Angola: New UN sanctions report

JOHANNESBURG, 15 March (IRIN) - The UN Security Council is scheduled to hear from African and European nations which have been accused in a new report on Wednesday of violating sanctions against the Angolan UNITA rebel.
The report, prepared by a panel of experts established by the Security Council under Robert Fowler, the Canadian UN ambassador who chairs the Angola sanctions committee, said that three African countries, Togo, Rwanda and Burkina Faso, had been breaking the sanctions by providing UNITA with fuel and arms.

It also said Belgium had failed to stop the import of illicit diamonds, and that UNITA had been buying weapons directly from Bulgaria, a country seeking to join NATO.

Officials said the Security Council was scheduled to hear from the representatives of each of the countries named prior to considering the report's recommendations that steps be taken against nations accused of illegally profiting from the 30-year Angolan civil war. The report said UNITA, led by Jonas Savimbi, had been able to pay for its illegal weapons with diamonds mined from the territory under its control.

Sections of the report were leaked to the media in New York earlier in the week prompting the countries named to issue statements of denial.

In Brussels, a government spokesman said Belgium would defend itself against charges that lax controls on the Antwerp diamond market, which handles 80 percent of the world's uncut diamonds.

The spokesman said Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister currently on a week-long visit to Angola and other African countries, would make it clear the country's eight-month-old coalition government was publicly committed to tightening the controls. In New York, he said the country's UN ambassador, who viewed some of the criticism as "harsh", would tell the Security Council that Brussels was considering appointing UN observers in Antwerp's Diamond High Council.

The panel of nine experts, under Fowler, took six months to compile the report. In it Fowler stressed that the purpose of the Security Council "was not to punish UNITA but rather to promote a political settlement" by requiring UNITA to comply with the obligations it undertook when it signed the 1991 Bicesse Peace Accord and the UN-brokered 1994 Lusaka Protocol peace accords. The idea was to limit "UNITA's ability to pursue its objectives by military means".

Meanwhile, the rebel movement, reacted to the report in statement in Portuguese e-mailed to IRIN on Wednesday by saying: "It is with considerable repulsion and disdain that UNITA takes note of the false speculation raised by Mr Fowler.

"As we have always said, the unjust sanctions imposed against UNITA by the UN reflect the arrogance and racism of those who pretend to serve the needs of ordinary Angolans so that they can exploit the country's petroleum and diamond resources."


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