Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

UN sends mixed signals on civilian deaths in Libya

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The United Nations has been sending mixed signals lately about NATO’s record with civilian casualties in the alliance’s sixth month of air strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s troops and military sites. U.N. officials and diplomats said it was hardly surprising that different senior officials at the world body are finding it hard to keep a consistent line on the conflict, which, back in March, most of them had hoped would be over in a few weeks. 

But it has dragged on. Now Gaddafi’s government is complaining about what it says are mounting civilian casualties caused by NATO bombs, many of them children. Diplomats from alliance members acknowledge that there have been some civilian casualties, which they regret. But they question some of the figures that have been coming out of Tripoli. Libya’s state television, which was targeted by NATO late last month, regularly broadcasts gory images of blood-soaked bodies it says are civilians being pulled from rubble after NATO bomb attacks.

Last week the head of the U.N. cultural and scientific agency UNESCO, Irina Bokova, issued an unusually sharp rebuke of the alliance for its July 30 air strikes against Libyan state television, which she said killed several “media workers.”

“I deplore the NATO strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations,” Bokova said in a statement. “Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions.”

UNsensational? Five more years of Ban Ki-moon

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U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Kerry look on as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon addresses reporters in Washington. REUTERS/Molley Riley

U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and John Kerry look on as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon addresses reporters in Washington. REUTERS/Molley Riley

It’s hard to find a delegate to the United Nations who despises U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But it’s even harder to find someone who thinks he has the gravitas and charisma of his Nobel Peace Prize-winning predecessor Kofi Annan, who invoked the wrath of the previous U.S. administration when he called the 2003 invasion of Iraq “illegal.” As one senior Western official, who declined to be identified, said about Ban: “It’s not as if he’s lightning in a bottle, but we can live with him.”

from Afghan Journal:

India, U.S. build ties, with an eye on China

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In the end, Pakistan wasn't the unspoken elephant in the room when U.S. President Barack Obama sat down for talks with Indian leaders. Far from tip-toeing around India's Pakistan problem which complicates America's own troubled war there and in Afghanistan, Obama spoke clearly and squarely.

Safe havens for militants in Pakistan wouldn't be tolerated, he said, in what was music to Indian ears. But he also left nobody in doubt Washington wanted India to improve ties with Pakistan, saying New Delhi had the greatest stake in the troubled neighbour's stability.

Liu who? UN’s Ban silent on rights in talks with China’s Hu

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(Updates to include U.N. statement on Ban in China)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is gearing up for a campaign to retain his seat as the United Nations’ top official for another five years, U.N. diplomats say. This, rights advocates suggest, may be the reason he sidestepped the issue of human rights during his latest visit to China, his fourth in as many years. Ban did not raise the issue of Beijing’s alleged rights abuses during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday. Nor did he call on the Chinese government to release jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“It is correct he did not discuss human rights (in China),” Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York, adding that he also did not raise the issue of Liu’s detention. He noted that the secretary-general’s Oct. 8 statement on the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize “still stands.”

Defiant North Korea takes case to UN press corps

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North Korea's UN Ambassador Sin Son-ho (center)

North Korea's UN Ambassador Sin Son-ho (center) speaks to reporters at UN headquarters.

Officials working for the government of communist North Korea seldom appear in public — especially in front of reporters from countries they view as hostile. But Pyongyang’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sin Son-ho, turned to the U.N. press corps in New York on Tuesday to defend his nation against Seoul’s allegtions that the North Korean military torpedoed a South Korean naval ship on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

U.S., Russia in push to crack down on UN Security Council leaks

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The good old days -- the U.N. Security Council before the move.

The United States, Russia and China are quietly backing moves to  exclude “unnecessary” elements from closed meetings of the U.N. Security Council to prevent leaks to the media on sensitive issues like Iran and North Korea, U.N. officials and diplomats told Reuters. They also support moves to reduce reporters’ contact with delegates outside the council chamber. But the new measures have sparked a furor among journalists and less powerful members of the United Nations, who argue that the steps are discriminatory and will make what they say is a secretive Security Council even less transparent.

