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Chaplin festival finds itself centre stage in UN row

IT is not every day that a sleepy town finds itself at the centre of an international political row.

But Waterville on the Ring of Kerry came to international attention as the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, was strongly criticised for spending time on holiday there while the Syrian conflict continued.

Dublin-born Ms Power, who returned to the US over the weekend, spent time in Kerry last week and missed a crunch UN Security Council meeting on the Syrian crisis last Wednesday as a result.

Ms Power's husband, a former adviser to US President Barack Obama, Cass Sunstein, was a guest speaker at the third annual Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival in Waterville, which combines comedy with a tribute to Chaplin's advocacy for social change.

Mr Sunstein, a former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, delivered an address about government regulation at the Tech Amergin centre in Waterville last Friday afternoon, but Ms Power was not in attendance.

The couple have been regular visitors to Kerry and they married in Waterville in 2008. Sources confirmed last night that Ms Power was in Kerry for a few days. "No, she wasn't at the festival. She had gone back to the States but Cass was committed to doing the address so he stayed on," said a festival source.

Ms Power became the US representative to the UN on August 1. Because of her trip to Ireland, she was not present at the meeting on Wednesday which followed the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Fox News condemned Ms Power's absence from the meeting, saying that Mr Obama's argument for the UN's central role in addressing the Syrian conflict was undermined as a result.

It was reported that the ambassador also missed a key meeting on Sudan last Friday. A spokeswoman for Ms Power said the visit to Ireland had been "long planned".

Ms Power lived in Dublin until she was nine when her family emigrated to Pittsburgh.

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