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On Syria, US Claims Leadership at UN While Ban Thanks & Quotes Assad

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 18 -- As President Obama and the EU's Cathy Ashton called Thursday for Bashar al Assad to step down in Syria, the US tried to belatedly claim leadership at the UN, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered thanks to, and quotes from, Assad.

On a White House call with self-described Senior Administration Officials, one of the officials said that the US had "led" in the UN Security Council, leading to an August 3 Presidential Statement which showed that Assad had no more support.

Calling in from the Security Council stakeout, Inner City Press said it appeared to most that the European member had led, and asked if Obama's statement signaled a new approach at the UN.

One of the Senior Administration Officials replied that the US led on the draft resolution, and PRST. The resolution was sponsored by the Council's four EU members, and it was these four who spoke at the Council stakeout after the PRST was adopted.

Inner City Press asked a representative of one of IBSA - made up of India, Brazil and South Africa -- countries about the US claim to have led. "That's very creative," was the response.

One wondered what the US now thinks of Ban Ki-moon's performance. On August 17, Ban "expressed appreciation that the Syrian Government had agreed to receive a UN humanitarian assessment mission;" the UN readout recited that "President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped."

Inner City Press asked Ban's acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq if Ban actually believed this. He thinks it should be investigated, Haq replied. One wag muttered, "Just turn on your television."

Video outside last UNSC Syria meeting, US DPR, Aug 10

  Inner City Press asked if Syria had been given approval rights over the UN readout and Haq said no. Is that worse?

Footnote: Inner City Press also asked if the US sanctions on SyriaTel, the cell phone in the country, might make it more difficult from the protesters to communication and dissemination information about abuses. The Senior Administration Official expert in sanctions said SyriaTel is owned by "crony" Rami Mahklouf. He seemed to say that the US will be issuing "general license" in the coming days, presumably to allow other companies to provide cellular service in Syria. Can you hear me now? What this site.

* * *

At UN on Syria, War of Spin & Briefings, Doubts on SyriaTel Sanctions, Ban's Call

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10, updated with video -- As the UN Security Council met Wednesday about Syria, sources told Inner City Press from the outset to expect no formal Council Presidential Statement output at the end.

  A Western member's spokesman emerged and said "we just want to keep the pressure on Assad." When asked "how" he said, "through you, the media."

  Which a Council output not even on the table, inside consultations the issue became whether and how soon to get another briefing about Syria. A source told Inner City Press that the UK proposed another briefing in seven days.

  Inner City Press asked Baso Sangqu, the Permanent Representative of South Africa -- which along with India and Brazil has vice ministers in Damascus, click here for IBSA statement, put online by Inner City Press -- "will there be a briefing in seven days?"

  "No, not in seven days," Ambassador Sangqu said. "It's in the hands of the President, ask the President. But there's been a request for a meeting."

  When President of the Council for August Hardeep Singh Puri of India came out, Inner City Press sought to ask him. But US Deputy Permanent Representative Rosemary DiCarlo engaged Puri in a heated discussion for several minutes, in the public hall outside the Security Council.  Click here for YouTube video.

  At the end of the exchange, Inner City Press asked Puri about a briefing. "There will be a briefing," he said, "most likely next week."

  Later the Deputy Permanent Representatives of the Council's four European members clarified that they except top UN humanitarian Valerie Amos and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to do the briefing.

  Wednesday's briefing was done by Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez Taranco, who for some reason did not speak to the press. The Western spokesman who said the media should pressure Assad was asked to have his country urge Taranco to speak to the press. But it did not happen.

  A cynic might say that the four European countries wanted to be seen -- and filmed -- as doing something on Syria; urging a Secretariat official to come and take questions on camera was less important or appealing.

  One also wonders why, after the meeting, the four Europeans and then Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari were the only ones to come speak at the formal UN stakeout. Russia's Vitaly Churkin spoke, on the stairs outside the Council, and said among other things it is disappointing that the Syrian opposition has not responded to reform proposals.

Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Permanent Representative Philip Parham to respond to this, and to complaints that sanctions against SyriaTel, the cell phone company, might make communications in the country more difficult, including for the opposition.

Parham noted his and his colleagues' previous statement that, in essence, violence and crackdowns have to stop to allow for dialogue. He said he could not respond on SyriaTel, not knowing the facts.

Ja'afari told Inner City Press, off camera, that SyriaTel is the regular cell phone company in his country. Inner City Press was going to ask him on camera, expecting him to come to reply to Parham's dismissal of his comparison between the London riots and events in Syria. But Parham was the last on-camera speaker.

Inner City Press asked Ja'afari if Assad would accept an envoy from Ban Ki-moon. Ja'afari replied that Assad's recent call with Ban was very productive. Quiet diplomacy? We'll see - watch this site.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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

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