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On W. Sahara, UN Airbrushes Spying & Drops Moroccan Flags From April 6 Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- The day after Inner City Press first reported substantial changes between the April 6 and April 11 versions of the UN's report on its mission in Western Sahara, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman refused to explain the revision process or who had input. Video here, from Minute 12:25.

   Inner City Press asked in particular about deletions from Paragraph 46, which its in April 6 version stated that

"MINURSO civilian personnel movements there are closely monitored with the consequent chilling effect on interaction with the full spectrum of local interlocutors. In parallel, the Moroccan police surveillance outside the compound discourages visitors from approaching MINURSO in an independent capacity; Mission staff who have received such visitors have been taken to task by Moroccan authorities."

In the April 11 version this is air-brushed to

"access to external contacts is controlled [monitored (the word is crossed out)] which has an effect on interaction with the full spectrum of local interlocutors. In parallel, Moroccan police presence outside the compound discourages visitors from approaching MINURSO in an independent capacity. There were also indications that the confidentiality of communications between MINURSO headquarters and New York was, at least on occasion, compromised."

Compare April 6 version, here, especially Paragraph 46, with April 11 changed version, here.

   The Frente Polisario had written to the Security Council to complain of the deletion of reporting of 21 Moroccan flags around the MINURSO headquarters in Aaiun, "undermining the independence and impartiality of the UN." Inner City Press is putting the letter online, here.

It was about this that Inner City Press sought to ask spokesman Nesirky. But he merely said, and repeated, that it is not unprecedented for there to be such changes. As Inner City Press reported and pointed out, it happened last year, too, under Alain Le Roy who was the third Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping.

Now under the fourth Frenchman, Herve Ladsous, the process is even more blatant, with changes dictated even after a draft is circulated to Security Council members and otherwise. Also noted is the hypocrisy of certain of these Security Council members who make much when it suits them of the importance of independent reports not subject to political interference on issues like Iran, DPRK and Sudan sanctions -- but think ordering changes on reports like this MINURSO one is perfectly fine.

  Again, most tellingly, the April 6 versions said that MINURSO was

"intended to operate for three critical purposes: 1) as an instrument of stability in the event that the political stalemate continues; 2) as a mechanism to implement a referendum on self-determination in the event that the talks led by my Personal Envoy are successful; and 3) to provide independent information on conditions in the Territory to the Secretariat, the Security Council, and the international community."

The revised April 11 version changes 2) to

"as a mechanism to support implementation of successive Security Council resolutions related to the mandate of MINURSO (the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)."

  Compare April 6 version, here, especially from Paragraph 114, with April 11 changed version, here.

 How will envoy Christopher Ross respond? His briefing is scheduled for April 17. Watch this site.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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