U.S. and North Korean negotiators meeting in Geneva

The exact and up-to-the minute state of play between the U.S. and North Korea was described to journalists in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday by U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill (Assistant U.S. Secretary of State) speaking on the eve of a two-day round of direct talks hosted by the Swiss government.

Did Hill really mean it when he said [see below] that “nuclear weapons really need to be done away with”? (see below)

OK, the truth is, this is a selective and edited quote. Hill might have been suffering from jet lag, and boredom at some of the journalists questions … or maybe he really was choosing his words with precision, because what he said was actually: “these nuclear weapons really need to be done away with.”

Maybe he meant exactly what he said — that North Korean “nuclear weapons really need to be done away with”, and not all nuclear weapons (as called for by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, to which the U.S. is a party, but from which North Korea withdrew).

That is, of course, if the North Koreans actually have nuclear weapons, as they have recently suggested, though perhaps only as a negotiating prod, during the dragged-out efforts to release frozen North Korean funds held in the Banco Delta Asia of Macao – a bank that is under China’s ultimate control.

Hill was speaking at the Hotel de la Paix in Geneva, Switzerland:

“This will be a two-day meeting of the U.S. – DPRK working group. This is in the fram ework of five working groups that are called for in the February ’07 agreement. For us it’s an important working group because it allows us to really prepare for the next plenary session, Six-Party plenary session, and I think it also allows the U.S. and DPRK to make progress on our relationship…
Continue reading U.S. and North Korean negotiators meeting in Geneva

Who is funding Tony Blair's Office in Jerusalem?

If true, it’s another scoop from Inner City Press: the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will be funding Tony Blair’s office — reportedly on the top floor of the legendary and supposedly luxurious American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem:

“Back on August 24, Inner City Press had asked [UN Spokesperson] Ms [Michele] Montas how and by whom is Tony Blair’s office funded, as the envoy of the Quartet. Ms. Montas said she would find out, but by Wednesday afternoon, nothing had been provided. So Inner City Press asked Ban’s outgoing Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Michael Williams. It’s out of some trust fund,” Williams said. Inner City Press asked, “Administered by the UN Department of Political Affairs?” Mr. Williams looked off-camera and asked a staffer. The answer? The UN Development Program.”
Read this Inner City scoop here.

Tony Blair’s offices at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem are scheduled to open on 4 September, according to Israeli press reports.

On a visit to the American Colony Hotel — listed as a member of the “Leading Hotels of the World” yesterday, I was shocked and horrified to observe a HUGE enormous water bug in the corner of a stall of the ladies room. I was hoping it might have been dead — done in by vigilant extermination efforts — but no, I discovered when I moved — it was very much alive.

The UN decides who is a journalist

The UN says that a journalist is someone who is necessarily hierarchically subordinate to an editor.

And, the new head of the UN Department of Public Information on the purpose of his job? Protecting the SG.

These revelations are reported by Matthew Lee on 28 July on his Inner City Press Blog:

“In late June in Madrid, the head spokespeople for 37 UN agencies met and planned how to best communicate the work of the UN to a worldwide audience. While claiming to want to engage with new media, including blogs, a UN summary of the meeting obtained by Inner City Press shows a proposal by at least some UN agencies to exclude any media without a traditionally hierarchical editing process — that is, to exclude blogs and most participatory media.
Continue reading The UN decides who is a journalist

Report of new hacking attack on UN websites in Asia — another "cyber rattle"

Darren Pauli of Computerworld Australia is reporting that “The United Nations (UN) has been hit by a string of hacking attacks aimed at identity and credit card theft, and building botnet hordes. The attack on the UN Asia Pacific website is believed to originate from the same group responsible for attacks on the US-based Biotechnology Information Organization and the prominent Indian Syndicate Bank. The financially-motivated incursions, launched from the same remote location, infected a server common to all three websites and downloaded a Trojan to visitor computers via drive-by attacks…
Continue reading Report of new hacking attack on UN websites in Asia — another "cyber rattle"

Of course the UN knew about the Iraqi chemicals they brought to NYC

Nobody knew what else to do, apparently — and they were absolutely unwilling to take any initiative other than to bring vials of Iraqi chemical weapons to NYC. They stored them in a drawer at UNHQ/NY. Some people knew about this, and talked about it in scandalized tones with family and friends. But they did not do anything about it. That’s what UN officials normally think is proper, diplomatic behavior.  NEVER rock the boat — at least not in a way that would reflect upon oneself. There have been rumors about vials of viral and biological agents, too.

