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At UN, Ban Takes 2 Pre-Selected Questions on Syria, Africa as Footnote

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 14 -- The UN has always been tightly scripted. But under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon it's hit a new level.

  The day after the White House said it is now convinced Syria has used chemical weapons and would send a letter to Ban, the UN announced Ban would make a statement and take "one or two questions."

  The venue was changed so that it could be broadcast live. The players assembled; Ban's special rostrum was rolled out.

  After congratulating John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda for his selection as the next President of the General Assembly -- as noted by Inner City Press, Sri Lanka military figure Shavendra Silva also offered praise, in the new General Assembly from which the press and public are banned -- Ban predictably turned to Syria.

  Ban cited the 93,000 killed figure released yesterday by the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, in a study the UN won't say -- and doesn't know -- who funded. That might have been one of the questions -- Inner City Press put it Thursday to the UN in Geneva and New York, without substantive answer. But no.

  Ban announced, proudly it seemed, that he just received a letter from the United States, but that it would be up to them to decide if it would be released.

(Outgoing US Ambassador Susan Rice was slated to do her own stakeout between 11 am and noon; when she did, she said it was she who signed the US letter.)

  Then Ban said he would take "two questions." Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky announced the identify of both questioners before either began. Video here from Minute 5:56.

  The first was Pamela Falk of CBS, as the 2013 president of the old UN Correspondents Association, a group which just agreed with Ban's Secretariat to ban media workspace that pre-dated Ban's tenure at the UN Security Council. Seemingly in exchange, the UN is now pressing for the removal of any sign of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, even on journalists' office doors.

  But the right question wasn't asked, leading to shouted questions after Ban as he walked away. Soon he will go to China. On the road again. Watch this site.

Footnote: Ban confined to a concluding footnote the killing of a UN peacekeeper in Kadulgi, Sudan; while sometimes an item is last to give it prominence, here no question on it was taken. That is the place of Africa in today's UN -- yesterday, the UN's DESA released a report projecting the Sierra Leone will still have the lowest life expectancy at birth in the year 2095.

  DRC and Guinea Bissau, which also have UN missions, were similarly profiled. Diplomats from each expressed disgust to Inner City Press on Thursday night, one saying "they just want to raise money." And so it goes.

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