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Burma is a key test for the U.N. Human Rights Council

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

I was gratified to read the recent comments of Doru Romulus Costea, who heads the United Nations' widely derided Human Rights Council. In an interview with Le Temps, a Swiss newspaper, Costea admitted that the Council had so far "failed" to handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict evenly, and said he agreed with U.S. President George W. Bush that, as Costea spun it, "It is necessary to constantly improve the functioning of the Council."

The AFP's summary of the interview (which was conducted and published in French) adds this context:

[The Council] has held four special sessions, three of which have concerned the Middle East and have ended up condemning Israel. The fourth related to Sudan, and one is planned next week following the crackdown on dissent in Myanmar.

It's important to remember that it's the 47 member states that make up the Council, not the U.N. itself, that is the source of the problem. Consider today's comments by Louise Arbour, the U.N.'s top human rights official. She urged the council to hold Myanmar's generals accountable for their actions and support a European Union resolution stating that the Council "strongly condemns the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar, including through beatings, killings and arbitrary detentions and urges the government of Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and desist from further violence against peaceful protesters."

The vote is due to be held later today, and it will be a key test. If the Council can't sign on to this, what, then, is its purpose? 

(Thanks to Passport reader OA for sending this one along.)

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Morning Brief, Tuesday, October 2

Asia

Pool/Getty Images

South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun met an unsmiling Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.

As expected, Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf named Lt. Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani as his successor. Musharraf's lawyers have said he will step down as Army chief of staff if reelected as president. A few opposition MPs have resigned in protest of Musharraf's bid.

Four soldiers and six militants died in a firefight between naval commandos and Islamist fighters in the Philippines.

The U.N.'s envoy to Burma met with junta leader Than Shwe as well as democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, but reporting suggests the crackdown proceeds apace.

Middle East

Visiting Baghdad for the first time, British PM Gordon Brown announced the withdrawal of 500 more British troops from Iraq by the end of 2007.

A new Congressional report on Blackwater harshly criticizes the security company's conduct in Iraq and the State Department's oversight of it. More here.

Israel freed 57 Palestinian prisoners, all from the West Bank.

Europe

Austrian police have arrested two men suspected of trying to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Vienna.

Gazprom says it will sell gas from its huge new Shtokman field to Europe. 

C.J. Chivers analyzes Vladimir Putin's bid to become Russian prime minister. 

Elsewhere 

Scientists are alarmed by the rapid retreat of Arctic ice.

A U.S. district court rejected a 2001 executive order from U.S. President George W. Bush regarding presidential records as "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law."

What subprime crisis? The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new nominal high Monday.

Today's Agenda

  • The Special Olympics begin in Shanghai.
  • The founder and CEO of Blackwater testifies in a congressional hearing at 10 a.m.
  • President Bush meets with Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki.
  • Today is Gandhi's birthday.

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