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At UN on Syria, Rice Says Assad Unfit to Govern, Defends Helping Rebels, But Obama Told Kiir Not To in Sudan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- Why does the Obama administration treat Syria and Sudan differently? Why does it defend Qatar and Saudi Arabia paying the Free Syrian Army, while President Obama on April 2 told South Sudan's Salva Kiir not to help the SPLM-North in Southern Korfofan?

  When US Ambassador Susan Rice took ten questions from the media on Tuesday, the first eight were about Syria. In response she said that Bashar al Assad is "unfit to govern."

  Before Rice turned to a question from Twitter, also on Syria, Inner City Press asked if a Sudan question would be taken. Yes, Rice allowed.

  After Rice praised the mediation led by Thabo Mbeki, Inner City Press asked why the Sudanese opposition is being told to disarm and join the Qatar brokered process on Darfur, and not to seek regime change, especially since Sudan's Omar al Bashir, unlike Syria's Assad, has already been indicted by the International Criminal Court along with his defense minister and crony Ahmed Harun, who after being flown to Abyei by the UN was filmed saying "take no prisoners"?

  Rice replied that "our policy in Syria is to resolve it if possible... through a Syrian-led political process, quite similar to our view of optimal outcome in Sudan."

  This does not answer if Rice and the US think that Sudan's Bashir is also "unfit to govern," nor who killed more people?

  As to Sudan, Rice said that "war and fighting for generations" have not brought "greater freedom or greater security." So is it that the Sudanese opposition had their chance at changing the government but have not succeeded, and so should stop trying?

  Or is the US priority the development of their ally South Sudan, such that leaving Bashir in relative peace is the strategy?

  Rice continued, rather than about Sudan as a whole including the youth movement, that "Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are... inherently political, but Khartoum has decided not to deal at the negotiating table" and so is "facing an intensified rebellion."

  But the US is telling South Sudan not to assist the rebellion in Sudan, while in the same press conference, as she had in response to Inner City Press' question the day previous at the stakeout, she defended Qatar and Saudi Arabia paying Syrian rebels, and the US providing communications equipment to the opposition. What's the difference?

On the topic of Sudan's four ICC indictees, Rice insisted that the US is at the forefront of "demanding justice and accountability for genocide and war crimes" by Bashir and those around him.

  But did the US and Rice criticized the UN, then, for providing free flights to ICC indictee Ahmed Harun to and from Abyei?

  Have they commented publicly on Harun's statements on video that no prisoners should be taken? Or on joint UN - African Union envoy to Darfur Ibrahim Gambari taking photos with Bashir at a wedding reception for Chad's Idriss Deby and the daughter of Musa Hilal, the Janjaweed leader? Watch this site.

Footnotes: Rice explained that she had to leave for a lunch and then retreat with Ban Ki-moon. It was also noted that the impending North Korean missile launch, a topic of much concern to the many reporters for Japanese media in the UN audience, was not broached.

In the run-up to Rice's press conference on the Security Council's program of work for April, Inner City Press asked via Twitter why the US is not having a Horizon or DPA briefing -- especially strange since the US controls DPA, now with Lynn Pascoe and prospectively, as first reported by Inner City Press last week and asked at Tuesday's UN noon briefing, by Jeffrey Feltman. Watch this site.

From the US Mission to the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: I just want to ask you this: You said that, as to President Assad of Syria, that he's unfit to govern because he's killed his people and all these things. It seems to some that the U.S. and certainly the Security Council is calling on the opposition in Sudan to not seek regime change, to disarm, to become part of the Darfur process in other ways. So what's the difference, given that Omar Al-Bashir, Ahmed Haroun, the defense minister, they've all been indicted for war crimes and genocide and crimes against humanity. What's the difference in terms of telling the opposition not to seek a change of government in the same way you do elsewhere?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, first of all, our policy in Syria is that this should be resolved, if possible, through a negotiated, Syrian-led, political process that results in a democratic dispensation for the people of Syria. That's quite similar to our view as to what is the optimal outcome in the context of Sudan, where there has been war and fighting for generations, and it has not led to greater freedom or greater security for many of the people of Sudan.

The challenge of Southern Kordofan and indeed Blue Nile is inherently a political one, as both sides recognize in the context of the CPA. The problem is that the government in Khartoum has decided not to deal with this at the negotiating table, and so they are facing an intensified rebellion. But the prescriptions are analogous. And yes, we have been at the forefront of demanding justice and accountability for genocide and war crimes committed by President Bashir and many around him, and that remains a central part of U.S. policy. Let me end.

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