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Syria Observing Halt on Fridays Not Seen in Foggy Bottom, W. Sahara Disparity

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON DC, April 20 -- The US is pushing for full freedom of movement for UN observers in Syria, but was apparently beaten to the initial punch by a resolution circulated to Security Council members by Russia on Friday morning.

  Inner City Press went to the US State Department briefing and asked spokesperson Victoria Nuland about the Russian resolution, and to compare it on the issue of freedom of movement to a resolution the US is prepared to vote for which accepts surveillance of the UN Mission in Western Sahara by the Moroccan government.

  Nuland replied that "I understood from my colleagues in New York, at the US Mission to the UN, that we are working off a single draft. I'm going to send you up to them."

   Not from them, but even the Russian draft

"Calls upon the Syrian government to ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by: facilitating the expeditious and unhindered deployment of its personnel and capabilities as required to fulfil its mandate; ensuring its full, unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access as necessary to fulfil its mandate; allowing its unobstructed communications; and allowing it to freely and privately communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation against any person as a result of interaction with UNSMIS."

  On the still unanswered contrast between the US position on UN freedom of movement in Syria and Western Sahara, Nuland replied that in Morocco and Syria "the situation is different, the history is different. In case of Syria, what we have seen all over the country is peaceful protest met with regime violence.. We must make sure we can monitor."

  Does this mean that the people of Western Sahara's fight for a referendum on self-determination is not peaceful? And how about what was said of the UN always standing up for its freedom of movement?

In fact, the current UN observers in Syria seem to be voluntarily curtailing their movement, at least on the major protest day of Friday. Inner City Press asked Nuland about this quote:

"'We don’t want to be used as a tool for escalating the situation. So we will avoid going out on patrol on Fridays,' said Colonel Ahmed Himmiche, head of the initial UN mission in Syria."

This was said in Damascus on April 19, and picked up (and linked to) by the New York Times on the morning of April 20. Nuland said, "I haven't seen the comments of the Moroccan lead" but the issues "have to be worked out through a Security Council resolution."

A meeting on that begins Friday at 5 pm. Watch this site.

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

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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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