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On Syria, Hot Air at UN, No Talk of UK Spying from Cyprus or France's Libya Weapons

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- It is late August and at the UN there is hot air on Syria, kicked off Thursday by a joint press conference by the foreign ministers of France and the UK.

  Laurent Fabius spoke of being in refugee camps in Jordan. He said, this afternoon we will hear from Assad's representative but it doesn't matter, our mind is fixed. What is the purpose of the debate?

  He said that having nine ministers present speaks volume; he argued that while Hillary Clinton has not come, Ambassador Susan Rice is at the ministerial level. She gets listed as a member of the Obama cabinet, thus higher than mere Permanent Representatives like France's Gerard Araud, who stood against the wall of the briefing room while Fabius was speaking.

  The position of the US was one mystery at the press conference. It was said that France and the UK will be calling on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to be ready to inspect Syria for chemical weapons. Not to list the US as part of that call seemed strange, after Obama's pre-RNC announcement of chemical weapons as his "red line."

  In an interview before coming, Fabius had acknowledged that weapons put into Libya have ended up with "extremists," including in northern Mali. Was he referring to the weapons that France air dropped in Libya's Nafusa Mountains? No such question was asked.

  There is an inordinate sensitivity at the UN to media critique, so we will for now only say that all of the five questions selected went in the same direction.

  One does not have to be a supporter of Bashar al Assad to ask William Hague, for example, about reports of the UK spying on Syria from Cyprus. Click here for Inner City Press story on that.

  But no such question was asked. Nor anything about the Kurdish areas of Syria. It's said that Turkey's foreign minister will speak with the press after the afternoon's Security Council meeting. Watch this site.

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