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At UN, Palestine Says Cast into Small Arms Limbo by Ban's Lawyer O'Brien

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- Palestine's fight at the UN moves conference by conference, seat by seat. As Inner City Press exclusively reported, Palestine was a full party earlier this year in conferences on the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) and then Geographic Names.

   But at the Arms Trade Treaty talks, after a delay first noted by Inner City Press, Palestine was put in the front row, but not as a full party.

  Now that has happened on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Why?

  Inner City Press has learned that the exclusion is based on a ruling by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's top lawyer, Patricia O'Brien.

  In Geographic Names, despite opposition by Canada, the US and Israel, Palestine had full status under the so-called Vienna formula: all member states and members of UN system specialized agencies.

   Small Arms, like the ATT, is under the "all states" formula, which Palestine argues includes them, since they joined UNESCO as a state. This formula, they say, used to cover non UN members (at the time) like Guinea Bissau and a VietNam.

But Ban's Office of Legal Affairs under Patricia O'Brien says no, "all states" does not include Palestine, but rather follows General Assembly rules. The Holy See, which in ATT sat in the front row with Palestine, in Small Arms is a full party. But Palestine is not, under the O'Brien (and Ban) rules.

  Inner City Press has repeatedly asked that Patricia O'Brien, the UN's top lawyer who also killed off reform of the Security Council's working methods with a ruling many found shoddy, come and answer questions. But she has declined.

  Now Mahmoud Abbas says that observer STATE status will be sought through the General Assembly. But with the past legal maneuvers of Ban and O'Brien, what new exclusions will they dream up? Watch this site.

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