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At UN on Syria, Russia Says Hope But Opposes Power Transfer, As Juppe Says Report Is Not Arab League's

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 31 -- Amid Superbowl like hype, the UN Security Council met about Syria on Tuesday afternoon; afterward the Press put questions to foreign ministers and ambassadors.

  Some made much of Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin saying in the Chamber that he sees "hope" in what's called the draft by Morocco -- as Inner City Press exposed on Tuesday morning, the track changes in the draft were input by the UK.

  But later at the stakeout, Churkin said it is not the Council's role to endorse calls for power to be transferred, as the Arab League plan does.

  Despite some breathless major media tweets on Tuesday morning that Russia's foreign minister Lavrov would come to New York, he wasn't even taking Hillary Clinton's telephone calls. A Russian Mission source mocked the "Western media's mis-reports" to Inner City Press, saying of Lavrov, "He's in New Zealand."

  When she came out, Hillary Clinton took only two questions, telling a chosen reporter that nothing should be read into Lavrov not taking her call, she's traveled in Australia and it can be difficult.

Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton, Lavrov's phone not shown (c) MRLee

  After Hillary Clinton, German Minister of State Michael Link spoke at the stakeout. Inner City Press asked him, since he'd referred to crimes against humanity, if Germany could agree to the type of immunity that Ali Saleh of Yemen got, under the Gulf Cooperation Council plan the Council largely endorsed.

   "It's too early to say," Link replied, "but I think that there is a necessity of a special inquiry." So he meant it's too early until the crimes are investigated? Or perhaps he really meant, as the Council agreed to in Yemen, he meant that accountability could be traded away?

  Inner City Press has been informed of Saleh's whereabouts in New York - watch this site on that.

  After Link, the UK's William Hague strode to the stakeout. Throughout the open meeting, various diplomats polled by Inner City Press said that Hague had been the best, with his improvised snark against Syria blaming, for example, Lawrence of Arabia. (Portugal's Paulo Portas got an honorable mention for citing Dostoevsky.)

  Inner City Press asked Hague if Assad transferring power is a precondition. Hague replied that it's all about the Arab League plan - and the plan provides for that.

  As noted, Churkin says Russia will not agree to that, even if the Arab League is asking for it. The Arab League's Secretary General Nabil Elaraby did not speak at the stakeout, declaring in the glare of the UN parking lot -- as filmed by Inner City Press -- that there would be no more answers.

  Qatar, too, canceled its press conference scheduled for 5 pm. A shame, too, since Hillary Clinton said that Syria, and by implication other countries, shouldn't be run by one man or his family, and Syria's Ambassador Ja'afari snarked about its "satellite television channel and fancy conference centers."

  As France's Alain Juppe came to the stakeout, before Hillary Clinton, the sounds was turned off to the media of the speech China's Li Baodong. Juppe spoke in French, and took his first question in French.

  Then Inner City Press asked him about Paragraph 44 of the Arab League monitoring report, which says that "Mission reports from Homs indicate that the French journalist was killed by opposition mortar shells." (Inner City Press on January 28 obtained and put the report online, here.)

   After first asking for a translation from the Mission's spokesman, Juppe maintained that the report is not endorsed by the Arab League.

  But when Inner City Press asked Russia's Churkin about just this an hour later, Churkin notes that it was the Arab League itself which asked that the monitoring report be annexed and made into an official document of the Security Council.

  Thus it's been endorsed not only about the Arab League, but also the Security Council. We aim to have more on this.

Churkin on UN TV, BRICS groupies, UN Jan 31 (c) MRLee

  Inner City Press covered the expert level negotiations on the draft on Monday night, and took to calling Tuesday's meeting the "Syria Superbowl," with the connotation of too much build up and hype, ending in a whimper or a blow-out.

  In what many called a typical slip-up, in the middle of the Syria meeting, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who was not in town issued a statement of concern about a country beginning with the letter S - except it wasn't Syria, or even South Sudan, but Senegal. Galling, one observer called it.

  Several diplomats at meeting's end said this was right. But unlike the NFL Superbowl, which marks the end of the sport for some months, at the UN on Wednesday negotiations on the draft resolution will continue.

  Morocco's permanent representative Mohammad Loulichki told Inner City Press that, contrary to the quote the Press ran earlier on Wednesday that the real drafters and promotions and even track-change enterers of the resolution are European, Morocco is behind it.

  Coming days should show not only what Russia means by hope, but how much of the Arab League was behind canceling the observer mission, and the demands so far made by the Arab League. Watch this site.

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