Notes following Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Media Centre Amphitheatre, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Monday, 29 January 2007

MIDDLE EAST & WEST ASIA

South Africa, like the rest of the world, is deeply concerned about the situation in the Middle East and West Asia reflected in:

  • Ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence in Iraq which continues with unacceptable levels of deaths and destruction
  • Palestine - Israel - a solution based on UN resolutions seems elusive
  • Serious tensions in Lebanon
  • Violence in Afghanistan is escalating
  • Crisis regarding Iran's nuclear programme continues.

No country will be immune to the serious consequences of any failure to find political solutions to these issues.

In our own national interests, and in the interests of international peace and security, we must globally do everything possible to defuse the very explosive situation in the region.

Collectively we must seek to find solutions to the problems identified by the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.

This report contains much analysis reflective of what many governments, academics, experts and NGOs have been saying for some time.

Let me deal with some aspects of this report:

Baker-Hamilton Study Group on Iraq Report

To date, the United States has spent roughly $400 billion on the Iraq War, and costs are running about $8 billion per month. In addition caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement in Iraq. This does not refer to the human cost to Iraqis and others in the region.

US Coalition and Iraqi Forces

Approximately 141,000 U.S. military personnel are serving in Iraq, together with approximately 16,500 military personnel from twenty-seven coalition partners, the largest contingent being 7,200 from the United Kingdom.

Many military units are under significant strain.

By the end of 2006, the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq under American leadership is expected to have trained and equipped a target number of approximately 326,000 Iraqi security services. That figure includes 138,000 members of the Iraqi Army and 188,000 Iraqi police.

Despite this, the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.

Attacks against U.S., Coalition, and Iraqi security forces are persistent and growing. October 2006 was the deadliest month for U.S. forces since January 2005, with 102 Americans killed. Total attacks in October 2006 averaged 180 per day, up from 70 per day in January 2006. Daily attacks against Iraqi security forces in October were more than double the level in January. Attacks against civilians in October were four times higher than in January. Some 3,000 Iraqi civilians are killed every month.

Sources of Violence

Violence is increasing in scope, complexity, and lethality. Sectarian violence-particularly in and around Baghdad-has become the principal challenge to stability.

Most attacks on Americans still come from the Sunni Arab insurgency. It has significant support within the Sunni Arab community. The insurgency has no single leadership but is a network of networks. The insurgents have different goals, although nearly all oppose the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Al Qaeda is responsible for a small portion of the violence in Iraq, but that includes some of the more spectacular acts: suicide attacks, large truck bombs, and attacks on significant - religious or political targets. Al Qaeda in Iraq is now largely Iraqi-run and composed of Sunni Arabs. Foreign fighters are estimated at 1,300.

Sectarian violence causes the largest number of Iraqi civilian casualties. Sunni insurgent attacks spark large-scale Shia reprisals, and vice versa. In some parts of Iraq-notably in Baghdad-sectarian cleansing is taking place. The United Nations estimates that 1.6 million are displaced within Iraq, and up to 1.8 million Iraqis have fled the country.

Shiite militias engaging in sectarian violence pose a substantial threat to immediate and long-term stability. Some are affiliated with the government, some are highly localized, and some are wholly outside the law. The militias target Sunni Arab civilians, and some struggle for power in clashes with one another.

National Reconciliation

The Iraqi government has not taken action on the key elements of national reconciliation: revising de-Baathification, which prevents many Sunni Arabs from participating in governance and society; providing amnesty for those who have fought against the government; sharing the country's oil revenues; demobilizing militias; amending the constitution; and settling the future of Kirkuk.

One core issue is federalism. The Iraqi Constitution, which created a largely autonomous Kurdistan region, allows other such regions to be established later, perhaps including a "Shi'astan" comprising nine southern provinces. This highly decentralized structure is favored by the Kurds and many Shia (particularly supporters of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim), but it is anathema to Sunnis. First, Sunni Arabs are generally Iraqi nationalists, albeit within the context of an Iraq they believe they should govern. Second, because Iraq's energy resources are in the Kurdish and Shia regions, there is no economically feasible "Sunni region." Particularly contentious is a provision in the constitution that shares revenues nationally from current oil reserves, while allowing revenues from reserves discovered in the future to go to the regions.

The Sunnis did not actively participate in the constitution-drafting process, and acceded to entering the government only on the condition that the constitution be amended. In September, the parliament agreed to initiate a constitutional review commission.

