BBC (UK), CNN (US), FINANCIAL TIMES (UK)

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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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Geopolitics

The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

Street scene in Erbil, Iraq

Théophile Simon

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

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