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As ATT Starts, How Would It Apply to Arming Syria Rebels, or SPLM-N?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- As the Arms Trade Treaty talks got underway Monday morning at the UN, as if in a parallel world France and the UK among others were pushing to be able to arm the rebels in Syria. How would the proposed ATT apply to such arms transfers, or to France's air-dropping of weapons into Libya's Nafusa mountains?

A pro-ATT press conference was given including Oxfam's Anna Macdonald, the actor Djimon Hounsou and Jeffrey Duke of the South Sudan Network on Small Arms.

Regarding South Sudan, Inner City Press how the proposed ATT would have allowed the SPLA to become armed to fight aginst Khartoum? How would it apply to the SPLM-North in Southern Kordofan? And, of course, to armin the Syrian rebels.

The question was referred to Duke of the South Sudan Network on Small Arms, who said, “what you've stated is a concern world has to come to terms with when considering how to control arms... Our struggle was a genuine, legitimate struggle for liberation against oppression everyone could see.”

There are of course other oppressions that can be seen. Can rebels there all be armed?

Duke continued that it's a “high level political decision to distinguish which groups are pursuing the rightful cause of self determination.”

Fine. But who makes that determination, which rebels are legitimate? Consider Syria. Or Sri Lanka, or Sudan. Or Palestine. Or any number of other places.

Duke said, and it is not clear if this is Oxfam's position, if you “support them, make it transparent... the ATT is supposed to indicate transparency in transfers, liberation organizations must be discussed and made public. The world cannot watch while a group is being oppressed. What's important is transparency in support.”

Is that Oxfam's position? France's? The UK's?

Oxfam's Head of Arms Control Anna Macdonald was second to answer, adding that the ATT would be “preventative.” It would not immediately “solve the problems of Syria” but could “stop future Syrias, Malis, Libyas” by stopping the stockpiling of weapons where there's a risk of human rights abuse.

But still, how would such governments be overthrown? With sling-shots?

Over in the North Lawn, India was saying the draft favors arms exporters. A Permanent Five member of the Security Council called the draft “rubbish.” Macdonald said rather than a weak consensus text it might be worth taking it to the General Assembly for a vote. Coming out of the Security Council an hour later, another Council member said the key would be implementation, and laughed at the question of Syria. And so it goes at the UN. Watch this site.

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