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On Syria, Araud Disses Churkin's "Conspiracy Theory," Ladsous Floats Away

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 2 -- When the Syria meeting of the UN Security Council broke up late Thursday afternoon, it was Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin who made it first to the UN TV microphone.

  He said that inside the meeting, the Western countries had not explained to his satisfaction why they want the UN observer mission to end on August 19.

   During the meeting, another Security Council member told Inner City Press it would be a matter of "saving face," after the (mostly) UK drafted July 20 resolution used the term "final" extension.

  Inner City Press asked Churkin if it would be possible to maintain after August 19 a UN presence in Syria, for example with personnel of the UN Department of Safety and Security, without passing a new resolution. Churkin said no, then said Russia would be willing to "re-name" the mission.

   French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud, August's Council president, began by chiding Churkin for speaking first. Inner City Press asked him about the EU's Kristalina Georgieva's statement that humanitarian aid delivery in Syria is helped by the UNSMIS mission, even now.

   This, Araud did not answer. Rather, he focused with rhetorical flourish on Inner City Press' second question, about Churkin's surprise that Kofi Annan's deputy Jean Marie Guehenno had been called by to Paris for a job with the French government.

   Araud said this was a "conspiracy theory," and that Churkin had spend too long on the Middle East. He emphasized that it was the new, Francois Hollande, government which offered Guehenno the post. But it is only to write a white paper.

  To some it seems that if the Annan mission were going better, at least from France's point of view, Guehenno might not have been "called home."

   When he was asked how Russia inside the meeting had argued for UNSMIS to stay in Syria, Araud took another pot-shot, saying, you should ask Churkin and Ja'afari, Syria's Ambassador. There were smiles in Araud's entourage, and in truth it was more entertaining that most Council president's stakeouts. Will Churkin or Ja'afari fire back?

   Next up was Guehenno's successor, with fellow Frenchman Alain Le Roy in the middle, as head of UN Peacekeeping: Herve Ladsous. His spokeswoman -- lead spokesman Kieran Dwyer is said to be away on business travel -- announced from the beginning Ladsous would take only two or three questions, fewer than Churkin or Araud.

   Even so, Ladsous barely answered, and as more detailed questions began -- like why he took half of UNSMIS out despite what the EU's Georgieva said -- Ladsous floated away from the microphone, taking no Press questions (as he vowed, not liking or being able to handle critical coverage), saying only "We are working."

  Working on what? Dismantling the UN Mission and its credibility?

   The comparison to the UN's flight from Rwanda in the face of the Hutu government's genocide, which Ladsous as Deputy Permanent Representative of France at the UN in 1994 in essence defended, grows more pointed every day. At some point the questions will have to be answered. Watch this site.

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