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French Bombing in Mali Relies on Mere UNSC Press Statement, Not a Resolution

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12 -- As France launched air strikes in Mali on January 11, it tossed off a letter to the UN asserting that its actions were within the bounds of international legality. This was the position the US administration of George W. Bush took on Iraq.

 What's the difference, under "international legality" such as it is?

  On January 10, France called for and got a UN Security Council closed door meeting at 6 pm, New York time.

  What issued was a press statement, a type of action described in other contexts as non-binding, which issued a reminder "call for a rapid deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA)."

  France and the Security Council have spent months questioning the plans for AFISMA, before most recently issued a ("binding") resolution on December 20.

  Some wonder, why go through all that if you can launch air strikes and go to war relying on a mere press statement? If only George W. Bush had known.

  But the trick here, for France and its supporters, is to blur the distinction between Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and these press statements, which the UN often churns out at the drop of a hat.

  Inner City Press covers the Security Council, for example two wan press statements, also drafted by the French, on another of its former colonies the Central African Republic, issued on successive Fridays on January 4 and January 11, both times after 5 pm.

   On January 11, Inner City Press was the only journalist at the Security Council stakeout to hear the statement and asked questions.

  On Mali, Inner City Press asked rhetorically on Twitter, forum for rhetorical questions in 140 characters, "France claims its bombing's within bounds of international legality, didn't GW Bush say that about Iraq?"

  A sample "former intelligence analyst" with a blog on Le Monde replied, in fine Twitter fashion, "@innercitypress ever heard about UN? It's in NY."

  Yes, we've heard of the UN: we cover it and its Security Council. And it's because of that we note: a press statement is not a resolution.

Solution? TIME Magazine, in an otherwise deft article, simply mis-describes the January 10 press statement as a resolution -- "the UN Security Council held an emergency session Jan. 10 to pass a resolution calling for the 'swift deployment' of an international intervention force."

    To call it a resolution is not accurate. Watch this site.

Footnote: In fairness to TIME's African coverage, they were right on in their reporting on the failures of the UN mission in the Congo overseen by Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping.

  While failing and stonewalling in the Congo, Haiti and elsewhere, Ladsous alongside proposing UN drones went to France in December to opine that no force would begin action in Mali until September. He is supposedly involved in the planning of the force. This further illuminates and complicates France's role. We'll have more on this.

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