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UN To Vote On Harsh Syria Resolution After Kofi Annan's Exit



The UN General Assembly is set to vote on a resolution to increase pressure on the UN Security Council in a bid to resolve the Syrian conflict, reports the BBC.

Drafted by Saudi Arabia's government, who openly support the rebel forces in the country, the resolution condemns the permanent members of the Security Council -- including China -- and Russia who have frequently vetoed any sanctions againt Bashar al-Assad's regime. The resolution demands that al-Assad transfer power to a transitional government and that the Syrian army ceases its tank and helicopter attacks against rebel forces.

The news comes a day after Kofi Annan announced his resignation as special peace envoy to Syria for the United Nations and Arab League. Mr. Annan was critical of the Security Council and their lack of cohesion: "At a time when we need – when the Syrian people desperately need action - there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council."

Labelling the task as "mission impossible", Mr. Annan has blamed the Syrian government and the international community for their lack of support in implementing the six-point plan to resolve the ongoing conflict.

Point two of the plan, a ceasefire, was never achieved: "The bloodshed continues, most of all because of the Syrian government's intransigence and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan, and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition," said former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The departing Joint Special Envoy wrote an opinion piece in yesterday's Financial Times, making clear that Bashar al-Assad must leave office. He wrote: "Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity. But this requires courage and leadership, most of all from the permanent members of the Security Council, including from Presidents Putin and Obama."

Amnesty International's representative to the UN, José Luis Díaz, wrote for CNN yesterday: "The surprise is likely as much about the timing as anything else. No one at the United Nations would say it publicly, but all the players knew the "six-point plan" Annan crafted, and which the Security Council later endorsed, was moribund, if not dead ... So the question really wasn't whether Annan would throw in the towel, but when."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday thanked Mr. Annan for taking on the "heavy task of trying to bring an end to the killing of civilians in Syria and to forge a path toward a peaceful political transition and an inclusive, representative post-Assad Syria."

Mr. Annan's resignation as Joint Special Envoy will take effect on August 31.

Meanwhile, fighting intensified between Syrian forces loyal to al-Assad and rebels in the Damascus suburb of Jdeidet Artouz and near the Marj As Sultan military airport east of the capital.

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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