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UN Ban Mulls New Envoy with Arab League, Saudi Wouldn't Meet Brahimi

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 18 -- Syria was the main topic when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met the Arab League's Nabil Elaraby on June 18 in Geneva, according to the UN. "They discussed the current search for a successor of Lakhdar Brahimi and agreed to continue these consultations," the UN says.

  But already two Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council have said a Brahimi replacement shouldn't or probably won't represent the Arab League.

  And Brahimi has said that Saudi Arabia refused to meet with him. So what would be the point? 

  According to the UN, Ban and Elaraby "also exchanged views on the current state of the Middle East peace process, as well as on the on-going crises in Iraq, Libya and Somalia."

 On Iraq, what is the Arab League's role? Iraq's Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia of supporting "genocide," which the US State Department spokesperson on June 17 called "offensive." But the US couldn't describe any Arab League role in Iraq: what could it be?

Background: Brahimi has let it all hang out. Inner City Press wrote about it on June 8, and on June 9 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: The Lakhdar Brahimi interview with Der Spiegel, Iím sure youíve seen it and among other things, he says Saudi Arabia refused to meet with him, not wanting a peaceful settlement. He said that the chemical weapons attack in Khan al-Assal was in all probability caused by the opposition, and I just wanted to know... I can keep going down this litany. I understand that heís now a private individual, but factually speaking, letís say on the Saudi issue, since he represented the Secretary-General as well as the League of Arab States at the time, is it true? Can you confirm that Saudi Arabia declined to meet with him and what does this say about Brahimi replacement also representing the Arab League?

Spokesman Dujarric: I think, obviously, Mr. Brahimiís interview was done as a private citizen. He no longer is the Joint Representative. However, the Secretary-Generalís own position on a number of these issues has been expressed fairly directly either by me or by the Secretary-General himself. I think Mr. Brahimi over the past, over the time of his work as the Joint Special Representative, has been fairly candid about his opinion. On the issue of the use of chlorine, that is something that the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]has been looking into. And as the Secretary-General himself said here in this room, this time of sort of interim between, without an official Joint Representative, is being used as a time for stock-taking to see how that role can be best used to keep the political process moving to work for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria.

Inner City Press: Because the Khan al-Assal was the attack that preceded the larger one so he was basically saying that the first reported, you know, use of chemical weapons, the one that Mr. SellstrŲm was sent initially to investigate, was, he believes, done by the opposition. And since thisÖ this seems to be a pretty major statement and it doesnít seem to Khan al-Assal was ever fully investigated. Thatís what many people saidÖ

Spokesman: No, I understand. You know, Iím not going to go on a play by play of his comments. I think the Secretary-Generalís own position has been very clear and very strong and what Mr. Brahimi expressed was his own private, private view.

 From Brahimi's interview with Der Speigel:

SPIEGEL: To what degree does this conflict pose a threat to Israel?

Brahimi: Israel is very happy. Things are going very, very well for them. If Bashar goes it's great; if Bashar stays it's great. Syria is being weakened. Syria had some kind of strategic weapon with their chemical weapons and that's gone. So Israel is doing very well, thank you very much. You don't need to worry about them.


  The UN Office of the Spokesperson refused last week to confirm what a Permanent Five member of the UN Security Council's Permanent Representative told Inner City Press, that the UN Secretariat doesn't want a Brahimi representative to also represent the Arab League. Brahimi said:

SPIEGEL: We have been told that the Saudis even refused to meet with you.

Brahimi: That's a fact. I think they didn't like what I was saying about a peaceful and negotiated settlement with concessions from both sides

  So, no Arab League it would seem. From the section on chemical weapons:

it does seem that in Khan al-Assal, in the north, the first time chemical weapons were used, there is a likelihood that it was used by the opposition.

  Brahimi's conclusion, which Der Spiegel turned into a headline:

It will be become another Somalia. It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It's going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place.

  Just on Inner City Press note: Somalia may not be "divided," but Somaliland (and Puntland) assert independence...

   On May 13 after Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi publicly resigned at the UN, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric selected who could ask him questions, with a decided slant. After Brahimi left, Inner City Press asked at the subsequent noon briefing if Brahimi will return to work for Algeria, specifically as a Bouteflika deputy.

  Dujarric said that should and could be posed directly at Brahimi at his question and answer media stakeout later in the day. Video here.

    Inner City Press waited. But when Brahimi came to the stakeout, Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq selected essentially the same questioners as Dujarric picked for Brahimi at noon. What was the point? Beyond propaganda? 

  In the earlier session, Inner City Press, which on May 3 reported that former Tunisian foreign minister and Ben Ali associate Kamel Morjane was being vetted to replace Brahimi, had this and another question to ask. Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, however, made a selection of questioners which left these out, while including the so-called ďHoly SeatĒ of the UN Correspondents Association, become the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  Brahimi was not asked about his future plans; Ban was not asked about vetting Morjane. After the two left, Dujarric continued taking questions along the same line. When called on, Inner City Press asked about Morjane and this: is Brahimi planning to take a role in Algeria once his resignation is effective on May 31?

  Dujarric said that should be asked to Brahimi -- what a surprise -- and then said without knowing it to be true that it could be asked later in the day to Brahimi after he briefs the Security Council. As he should know there are deadlines: including two more questions pending to be written about shortly.

  On this, what sources tell Inner City Press concerns Brahimi working with Bouteflika in Algeria. Out of respect for Brahimi, Inner City Press didn't reported it, wanted to let Brahimi himself address it on camera at this resignation press availability. But no. Watch this site.

Footnote: the debate seems to be whether Brahimi's replacement should "be an Arab" -- if so, North Africa is seen as the likely but shallow pool -- or, say, Javier Solana. We'll have more on this -- and on Dujarric contradicting one of the publications he called on for Ban and Brahimi, that the UN's Martin Griffith has himself been Banned from Damascus....


 

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