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On Arms Trade, Christmas Tree Method Has French Hypocrisy, Syria Denial

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 13 -- There are, we're told, many big picture ideas at stake in the Arms Trade Treaty talks. With half of the sessions now closed to the media, Inner City Press on Friday afternoon took in two hours in Conference Room 1, largely devoted to what weapons should be included.

  The working method was, to be diplomatic, strange. The chair called on country after country, each making different points about whether only weapons "for military purposes" should be included, or the unfortunately named MANPADs.

  The paragraph at issue got longer, repeatedly called a "Christmas tree." Australia riffed on the image, saying that candles would be lit leading to a conflagration.

  Meanwhile the Swiss delegate complained he'd gotten a cold from the "climatization" in the UN Conference Room. Never fear: now the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management is being taken over, if only on act acting basis, by a man from Belgium.

  The French representative took the floor on both of the paragraphs considered, but never mentioned his country's air drop of weapons into the Nafusa Mountains of Libya. Was that a responsible transfer of weapons?

  Near the session's end, the representative of Colombia spoke up and admitted, I am not an expert, I am just a diplomat, I do not have any idea of what you are discussion.

  Egypt offered to explain, having broken from Arabic into English to propose a new version of paragraph two.

  It's said that across the wide hallway the closed session was going better, with the chair making a compromise proposal on objectives and then taking comments on it.

  Now the "good guys" on the ATT are getting cautious about offering criticism; closed meeting have been echoed by closed lips.

  For the record, Syria states that it did not push for the closed meetings, only against having two meetings at once which makes it difficult for it as a smaller state. It has, of course, other concerns as well.

While the session was ongoing, the office of the Qatari president of the General Assembly issued a press statement condemning the uncounted deaths in Tremseh, Syria, and calling on "all parties" to stop violent attacks.

  But Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the UAE if only via the Muslim Brotherhood, are reportedly arming the opposition and even "Third Force" in Syria. And so it goes at the UN.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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

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