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Syria Wants Probe of Rebel's Gas, UN Says 4 Days for Ghouta, No Read-outs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 28 -- While the proponents of missile strikes on Syria, and belatedly of a draft resolution to authorize it, were hardly forthcoming to the UN press corps on Wednesday, Syrian Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari did speak at noon at the UN TV stakeout.

  Ja'afari said that he just filed a letter asking that the UN probe be extended to include three days on which he said the Syrian Army inhaled sarin gas he attributed to the rebels or armed groups.

  Inner City Press asked Ja'afari to respond to US Secretary of State John Kerry statement that Syria delayed five days in approving the UN's request to inspect the August 21 / al Ghouta site.

  Ja'afari said in fact there was no delay. (Yesterday Inner City Press established through questioning that the UN's formal request to Syria wasn't made until Saturday, August 24.)

  Inner City Press ran to the UN's noon briefing, which began while Ja'afari was speaking. Inner City Press asked Ban's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq about Ja'afari's request and whether it could be done in the four days Ban said are needed.

  Haq said that the four day figure was just to inspect the August 21 site. So, one wonders, would this be twelve more days?

When Inner City Press asked Haq if Ban thinks that use of missiles as publicly mulled by the Obama administration would require UN Security Council approval, Haq pointed to a Ban speech about international law which does not directly address the question.

  Inner City Press asked Haq for a list of Ban's telephone calls with heads of state or foreign ministers on the topic of Syria; the answer was no. The Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info will keep asking why.

  Since the US State Department said at its August 27 briefing that Kerry spoke with Ban, Inner City Press asked for a read-out; the answer was no. But on Inner City Press' question of if Ban raised staff safety - with staff in Syria while the US talks missiles -- Haq searched for and read an If-Asked, about everyone should respect staff safety.

  Another reporter seconded Inner City Press' request for Ban's call with Kerry. Haq said the request was "noted." We'll see.

When the Security Council held an emergency session on Syria on August 21, at a draft press statement was proposed but replaced by a mere meeting summary after Russia and China asked for 24 hours to check with their capitals, new US Ambassador Samantha Power was not present. She was, it has emerged, on a previously scheduled trip to Ireland.

  But now, Inner City Press hears directly from Security Council sources, Ambassador Power has been making calls to other Council members' Permanent Representatives, including in the non-Permanent Five. One of these exclusively told Inner City Press, "She's developed a theory over the years about not needing Security Council approval to take action. So the calls are in that context."

  "But," the source continued, "there is a difference between a country stepping in between two tribes to stop one from killing the other. To shoot cruise missiles from far away, saying you're going to stop chemical weapons that way?" There was a bitter laugh.

  Some contrast the role of Chile during the run-up to the intervention in Iraq to the inability of the Security Council this month to asserts its role under international law. Why doesn't a member table a resolution seeking to stop missile strikes while UN personnel remain in Damascus, the source asked. It was rhetorical. The script appears written - but the calls are being made.

Much is being made of the Syrian government's delay in granting the UN's request for its chemical weapons inspection team to visit al Ghouta.

Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Farhan Haq at Tuesday's noon briefing when it was that the UN formally requested access to al Ghouta -- on Saturday, August 24 or before? Video here, from Minute 12. Video with captions, on Inner City Press YouTube channel, here and embedded below, with transcript.

Haq read out a press statement from August 22, in which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said a request is being sent. Then, Haq said, Ban's High Representative on Disarmament Angela Kane "stepped forward with the request" -- on August 24, Saturday.

It was granted the next day.

Inner City Press asked again, was there any formal request by the UN other than Ban's press statement, before August 24? Haq called this "semantics." But when Inner City Press asked Ban's spokespeople to respond to widely circulated press releases about a request being made to Ban, the UN says the actual formal request had not been received yet, and so: no comment. Why should the UN say it must be different for Syria?

How could the UN be so sloppy? Or was it sloppy?

  While the delay to Sunday (or Monday, when the team got out and said, if this YouTube video on which Haq declined comment when Inner City Press asked is not false, that they are not even looking at what type of munition was used in part because they didn't want to put it in their white UN 4 by 4) is now an element in the case for missile strikes, the UN didn't formally ASK until Saturday, in the person of Angela Kane

   Inner City Press covered Kane when she was head of Ban's Department of Management, including an investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services for favoritism in the UN's so-called UMOJA computer management system.

  When Japan's Yukio Takasu returned after a pause from being his country's Ambassador to the UN to take over Kane's job, Kane's native Germany lobbied for her to get another top UN job. She was offered one in Lebanon, as Inner City Press reported, but did not want it. So she "got" Disarmament.

  This connection must be noted: it was Germany which got Kane this job, in the same way that France installed Herve Ladsous as the fourth French head of UN Peacekeeping in a row, and the US picked Jeffrey Feltman, formerly the State Department's chief on the Middle East to replace B. Lynn Pascoe as Ban's political chief.

  So the fact that Germany has expressed a willingness to join a coalition to strike Syria, without UN Security Council approval, and the Germany's Angela Kane's role in the "UN's" chemical weapons inspection team should be noted.

  But by most media covering the UN, it is not. When Inner City Press even mentions Ladsous' and UN Peacekeeping's French connection, Ladsous refuses to answer questions, and some media, including the French wire service Agence France Presse on one of whose management boards Ladsous served, have even filed complaints with the UN against Inner City Press.

  This is dysfunction, and is now being countered by the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info.

  Another major wire service, Reuters, joined in the second of AFP's complaints. On August 26 Reuters based a piece essentially selling or planning for the legality of military strikes on Syria without Security Council or even General Assembly approval around, as lead, a comment by the Council on Foreign Relations' Richard Haass.

  But on that CFR call, as noted by Inner City Press, was Judith Miller. Given her role during the lead up to the US intervention in Iraq, one might think this would have been included in an overly-long rehash story. But no.

 Notably, Reuters' UN bureau has been shown to have spied for the UN, handing over an internal anti-Press document of the UN Correspondents Association (which under 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS hosted Syrian rebel Jarba for what it called a "UN briefing") to UN official Stephane Dujarric. Story here, audio here, document here.

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