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On Syria, As Russia Nixes Ahtisaari, India On Abstention, Strange Rights of Reply

By Matthew Russell Lee, Partial exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 3 -- When the UN General Assembly reconvened for speeches after the Saudi resolution on Syria was adopted with 133 in favor, 31 abstaining and 12 against, Inner City Press asked Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin what his country thought of Maarti Ahtisaari as a replacement for Kofi Annan as envoy to Syria.

   "No, no, he is in deep retirement," Churkin told Inner City Press. Russia clashed with Ahtisaari over his position on Kosovo.

   Inner City Press asked Indian Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri about his country's abstention. He indicated that if the "welcoming" of the Arab League's resolution had instead been "noting," India might have voted yes. He also, in the GA Hall, condemned terrorism in Syria.

   India's abstention allowed the argument, made to Inner City Press at the beginning of the afternoon's session, that more the half of the world's population did not support the Saudi resolution.

   Inner City Press asked the Saudi Permanent Representative about this and he said, Then they could change the way we vote. India's Hardeep Singh Puri added, we believe in One Country, One Vote.

   Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari indicated that this couldn't be an Arab League resolution, since two Arab countries had not supported it. Beyond Syria's negative vote, Algeria abstained.

   Inner City Press was asked via Twitter why Yemen sponsored the resolution but then did not vote. The answer is that Yemen is behind in due and not allowed to vote, despite being pointed to as one of the UN's few "successes" this year.

  Tanzania also abstained, explaining it was due to resolution's lack of focus on "external forces."

  Argentina, whose opposition to the stronger version of the draft had an impact as exclusively reported by Inner City Press, voted yes but said afterward the resolution does NOT in any way authorize force to protect civilians. Thou dost protest too much?

  Similarly, Nigeria said it does NOT support the Arab League's July 22 decisions or telling the Syrian opposition to unify. But Nigeria voted yes.

  New Zealand said that it "joins China" in regretting Kofi Annan quitting. Why China? Well, New Zealand will be running for a UN Security Council seat in a year. That's often what these speeches are about.

  Canada opined that "Annan" Six Point Plan is dead. But like Russia's Churkin said of the UNSMIS mission, it could just be renamed.

   Libya's Ibrahim Dabbashi -- many are unclear if he or Shalgam is the Permanent Representative -- called on the General Assembly to do two things it can't -- impose sanctions and make referrals to the International Criminal Court -- and one thing it could do: try to strip credentials, as happened also for Laurent Gbagbo's Cote d'Ivoire.

  At the end there were Right to Reply statements. Iran trashed the "Zionist Regime." Germany spoke, but did not reply on Syria's statement about its sale of nuclear submarines to Israel.

  The EU deputy representative spoke, but did not reply to critique of EU sanctions. Afterward he told Inner City Press that under the current resolution, the EU does not HAVE a right to reply. That might be a problem.

  Bahrain replied that the forces in its borders "are from Al Jazeera." One wag mused, well that clears it up. And then the debate ended. We will have more on this -- watch this site.

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