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At UN on Syria, UK to Table Sanctions Resolution, US Strangely Quiet

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 18, updated 4:15 pm -- As the Security Council went into closed door meetings about Syria on Thursday, informed sources in the Council told Inner City Press that the UK will table a resolution on sanctions. "And presumably a referral to the International Criminal Court."
  But where was the United States?

   As the meeting started, many in the assembled press corps marveled that US Permanent Representative Susan Rice was not present, even though the US earlier in the day said the Assad should step down, and said it had led in the Security Council.

  While an argument is advanced that the US Mission to the UN does not want to "step on" what President Obama said, albeit in a written statement, earlier in the day. But the European members of the Council said they would speak on the record at the UN, despite statements earlier in the day by David Cameron, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Catherine Ashton.

Update of 4:15 pm -- It's now said that US Deputy Permanent Representative DiCarlo will speak along with the EU4.

  Perhaps, one wag had wondered, Obama and his Permanent Representative are playing in a different league that the other Security Council members -- but it's hard to be leading when you are away, in another league. We'll see.

Footnote: a European spokesperson told the Press that the UN Secretariat briefer on Syria had been "bumped up" from Assistant Secretary General Taranco to Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe. But some wondered why not bump up even higher, to Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Migiro, reportedly back in New York on August 16, or Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself? The Western spokesperson said, "Isn't Ban still in Korea?" No, he's back in New York working from home, ten blocks north of the Security Council. We'll see.

From transcript of White House call on Syria, August 18, 2011:

Inner City Press: You said that the U.S. had led in the Security Council. I'm in front of it right now, and at least to the eye, it was mostly the European floor members that sort of took the lead. Is that going to change? And also, what do you make of criticism that sanctioning the Syrian cell phone company might actually make it harder for protestors to communicate and spread information about abuses there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll take the first one, and then turn to my colleague. In terms of the Security Council, we led along with our European allies. I think those of you who have followed that know that the United States and our European allies supported a strong resolution against the Syrian regime. We were able to bring the council to a unified presidential statement of condemnation against Syria -- which, by the way, sent a very strong message that Syria couldn't necessarily look to some of its -- some of those who had protected it in the council in the past, but rather those members of the council joined us in condemnation.

So I think that was an instance of the United States working with our European allies through the council to get a strong outcome. And we'll continue to pursue avenues through the U.N. and other places to amplify the condemnation of the Syrian regime.

I think it also speaks, frankly -- that message of condemnation from the Security Council -- to the shrinking support for Syria in the international community. Frankly, they've principally been able to look only to Iran as a patron and supporter of their crackdown efforts within in their own country. And the choices of support that they seek in the international community are closing off. But I'll turn to my colleague to talk about the sanction question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With respect to the sanctions applied to Syriatel, that is a company that is controlled by Rami Makhluf, who is probably the most significant corrupt crony and supporter of the regime, who has used his preferred position with the Syrian government and the Syrian economy to siphon off enormous wealth from the Syrian people. The sanctions on Syriatel, because they're controlled by Makhluf, we do not think will result in the loss of communication ability among the people of Syria.

We will also be taking steps in the next few days to issue a general license pertaining to communication services in Syria that will also serve to facilitate communication among the Syrian people.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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