's Council president. See below. Moments before, the Ambassador of Libya, which proposed a resolution on the matter earlier this week, was heard to complain about Turkey's position.

  An Israeli diplomat told Inner City Press that the Council had no business in the issue, “this is between us and the Secretary General.” But as to the report, created with UN money, one wonders why member states cannot demand a copy of the full report from the Secretariat. Eventually, one guesses, it will simply be leaked.

Turkey's Foreign Minister at the UN, Libya's resolution not shown

 Here is what Churkin said, or read out loud from notes.

The members of the Council expressed their appreciation of the Secretary-General commissioning of Martin report and informing members of the Security Council of its content. Members discussed this information under other matters in consultation. Members expressed their concern about the finding of the report…and (they) expressed general interest to be kept abreast of the matter as the secretary-general deems appropriate.”

   Afterwards, he answered every press question by referring back to the statement, saying it conveyed all of Russia's views. Inner City Press asked, “What about Sri Lanka?” “We're discussing that,” he said, and went back into the Council. Libya's resolution is dead.

Update of 5 p.m. -- the post mortem has it that while China and Viet Nam wanted action on the Gaza Report, the U.S., Austria and Uganda took the lead in counseling to give Ban Ki-moon ample time to do... anything he wants.

 On Thursday May 7, Inner City Press asked Associate UUN Spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about this invitation that’s been made to the Secretary-General to visit Sri Lanka. First I wanted to ask if on Monday when he met with the Ambassador of Japan, whether he was briefed on a visit by Mr. [Yasushi] Akashi to Sri Lanka and was urged by Japan that he should take this visit. And I also wanted to know whether he would be in New York 11 May for the Middle East debate, and 15 May to meet with the Chinese diplomats, that in fact this is one reason that he is considering not going, as I have been told by senior Secretariat staff.

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, we don’t announce the trips of the Secretary-General until they are close to occurring. And in that regard, I don’t have anything to announce about a trip to Sri Lanka at this stage. At the same time, as Michèle told you yesterday, and is still true for today, if the Secretary-General believes that visiting Sri Lanka can have an impact in terms of saving lives there, he will certainly try to go. So he is considering that. But part of what he is studying is what the impact of a potential trip would be.

Inner City Press: But if he had that belief, that would be without regard to attending the 11 May Middle East thing or the 15 May meeting with the Chinese diplomats? I am told that’s a major factor in his planning.

Associate Spokesperson: Scheduling is a separate issue. What we’re talking about is the decision of whether or not to go. And certainly if he can make a difference and can save civilian lives, which is what his priority has been on this case, then he will go. At present, we don’t have anything to announce at all in this regard, though.

Question: Just one last one on that. I wanted to know, can you at least confirm that he met with Ambassador Takasu on Monday in his office inside the Security Council? Can you give a read-out of that meeting and say why it wasn’t on his public schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: I can confirm that he met with the Permanent Representative of Japan. He did that, yes. It was in his office in the Security Council. We don’t provide readouts of meetings with ambassadors.

Question: And why wasn’t it on the schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: It came up all of a sudden when he had a bit of free time in between other appointments on a fairly hectic day.

  While Ban Ki-moon is working on his issues as a trip to Manama, Bahrain, after a news-less trip to Malta, the killing of civilians accelerates in Sri Lanka. On Friday May 8, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:

Inner City Press: On the invitation by the Government of Sri Lanka to the Secretary-General to visit, is there any progress in thinking? In the alternative, is the Secretary-General, is he considering invoking Article 99 or responsibility to protect or making some other move of some type on the situation in Sri Lanka?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what we’ve been saying from this podium this week on Sri Lanka, including what the Secretary-General himself has said earlier this week.

   What Ban said did not involve calling for a cease-fire, did not respond to the invitation to visit Sri Lanka, or the accelerating rate of civilians death over the weekend, during which no statement issued about Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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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