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For Ban to Speak on Syria Probe, Circus of Media Screening Then Reversal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 29, updated -- If this is how the UN will organize its supposed investigation of chemical weapons in Syria, it doesn't look good. Video here.

For Ban Ki-moon's 10:05 am “statement” about the probe, the press was told to assemble at 9:15 am at the office of UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit on the second floor. But Inner City Press was told that the screening equipment there didn't work, and so headed with the herd down to the lobby.

There, camera people were told to get in one line, reporters in another. But then after a security screening line that made US airports look like a ballet, the groups all joined together, with some still unscreened. It appeared to operate on the honor system.

Jammed into several elevators up to the 38th floor -- where the herd was told to turn around, Ban Ki-moon would speak in the lobby. Why he was speaking before rather than after he met his Swedish prober Ake Sellstrom was not explained.

Down in the lobby there was no UN wi-fi. Outside, Ban's taciturn head of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous stood smoking, before heading to the Security Council to dissemble about Darfur. On April 25 he refused Inner City Press questions about Mali, Congo, Western Sahara and Cote d'Ivoire. But at least one didn't have to wait 50 minutes to try to ask a question.

Is this how the UN would conduct its Syria probe? Watch this site.

Update of 10:15 am - and after all that, Ban Ki-moon took no questions, had little information; it was said that there'd be more “at lunchtime.”

Update of 10:45 am - here is UN's transcript:

New York, 29 April 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome Dr. Åke Sellström, who I appointed last month to lead the fact-finding mission of the United Nations into allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

He is an accomplished scientist with a solid background in disarmament and international security.  I met Dr. Sellström for the first time in The Hague last month on the occasion of my participation in the Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention. This is my second time [to see him], but first time in New York. I’d like to welcome him.

Dr. Sellström and his team of experts remain ready to deploy to Syria within 24 to 48 hours. An advance team is in position in Cyprus as you know. I have complete confidence in their integrity, independence and professionalism of Dr. Åke Sellström and his team of experts.

Even while waiting for Syrian consent to enter the country, they have been doing what they have to do and what they can to gather and analyze available information. These activities include possible visits to relevant capitals.

This is a crucial moment in our efforts to get the team on the ground to carry out its important task.  I take seriously the recent intelligence report of the United States about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  On-site activities are essential if the United Nations is to be able to establish the facts and clear up all the doubts surrounding this issue.

A credible and comprehensive inquiry requires full access to the sites where chemical weapons are alleged to have been used. I again urge the Syrian authorities to allow the investigation to proceed without delay and without any conditions.  

Today, 29 April, is the annual Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Chemical Warfare. As we address these allegations, I encourage all involved to uphold their responsibilities in enabling us to properly police these heinous weapons of massive destruction.

Thank you.

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