Mystery solved. America’s ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power was in Ireland on a personal trip when she missed an emergency meeting on the alleged chemical gas attack in Syria, U.N. sources tell Fox News.
A day earlier, State Department officials were mum when asked for information on Power’s whereabouts. She had come under fire for missing Wednesday’s urgent U.N. Security Council meeting, where delegations weighed how to respond to charges that the Assad regime had just committed the deadliest chemical weapons attack in the country’s two-year civil war.
The meeting, and her absence, came just 19 days after Power assumed the U.N. leadership post.
Power also did not attend a meeting Friday afternoon on Sudan — another trouble spot that Power has focused on in the past — though it is likely that such a meeting would have been attended by a deputy anyway.
But U.S. officials are defending Power, saying she was on a preplanned trip and could not have made it back in time. Power was born in Ireland, and her family is from there. The nature of the visit to her home country is not clear; officials say that since the trip was personal, they were safe-guarding her privacy.
One U.S. Mission official told Fox News that Power was the one pushing for immediate consultations by the Security Council after reports surfaced of the attack Wednesday morning.
The official said Power believed the situation required an urgent response, and should not wait until her return to New York. The official said the U.S. was competently represented at the session by Deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, a seasoned diplomat who had been running the U.S. shop on an interim basis.
The official noted that other permanent members of the council also were not represented by their permanent ambassador at Wednesday’s meeting. The official stressed that Power has been in constant contact with her staff and the White House.
But Richard Grenell, a former U.N. spokesman under the George W. Bush administration, questioned how someone who had been on the job just 19 days could miss the session. Grenell told Fox News that her absence at this meeting could “scar her career.”
The State Department was also unusually coy about Power’s whereabouts when asked on Thursday.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined, twice, to say where Power was during Wednesday’s meeting. “I don’t have any more details for you,” she said.
Asked again, Psaki said: “She had a previously scheduled trip. I don’t think I need to go into more detail from here.”
Meanwhile, the administration is looking into the chemical attack allegations, and Reuters reported late Friday that U.S. intelligence agencies have made a “preliminary assessment” that the Assad government did use chemical weapons this week.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest also said “there is some evidence to indicate that chemical weapons may have been involved.”
“And given our interest in ensuring that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating and the need to protect our allies in the region, the president believes that this is something that requires our attention,” he said. “This is also something that requires the attention of the international community.”