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Spain's Gonzalo de Benito Gives Different Answers on W. Sahara in French, Spanish

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 -- Spain's State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Gonzalo de Benito on Wednesday at the UN gave different answers in Spanish then French about Western Sahara and UN envoy Christopher Ross.

Inner City Press asked Gonzalo de Benito about Morocco's recent call that Ross be removed as mediator. He replied that Spain was involved, as part of the Group of Friends on Western Sahara, in negotiating and finalizing the recent UN Security Council resolution on Western Sahara.

  He added that the resolution expresses confidence in Ross, a confidence now publicly not shared by Morocco.

  But when asked by a Moroccan reporter to repeat his answer in French, Gonzalo de Benito discussed the resolution but omitted the reference to confidence in Ross; he said Spain had met with a Moroccan minister on Friday and followed the issue closely, hoping for a solution.

   This mirror the office of Secretary General Bank Ki-moon, which just this week has said Ban has full confidence in Ross, then that he NOT traveling to the region, as was expected.

   At Wednesday's noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky why Ross won't travel and was told, that's for Mr. Ross to answer.  So we'll wait.

   Gonzalo de Benito in Spanish told the Press that Spain has close relations with "Polisario." But in French, he did not mention the Frente (or Front) Polisario, but rather the people of Western Sahara.

   Inner City Press also asked Gonzalo de Benito, what is Spain's future with the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon? He gave a long answer about the mission being reconfigured but said that, as in Afghanistan and the anti-piracy ATALANTA mission, Spain remains fully committed.

But isn't Spain reducing its commitment, Inner City Press asked, by 20%? Gonzalo de Benito paused and called this a small reduction. He said he would be meeting with the UN Peacekeeping chief, Herve "The Drone" Ladsous (so-named because he has proposed that the UN use drones) in the afternoon. Ladsous was involved in changing and watering down the most recent Western Sahara report. Watch this site.

Footnotes: In other answers, Gonzalo de Benito reiterated Spain's position on Gibraltar (reportedly, the dispute led to Spain's royals not attending the Queen of England's recent shindig ), and said that while Repsol is taking the steps one would expect of a company, Spain's relations with Argentina remain good.

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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

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