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Brahimi on Syria at GA Says Little, Tightly Controlled, Lower Expectations

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- When Lakhdar Brahimi first accepted the post of envoy to Syria, he did a round of interviews from his Paris apartment, resulting in arguments back and forth with the Syrian National Council. Then he went silent.

  Brahimi's silence continued for nearly a week at the UN in New York. In the North Lawn building, guards kept the media away from him -- Inner City Press described the scene without joining it -- and even his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi asked not to be quoted by name.

  Then on September 1, at the beginning of a three day weekend in New York, Brahimi did another round of interviews, this time much more controlled. The message of each interview was, not surprisingly, nearly exactly the same, as were the headlines: Mission Impossible, Mission Impossible II, Brahimi Is Scared.

  So when Brahimi was scheduled to speak in the General Assembly on September 4, people expected to hear something of substance, and that he would takes questions from the press corps afterward.

  On September 3, after Brahimi's appearances, Syria's Information Minister Omran al Zoebi said there would be no dialogue with the opposition until the Syrian army imposes "security and stability on all parts of the country."

  Some thought Brahimi would want to respond to that, or to whether he would go to Syria openly representing the Arab League, or only the UN.

  Inside the General Assembly, Brahimi's speech was five paragraphs and said very little. And afterward, after Syria, Lebanon and Israel trades rights of reply, Brahimi did not come to speak at the UN TV stakeout that had been waiting for more than two hours.

  "He is not comfortable," one Ambassador told Inner City Press, shrugging. Good luck.

   Outside the GA, Inner City Press asked Ambassador what they thought. Algeria's Permanent Representative, heading the Group of 77 and China (a post that Fiji, in the Asia group, is running for) told Inner City Press that Brahimi is cautious because he does not want to "engage in polemics."

   China's Li Baodong exclusively told Inner City Press that when Brahimi goes to Damascus, he should be shown respect -- that is, Assad should meet with him. We'll see. Watch this site.

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