Let us not forget the many thousands of U.S. dollars stored in a UN office safe in Somalia — the officials had no instructions from UNHQ/NY, and they couldn’t think of what else to do. The safe was stolen. The employees were punished for their decision.

Let us not forget the video recordings of Hezbollah’s seizure of several Israeli soldiers at the Shebaa Farms area — also hidden in a drawer in a UN office, and it took the exposure of a number of news stories to push the UN to screen the films for the soldiers’ families.

Today, the UN News Centre is reporting the latest absolutely absurd and ridiculous story:
“Last Friday, UNMOVIC staff discovered two small plastic packages with metal and glass containers — ranging in size from small vials to tubes the length of a pen — holding unknown liquid substances, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters. The find was made during the process of archiving UNMOVIC’s offices in New York, near the UN Headquarters building, as the Commission winds down after the Security Council terminated its mandate in June. Ms. Okabe said an initial probe revealed that the packages were recovered in 1996 from Al Muthanna, a former Iraqi chemical weapons facility, by inspectors with the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), the predecessor of UNMOVIC…
Continue reading Of course the UN knew about the Iraqi chemicals they brought to NYC

Meanwhile, back at UNHQ/NY, the UN SC contemplates the situation

The UN News Centre [the UN uses British English spellings] is reporting that the recently-appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Michael Williams, made a farewell report to the UN Security Council:

“…Mr. Williams, who is about to step down from his post, also warned in his address about the political, economic and institutional consequences of the internal Palestinian divide, especially the deteriorating conditions inside the Gaza Strip. He also voiced concern about continuing Israeli-Palestinian violence over the past month, ongoing Israeli settlement activity and the political deadlock that still plagues neighbouring Lebanon … Williams said that to meet the growing expectations, the current talks need to “shift gear” to achieve more concrete agreements on disputed issues and how to then implement those agreements.
See the UN Department of Public Information’s report here.

In the daily UNHQ/NY Noon Briefing, spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists that: “On the situation in Gaza, Williams said that while Hamas has brought some order to the streets of Gaza, its actions are taking place outside the framework of the rule of law and the institutions of Palestinian authority. This has generated concerns about respect for human rights and the future development of the Strip.
See the spokesperson’s comments here.

And, the UN’s press release on the UNSC meeting — addressed by 30 Member States — reports that:  “UNITED NATIONS MIDDLE EAST ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL RECENT TALKS, RENEWED DIPLOMACY, PROMPT GUARDED OPTIMISM ABOUT PEACE PROSPECTS — Says New Effort Must Be Carefully Monitored, Supported

The press release says: “With substantive talks under way between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on security and political matters, and international momentum building to reignite the peace process, United Nations Middle East envoy Michael Williams today told the Security Council that he was ‘guardedly optimistic’ about prospects for peace in the long-troubled region.  But Mr. Williams, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, acknowledged that he was conscious of the challenges ahead, and called on both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to turn their attention to tackling core issues, such as a final status agreement.  In the meantime, broader diplomatic efforts should be stepped up to keep the renewed peace process from faltering ahead of an international conference set to be held in Washington this November …”

Other Israeli military activities on Wednesday

Of course, there were many other events in the oPt (occupied Palestinian territory) to report as well on Wednesday.

For instance, the IDF bulldozed two “structure” that were close to the Wall/separation fence in the entirely
surrounded West Bank town of Qalqilya, while going after a number of Palestinian “fugitives”. Around 20 Palestinians
were reported wounded in the operation.

AP Photos by Emilio Morenatti

The caption for these photos reads: “In this combination of four photographs an Israeli army bulldozer demolishes a Palestinian house during a military operation in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007.”

AP Photo bc Emilio Morenatti

This photo caption reads: “Israeli soldiers with a military dog operate in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007”

AP Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh

These Palestinian children are among those watching the IDF operation. Nevertheless, the UN will continue to report that its youth centers are making a major impact on Palestinian youth — and will appeal for more funding…

AP Photo by Emilio Morenatti

Three more Palestinian children killed by Israeli fire in Gaza

What is the neutral and objective way to report this?

Three Palestinian children were killed yesterday in Gaza by Israeli fire from the ground (not from the air).

UPDATE: An IDF probe later revealed that the children were playing tag. [See below]

REUTERS photo by Suhaib Salem

The youngest might have been 9 years old, while the oldest might have been 12 (reports vary). The two boys, Mahmoud Ghazal and Yehyia Ghazal, were killed on the spot. Their cousin Sara Ghazal sustained grievous wounds, and died overnight in hospital.

