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At UN, As France Joins Arms Trade Treaty, Selling Warships to Russia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 2 -- One year after the Arms Trade Treaty passed with more than 20 abstentions, countries came back to the UN to deposit documents with the UN Office of Legal Affairs and join.

  Among the joiners was France, which before last year's vote had air-dropped weapons into the Nafusa Mountains in Libya. Now there was an even more clear and pressing questions.

  Given France's speeches this year in the Security Council about Russia, how is its move to sell Mistral warships to Russia consistent with the Arms Trade Treaty? What does it mean?

  A year ago in the UN General Assembly there were more than 20 abstentions, including the two most populous countries on Earth, China and India, and the most populous predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia.

Afterward, Inner City Press asked ATT president Peter Woolcott, after thanking him on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, about criticism of his allowing, before a promised ruling, Mexico and others to make an argument against the UN meaning of consensus.

  He replied that there was a speakers list that he followed. He said he personally does not favor negotiating under the rule of consensus. Other might say: it showed.

 Inner City Press asked Mexico's Luis Alfonso de Alba, who gave a thoughtful answer about "no vetoes," that may resonate in the UN Budget Committee.

   It was announced that Angola did not abstain, but voted Yes (hence, 22 abstentions, still quite populous.)

In speeches before Tuesday's vote, as Syria's Bashar Ja'afari spoke, US Ambassador Susan Rice was walking out. After that, a full hour into the speeches, Qatar's delegation rolled in. They ended up abstaining. Qatar supports rebels in Syria.

Sudan on the other hand said it was abstaining, citing the failure to address the arming of “mutinous” groups, like the SPLM-North and rebels in Darfur.

Russia, which by a point of order Thursday night put an end to the Mexico-launched attempt to redefine consensus, on Tuesday morning zeroed in on what knowledge of genocide might mean, in Article 6.3. Its Ambassador Churkin said Russia would not have broken consensus on March 28, but would now abstain, as did China. It's hard to call this consensus. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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