Thursday, September 23, 2010

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 alsoBashir'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 WASon the rostrum. More than a little strange.

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