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On Syria, UN Won't Comment on Kerry & Senate Dissing It, Tautologies Deployed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- In its race for relevance on Syria, the UN keeps bobbing and weaving, on when its chemical weapons report will be finished, on who limited it scope.

  On September 4 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesman Farhan Haq (video here, embedded below)

Inner City Press: there was a August 31st letter from Syria and I just wanted to get your position on this; they say that in March, when they first requested the Secretary-General to investigate Khan al-Asal and the use of chemical weapons, it was their request that the investigation actually determine who used them. And so they are saying that the way it is being cited now that the UN can’t and won’t determine who used chemical weapons in Ghouta is... not their fault. I wanted to know, is their presentation of March accurate, according to the UN, and what do you make of this most recent letter from them?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, the Secretary-General was asked about the decision yesterday in his press briefing to you, and he made clear that he had taken the decision to determine whether or not chemical weapons had been used and not who used them. That is in line with previous such investigations, and in line with the procedures being used by the investigators themselves.

That's called a tautology: the investigators' procedures are "in line" with the procedures they themselves are using.

 In the next round, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: yesterday in the Senate, John Kerry was asked about the UN report and he said that it is his understanding it will be ready in about three weeks. So I wanted to know, is this based on any communication he had with the Secretary-General? Also, I am sure you have seen this statement by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan that came out today. On behalf of the Elders, he seemed to be saying that Member States should hold off not only on taking action, but on reaching conclusions until the UN report is done. Does the Secretary-General believe that? In terms of the statements made yesterday in the Senate about what people know and taking a vote as early as later today, does the Secretary-General think that’s useful or not useful given that the UN report hasn’t come out?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, the Secretary-General wouldn’t have any comment on the timing of domestic legislative processes, but he has very clearly called for countries to allow the work of the team to be done. And again, I just refer you back to what he said yesterday. And regarding a timeline, like I said, the Secretary-General has been in touch with Dr. Sellström, we put out some notes about his conversations in recent days with Dr. Sellström, and he has urged the team to do as much as they can to expedite their work while keeping within the scientific procedures that are required.

Finally, Inner City Press on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info asked why the UN system's daily noon briefing was canceled in deference to a press "encounter" in which Ban took only two pre-selected questions:

Inner City Press: I and some others were left unclear why there was no noon briefing yesterday, given that the Secretary-General didn’t speak until 1 p.m., and took two questions. It seems like there is a lot of things going on in the world, so can you explain that?

Associate Spokesperson: Yeah, it is a very simple explanation. The Secretary-General… when the Secretary-General briefs the press, we don’t have a noon briefing. You have had, by the way, extra noon briefings on Saturday and Sunday, so I hope you are duly appreciative. [laughter]

Inner City Press: it’s not the number of briefings, it has to do with, the UN has billion dollar peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Congo, issues in Haiti, like you should be able to…

Associate Spokesperson: But, Matthew, we answer questions all day and you e-mailed us several questions which we’ve been trying to answer since then.

Question: Well, here’s a question that you didn’t answer, and I mean, I wanna ask it.

So: why did the UN cancel its briefing? Becuase it did: "when the Secretary-General briefs the press, we don’t have a noon briefing." That's called a tautology. Watch this site.


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