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At UN, ATT Passes With 22 Abstentions, Woolcott Tells ICP of Speakers List

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 2 -- When the Arms Trade Treaty was blocked on March 28 under the rules of consensus, the headlines read that only three countries were against it: Syria, North Korea and Iran.

But even then, in speeches like Sudan's and Belarus', one could hear abstentions coming.

And Tuesday in the UN General Assembly there were 23 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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