The U.N. will be holding an extraordinary press briefing at 12:30 pm EDT on Saturday. They say it will be webcast (webtv.un.org). There's a sense of inevitability in the air at the UN that military action against Syria is somehow unstoppable at this point, especially after both Kerry and Obama spoke back-to-back this afternoon about how limited action would be justified.
Saturday's briefing will focus on UN chief Ban Ki-moon's planned meeting tomorrow morning with UN disarmament chief Angela Kane, who is en route to NY from Syria at this very moment. (She was dispatched to Syria after the Aug. 21 incident to plead for access for the UN team.) Journalists will be pressing for details about how long the analysis of the samples taken by UN inspectors in Syria at the site of last week's alleged chemical weapon attack will take.
The UN was the butt of more than one comment in Washington today. First there was what Kerry said about the UN chemical investigators having nothing to say that Washington doesn't already know (see my earlier post). Later Obama slammed the UN Security Council for its "incapacity ... to move forward in the face of a clear violation of international norms." Of course, Obama is really not criticizing the United Nations here but Russia, which has vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions that would have condemned President Assad's government and threatened it with sanctions.
Western diplomats tell Reuters that Russia might try to call an emergency UN Security Council meeting over the Labor Day weekend in an attempt to halt the momentum towards a military attack on Syria by arguing that everyone should wait until the UN inspectors finish their analysis of blood, tissue and soil samples taken in Syria. (They're testing for traces of chemical toxins.)
One thing's certain -- it will be a busy weekend at the UN...
BAGHDAD/ARBIL Iraq - Iraqi government forces and Shi'ite militias seized control of the strategic town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad from Islamic State on Saturday and Kurdish fighters made gains in the north after heavy coalition air strikes against the Sunni militants.