Syrian Ambassador to France Denies Resignation

Lamia Chakkour says she will bring a lawsuit to condemn France 24 for acts of disinformation after the news channel featured a false telephone interview with a woman claiming to be her, who said she had resigned from her position in protest at the Assad government's repression of protests.

Syria's ambassador to France strongly denied a report on Tuesday that she had resigned in protest at the government's repression of protests, saying it was part of a campaign of disinformation against Damascus.

Ambassador Lamia Chakkour, shown standing in front of a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Paris embassy, told France's BFM television that the report by news channel France 24, featuring a telephone interview with a woman claiming to be her, was false.

assad - Reuters - 7.6.11

"France 24 ... is issuing a message in my name. Naturally, I will bring a condemn France 24 for its acts of disinformation, which are part of a campaign of falsification of information and disinformation which began in March 2011 against
Syria," Chakkour said.

The television images of her denial ended several hours of confusion following France 24's report, which had been quickly followed by a strong denial in Syrian media.

Shortly after that, Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television aired a telephone interview in Arabic with a woman who identified herself as Chakkour and angrily said she had not quit.

With the ambassador not immediately available for comment in Paris, it had not been possible to reach her to confirm which of the statements was correct.

Reuters had checked with the Syrian embassy in Paris before reporting the initial resignation statement aired on France 24. An e-mail response from the embassy, sent via its website, confirmed that Ambassador Chakkour had resigned.

BFM's short video clip of the ambassador offered no explanation for the email sent from an embassy account, but the embassy website itself later was suspended from operation.

In her interview with BFM, Chakkour said she had not spoken to France 24 and accused the channel of trying to steal her identity as Syrian ambassador, echoing the denial earlier reported on Al-Arabiya.

France 24 said in a statement on its website that it had arranged the interview using the email address for the press service of the Syrian embassy it had always used in the past, and had called the ambassador at a prearranged time on a number given by the embassy's press attaché.

"We do not rule out manipulation or provocation. If that is the case, we will pursue legally all those people...or official services which are behind it," the channel's statement said.

Chakkour's father was a senior figure in Syria's secret police. Her background as a member of Syria's Christian minority from a family regarded as loyal to Assad helped her secure her ambassadorial post.