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Notes From the UN: Iran, Pakistan, the Media

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The second round of negotiations among six key nations take place Wednesday on sanctions proposals against Iran for its nuclear program. China is the most reluctant to impose penalties, fearing its trade and oil resources will be affected. The US proposals exclude oil and gas exports but suggestions that the world refrain from new investments in Iran's energy industry are expected to meet resistance. In the main, the United States, Britain, France and Germany want to target the Revolutionary Guards Corp, which run most of Iran's nuclear industry as well as some banks. Chinese officials stressed again in Washington on Tuesday, after talks between Presidents Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, that Beijing sought a diplomatic route, even though it approved three previous sanctions resolutions. UN diplomats said China as well as Russia did not make clear at the first negotiations last week which parts of draft proposals they preferred or rejected. "Line by line negotiations have not yet begun," said one envoy. The object of the penalties is to make it expensive for Tehran to pursue its program, which could lead to a nuclear weapon.

The United Nations is expected Thursday to submit its report on the death of Benazir Bhutto, killed on Dec. 27, 2007 as she was leaving a campaign rally, after having delayed the release for two weeks at the request of her widower, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who had requested the probe. No explanation was provided for the delay by UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, except that Pakistan asked for it. But Pakistani media speculated that Zardari faces political challenges and the report may criticize the country's military for failing to protect her. Pakistan wanted the UN to reopen the investigation because of alleged new evidence but Nesirky said that would not happen. The crime scene was scrubbed shortly after her assassination. The UN probe is led by Chile's ambassador, Heraldo Munoz, and includes Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general, and Peter Fitzgerald, an Irish police commissioner who in 2005 led a UN inquiry into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister.

It's not like the UN makes front-page news every day, with most media depending on major news agencies. Yet, the 15-nation Security Council is one of the few bodies that interest those reporters who cover the world body on a daily basis. With UN renovations underway for the next five years, the council's meeting room has moved to a basement complex where the press has little space to speak to members privately. In addition, delegations not on the council are banned from a private meeting room and the UN spokesman's office is excluded from sitting in on consultations. All fingers point at the Big Five permanent members - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- rather than the other 10 rotating members. And all five deny involvement although few believe them, with each mission blaming the other for a piece of the secrecy regulations. The US and Russia are said to be most apprehensive about leaks, although both deny they are seeking to bar the press. The most controversial is keeping reporters off a stairway where diplomats come and go, which some envoys have attributed to safety concerns by UN security, though few believe this either. Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement that "The public will see straight through the argument that delegates' safety is enhanced by keeping them shielded from the press. Both diplomats and reporters are already inside a secure zone with visible ID."