The measures were suddenly implemented this week after the council moved to a temporary new space, to allow for a $1.9 billion renovation of the 40-story U.N. secretariat building overlooking New York City’s East River. Unless they get special permission to attend, note-takers from the office of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, will no longer be allowed into closed-door consultations. Peacekeeping officials and other departments in the U.N. secretariat will also be shut out due to what U.S. and other diplomats say is limited space in the new chamber. Non-council members suspect other motives.

Saviors or conquerors? UN mulls “responsibility to protect”

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By Patrick Worsnip
    
What’s more important — the right of a sovereign state to manage its affairs free of outside interference or the duty of the international community to intervene when massive human rights violations are being committed in a country?
 
The United Nations — nothing if not a talking shop — has been debating that question this week in the General Assembly. It goes to the heart of what the U.N. is all about.
 
At issue is a declaration issued four years ago by a summit of more than 150 world leaders asserting the “responsibility to protect” — R2P in U.N. jargon — populations threatened with genocide or other mass atrocities. It was a somewhat belated response to widespread criticism of the United Nations for failing to stop massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.
    
The carefully crafted declaration said the responsibility began with the government of the country concerned. If that failed, it foresaw a sliding scale of international action, ranging from advice through mediation to — in a last resort — intervention by force. And such a use of force could only be authorized by the Security Council, meaning the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China would all have to agree.
 
Cautious as it was, the summit document was seen by many advocacy groups as a step on the road to fulfilling their dream that if a government was committing atrocities against its people, the United Nations would march in and stop it.
 
In the real world, U.N. officials say, that is not going to happen, at least under the peacekeeping rules that have applied in recent decades. These do not authorize U.N. forces to go to war against the national army of a sovereign state — a move that would amount to invasion. Witness the six-year-old conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur — branded by some as genocide — where a U.N./African Union peacekeeping force is only now being slowly deployed with the consent of the Khartoum government. The only time that R2P has been invoked in practice — and even then retrospectively — was in former U.N. secretary-General Kofi Annan’s mission to mediate in post-election violence in Kenya last year, U.N. officials say.
 
This week’s debate was to take stock of R2P and discuss how to take it forward, although no immediate action is expected. It came against the background of a determined attempt by radicals led by General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, a former Nicaraguan Sandinista government minister, to kick the issue into the long grass.


For D’Escoto and those who agree with him, R2P is code for an attempt by big Western powers to impose their will on the weak. In a contentious “concept note” issued to all U.N. members he declared that “colonialism and interventionism used ‘responsibility to protect’ arguments.” One member of a panel of experts D’Escoto convened to launch the debate, U.S. academic Noam Chomsky, said R2P-type arguments had been used to justify Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria and Nazi Germany’s pre-World War Two move into Czechoslovakia.
 
While some radical states, such as Venezuela, echoed D’Escoto’s line in the assembly debate, human rights groups expressed relief that most cautiously supported a strictly defined interpretation of R2P and backed proposals by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for developing it. Ban has proposed periodic reviews of how countries have implemented R2P and regular reports by himself on the issue. “To those that argued this week that the U.N. was not ready to make a reality of the commitment to end mass atrocities, the majority of the General Assembly gave its answer: you are wrong,” said Monica  Serrano of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Despite that, there have been clear signs of concern among developing countries that unless tightly controlled, R2P could be used in support of future Iraq-style invasions of countries that have angered the big powers.
 
What’s your view?

Iran warns Obama’s government: “Quit talking like Bush”

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Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee didn’t attend the latest U.N. Security Council meeting on Iraq. But the moment the 3-hour session was over the Iranian delegation was circulating a strongly worded letter from Khazaee that had a very clear message for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama: Stop talking like Bush.

He was responding to less than two dozen words on Iran in U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech to the council during a routine review of U.N. activities in Iraq. Rice said that U.S. policy “will seek an end to Iran’s ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for terrorism.”

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