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On Syria, Ban Can't Vet Those Given UN Contracts by Annan, He's Lost Control

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- Skeptics in the UN Security Council and elsewhere have begun to question whether Syria's Assad government agreed to the Six Point Plan of UN - Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan because it dropped the "political transition" previously demanded by the Arab League and others, including it seemed Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  Inner City Press on Thursday asked Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey if Ban still wants to see a "political transition" in Syria as he had previously said.

  Del Buey answered that Ban"agrees with the six-point plan. Any process that takes place in Syria must be a Syrian-led process."

  Sources tell Inner City Press that Ban has "lost control" of the mediation process. After the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a joint envoy, Martti Ahtisaari and Kofi Annan were under final consideration.

  It was expected that Annan would say no, he wouldn't want to work under his successor Ban Ki-moon. But Annan said yes and the rest is history: he is not under Ban. To surprise and some unhappiness in the UN, Ban has "lost control."

   Previously, Inner City Press asked if Ban would be given a copy of Assad's response before Kofi responded to and commented on it. There was no clear "yes."

  Now Ban has had to echo or even qualify Annan's response. He has lost whatever control he had. Inner City Press understands from multiple sources that Annan is proposing various formats or modalities of monitors to the Assad government, apparently without the concurrence or even prior knowledge of Ban and the UN.

  Ban apparently does not even have a role in reviewing who is given six month UN contracts by Annan, including most recently Martin Griffiths who would not pass muster of any UN recruitment, having resigned from his last job atop the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue amid an embezzlement scandal. (Click here for Inner City Press' exclusive report yesterday.)

From Thursday's UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: On Syria, these are two connected questions, I will start with small. I have heard that Kofi Annan is basically in charge of the hiring of the team, he has hired a man named Martin Griffiths about whom there is some controversy of his past job. I have been told that he couldn’t be hired by the UN given how he left his past job, but he has been hired, he is on a UN contract, I am told, for six months regardless of what happens with Mr. Annan’s work. So, I wanted to know, what is the UN’s role in vetting and screening before people are given UN contracts to work with the Joint Special Envoy’s team?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: I’ll have to check on that for you, I don’t have the details with me.

Five hours later, even after the UN put this transcript online, no information had been provided.

Inner City Press: Okay. And the other one is kind of bigger. Some are saying that the Kofi Annan’s six-point plan has noticeably dropped this idea of political transition, which was in the Arab League plan. The question is: does the Secretary-General, is he looking for political transition in Syria, or is the Kofi Annan six-point plan, which doesn’t include political transition and could conceivably result very much in Mr. Assad remaining in power with a ceasefire and the other things in the plan, which side is he on? Does he think there should be a transition or not?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, the Secretary-General agrees with the six-point plan. Any process that takes place in Syria must be a Syrian-led process. He has always called on the Government of Syria to listen to its people; and the hope is that they will be able to negotiate a way forward towards a democratic future where human rights of all are respected and where different communities can cohabitate in peace.

Inner City Press: Just to put a point on it, in his view, Mr. Assad could remain in power despite the previous statement that he lost his humanity and various statements that Ban Ki-moon has made?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, that’s not a decision for the Secretary-General to make. That is a decision for the Syrian people to make, and he hopes that a negotiating process will take place and that the Syrian people will be able to make their views known, and elect a Government of their choice.

This is different from what Ban use to say. But as people close to Ban tell Inner City Press, Ban has lost control. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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