Bashar Jaafari
Bashar Jaafari, Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, looks on at a United Nations Security Council meeting on the crisis in Syria in New York City. © Mario Tama - AFP/Getty Images
Bashar Jaafari
Last updated: February 1, 2012

Unlikely Lawrence of Arabia row at UN Syria debate

Many points of contention were aired at a high-stakes UN Security Council meeting on Syria's bloodshed on Tuesday, but at least one came straight from another era -- Lawrence of Arabia.

Syria's UN representative brought up the famous British soldier from World War I as he defiantly rejected a draft resolution backed by other Arab states calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Ambassador Bashar Jaafari, in a likely reference to Arab League leader Qatar, said that some Arab countries "have only exercised democracy through satellite stations and fancy conference halls."

Syria voted for a parliament in 1919, "one year after the fall of the Ottoman Empire while Lawrence of Arabia was wreaking havoc with the destinies and resources of the states and was trying to turn the bloc back to obscurantism."

Taking the microphone afterwards, British Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed the slights on his compatriot.

"It is not acceptable to try to blame the situation in Syria on everyone else, from outside intervention to the Gulf states to French states to Lawrence of Arabia. This does not excuse such repression," Hague said.

Rights groups say that Assad's forces have killed more than 5,000 people as it tries to put down a 10-month-old uprising, the latest in the Arab world after revolts that ousted authoritarian leaders in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

Lawrence of Arabia, or T.E. Lawrence, stirred up Arab forces to rise up against the Ottoman Empire. His exploits were immortalized in a 1962 film starring Peter O'Toole.

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