REUTERS photo by Mohammed Salem

REUTERS photo by Suhaib Salem

The Israeli authorities say that they were standing around or nearby a Qassam rocket launcher. On Wednesday, they suggested that anybody who did so was a legitimate target.

REUTERS photo by Suhaib Salem

These children will undoubtedly benefit from the UNICEF youth center’s that the UN is touting these days – hoping that the funding will continue to pour in …

Thursday morning, Kol Israel English news led with a story that the Israeli Defense Forces expressed “regret” at the deaths of these children, three cousins, all aged around ten years old.

REUTERS photo by Suhaib Salem (GAZA)


The caption for this photo reads: “People bury the body of a Palestinian child, Yehya Abu Gazal, who was killed after Israeli soldiers fired at figures they spotted near rocket launchers, in northern Gaza August 29, 2007”.

However, the “regret” is a bit stiff and ungenerous. The Associated Press is reporting, in an article written by Ibrahim Barzak, that: “The Israeli army said it spotted figures handling rocket launchers in northern Gaza, and attacked them from the ground. Witnesses confirmed there were rocket launchers in the area. The Israeli military said it ‘wishes to express sorrow’ for the ‘use of teenagers in terror attacks’. The army in the past has accused militants of using children to collect rocket launchers after they are fired, but it did not say the children killed Wednesday were directly involved.
Continue reading Three more Palestinian children killed by Israeli fire in Gaza

Israel announces stand-down in tension with Syria

Last summer’s Israeli invasion of Lebanon has provoked year-long speculation about a repeat performance this year. Some commentators have recently said that summer lasts a few more months here than in other places of the world, so, they said, the danger still persists.

Today, Israel announced that it is moving its troops — at least, it is rotating them — out of the Golan Heights that it seized from Syria in the aftermath of the June 1967 war. [In 1980, in an apparent fit of pique, Israel announced that it had “annexed” the Golan Heights, and it offered Israeli citizenship to its residents — not all of whom accepted the offer.]

The AP reported that “The decision by Israel’s military followed months of growing tensions along the frontier and concerns that the escalation could result in war. Over the summer, media reports of impending war alternated with announcements by Syrian and Israeli leaders that they had no interest in hostilities. The Israeli officials said Syria’s military has now reduced its war readiness, but offered no details because the exact steps taken by the Syrians are classified. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the information to the press. Israeli forces scheduled to hold maneuvers on the Golan Heights would now be moved away from the border to the country’s south to further reduce friction, the officials said, and the army’s war-readiness status on the Israel-Syria border is now considered over … Syria demands that Israel return the heights in return for peace, but negotiations between the sides last broke down in 2000 over the extent of an Israeli withdrawal.”
Read the full AP report here.

Haaretz is reporting that “The IDF had previously increased its training exercises in the Golan Heights since the end of the Second Lebanon War last summer.”
Read the Haaretz story here.

Continue reading Israel announces stand-down in tension with Syria

Blinking is not enough — Iran must do more

Suspicions still remain, among those who are suspicious.

Reuters’ Mark Heinrich is reporting from Vienna that “diplomats” believe “the working document is flawed for apparently ruling out future inquiries by inspectors and making no mention of wider-ranging checks that the UN nuclear watchdog itself has said are needed to verify Tehran has no hidden bomb agenda. It also does not define what Iran must do to resolve open questions, and ignores a UN demand for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment to regain trust in its nuclear aspirations. [However] Diplomats close to the International Atomic Energy Agency touted the ‘understandings’ with Iran as a milestone for laying out a timetable for transparency by December after four years of stalling by Tehran that prompted U.N. sanctions.
‘It’s a good work plan with phases and dates to resolve outstanding issues, as requested by the (IAEA’s 35-nation) board of governors. Board members should welcome this development,’ a senior agency official told Reuters. The August 21 pact, whose text was released on Monday, said Tehran had resolved the first issue relating to the nature of its nuclear work — secret, small-scale experiments with plutonium, the commonest ingredient in nuclear bombs.
Details of what Iran did to defuse concerns about the tests may emerge in a new IAEA report due on Wednesday, two weeks before a meeting of the agency’s 35-nation governing board.
The report will shed light on Iran’s level of cooperation and could influence pending talks among six world powers on possible harsher sanctions … Western diplomats, asking for anonymity due to political sensitivities, criticized the plan’s failure to get Iran to reinstate the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which permits broader, short-notice inspections of sites not declared to be nuclear …
A clause in the working document saying that, once Iran had cleared up issues listed, there would be ‘no more remaining issues and ambiguities’ raised diplomatic eyebrows.
Continue reading Blinking is not enough — Iran must do more