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As US Lauds Saudi Vote in GA, Abstentions by IBSA Plus 3 Blocked SC Action?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 18 -- When the Obama administration came forward to accuse Iran of being involved in a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's Ambassador in Washington, US Ambassador Susan Rice came to the Security Council and briefed each member separately.

  This led some to expect Security Council action. But on Friday it was at the General Assembly where a US and Saudi sponsored resolution was put to the vote.

  While 106 countries voted in favor, 40 abstained, including Security Council members India, Brazil and South Africa, as well as Nigeria and veto-wielding Russia and China.

  Considering these votes of major nations, the vote was not as "overwhelming" as the resolution's proponents made out. It seems to explain why they went to the General Assembly and not the Security Council.

  US Ambassador Susan Rice, after the vote, called it a clear message. Inner City Press asked her what she made of the abstentions of South Africa, India and the largest majority Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, where Obama is right now, and why the issue was brought to the General Assembly and not the Council.

Rice said that the General Assembly was an "appropriate first stop" in that every country has a vote. One wonders if the US would take a General Assembly vote in favor of Palestinian UN membership as a clear message. The full transcript is below.

Obama, King Abdullah and
Adel al-Jubeir, plot not shown

  Notably, on Friday morning another resolution was voted in, involving Saudi Arabia funding for three years a UN Couter-Terrorism Center. To some it seemed like pay-to-play and distasteful -- some diplomats even grumbled about the nationality of most of the 9/11/01 hijackers.

  In the region, countries like Kuwait and Bahrain spoke in favor of the resolution. In the Latin American and Caribbean states group GRULAC, countries like Uruguay and Chile abstained, while St. Lucia and Costa Rica voted yes. Even so, Costa Rica's Permanent Representative explained the other side's position to Inner City Press: there is an open case.

  As India's Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri put it, "we have abstained today on the resolution, as its substance deals with a specific case in which we are not in the possession of full facts and the matter is sub-judice." We'll have more on this: watch this site.

From the transcript:

Inner City Press: You said that it's a very clear message, but what do you make of the abstentions of Security Council members like South Africa, India... Is there a reason you didn't bring it to the Council? And those are pretty big countries. What do you think it says that they thought there's not due process or that it should go through the courts?

Ambassador Rice: Well, I think first of all, many of those countries explained their vote, and they all affirmed their condemnation of terrorism in all forms. We thought-and, I think, most importantly, the government of Saudi Arabia thought-that the General Assembly was the appropriate first stop for an effort to condemn this attack because it affects all of us as diplomats. And the General Assembly is the only forum where every state in the world is represented and has the opportunity to express their concern and condemnation of acts that target diplomats. So we think that was appropriate and right. It doesn't preclude the possibility that at some stage down the road that it may be appropriate for the Council, but this clearly was the right first step and we were very pleased to support it.

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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

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