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At UN, Churkin Previews Syria Statement, Chides Rice, Met with Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 23 -- When Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin called a press conference on the Friday before Christmas, some assumed he wanted to have the final year end say in his recent skirmishes with US Ambassador Susan Rice and to a lesser extent UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  Churkin has criticized Ban being "misled by NATO" about the lack of civilian casualties from NATO members' bombing in Libya; Rice calls Churkin's call for a UN probe on this "bombast and bogus claims."

  On Friday, Churkin scoffed of Rice, "you can't beat a Stanford education" and suggested she make her vocabulary "more Victorian."

  Inner City Press twice asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to respond to Russia's critique; both times Nesirky refused to comment. So Inner City Press asked Churkin if he expected or had received a response, or if his comments about Ban had just been a shot across the bow.

  "I spoke with Secretary General," Churkin replied with a smile, "it was a very good conversation." Journalists in attendence giggled. Churkin hadn't called anyone "bogus," but a message had been sent. Victorian, indeed.

(c) UN Photo
Churkin & Rice, Stanford education, Victorian vocabulary not shown

  On Syria, Churkin read out loud a Russian drafted press statement welcoming the Arab League monitoring mission, which he said "the usual five" suspects had blocked. (One assumes the European Four plus the United States.)

  He said he'd circulated another draft press statement, about the bombings in Damascus, with the "silence procedure" running through 3:30 pm. He said the language was standard.

   Inner City Press asked if Russia's draft included the usually standard proviso that efforts to combat terrorism should comply with human rights law. Churkin seemed to say yes, while adding that two words were missing. (The guess was he omitted sympathy "for the government," as a sop to "even the most anti-Damascus," as he put it.)

Inner City Press ended the press conference by asking Churkin to explain the lack of action on the proposal for a Security Council resolution appointing a UN Special Representative on investigating alleged organ trading by Kosovar officials. Churkin replied that Serbia decided to wait. For the five new members who join the Council in January, including Pakistan and Azerbaijan? "Serbia will make their assessment," Churkin said.

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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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