Iraq's leaders often claim that they do not want a division of the country, but we found that key Shia and Kurdish leaders have little commitment to national reconciliation.

Yet many of Iraq's most powerful and well-positioned leaders are not working toward a united Iraq. The danger is that leading forces in Iraq are looking to break Iraq up into three sections - and this is in my opinion, a recipe for disaster.

Consequences of continued decline in Iraq

If the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate we will have severe consequences for Iraq, United States, the region, and the world.

Other countries in the region fear significant violence crossing their borders. Chaos in Iraq could lead those countries to intervene to protect their own interests, thereby perhaps sparking a broader regional war. Turkey could send troops into northern Iraq to prevent Kurdistan from declaring independence. Iran could send in troops to restore stability in southern Iraq and perhaps gain control of oil fields.

There is the distinct possibility of Sunni-Shia clashes across the Islamic world.

If the instability in Iraq spreads to the other Gulf States, a drop in oil production and exports could lead to a sharp increase in the price of oil and thus could harm the global economy.

Terrorism could grow. And we have no options for dealing with such increases in the region and elsewhere.

The global standing of the United States could suffer if Iraq descends further into chaos. Iraq is a major test of, and strain on, U.S. military, diplomatic, and financial capacities. Perceived failure there could diminish America's credibility and influence in a region that is the center of the Islamic world and vital to the world's energy supply. This loss would reduce America's global influence at a time when pressing issues in North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere demand our full attention and strong U.S. leadership of international alliances. And the longer that U.S. political and military resources are tied down in Iraq, the more the chances for American failure in Afghanistan increase.

Continued problems in Iraq could lead to greater polarization within the United States. Sixty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the government's handling of the war, and more than 60 percent feel that there is no clear plan for moving forward. The November elections were largely viewed as a referendum on the progress in Iraq. U.S. foreign policy cannot be successfully sustained without the broad support of the American people.

Recent polling indicates that only 36 percent of Iraqis feel their country is heading in the right direction, and 79 percent of Iraqis have a "mostly negative" view of the influence that the United States has in their country. Sixty-one percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces.

Governance

The Iraqi government is not effectively providing its people with basic services: electricity, drinking water, sewage, health care, and education. In many sectors, production is below or hovers around pre-war levels. In Baghdad and other unstable areas, the situation is much worse. There are five major reasons for this problem:

  • First, the government sometimes provides services on a sectarian basis.
  • One American official told us that Baghdad is run like a "Shia dictatorship"
  • Second, security is lacking. Insurgents target key infrastructure.
  • Third corruption is rampant. Notable steps are being taken.
  • Fourth, capacity is inadequate. Most of Iraq's technocratic class was pushed out of the government as part of de-Baathification. Other skilled Iraqis have fled the country as violence has risen. Too often, Iraq's elected representatives treat the ministries as political spoils.
  • Fifth, the judiciary is weak.

The Way Forward

The United States should embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish an international support structure intended to stabilize Iraq and ease tensions in other countries in the region. This support structure should include every country that has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors-Iran and Syria among them.

They all share an interest in avoiding the horrific consequences that would flow from a chaotic Iraq, particularly a humanitarian catastrophe and regional destabilization.

The Iraqi government cannot succeed in governing, defending, and sustaining itself by relying on U.S. military and economic support alone.

All key issues in the Middle East-the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism-are inextricably linked.

The New Diplomatic Offensive-should address these key regional issues.

The diplomatic offensive would extend beyond the primarily economic "Compact for Iraq" by also emphasizing political, diplomatic, and security issues. It would be coordinated with the goals of the Compact for Iraq. The diplomatic offensive would also be broader and more far-reaching than the "Gulf Plus Two" efforts currently being conducted.

The United States, working with the Iraqi government, should launch the comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. This new diplomatic offensive should be launched before December 31, 2006.

The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:

  1. Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.
  2. Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq's neighbors.
  3. Secure Iraq's borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.
  4. Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq's borders.
  5. Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.
  6. Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.
  7. Validate Iraq's legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.
  8. Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for - example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).
  9. Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.
  10. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.

As a complement Iraqi government should support the holding of a conference or meeting in Baghdad of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League both to assist the Iraqi government in promoting national reconciliation in Iraq and to re-establish their diplomatic presence in Iraq.

The US should immediately seek the creation of the Iraq International Support Group. The Support Group should also include all countries that border Iraq as well as other key countries in the region and the world.

All Iraq's neighbours are anxious about the situation in Iraq. They favour a unified Iraq that is strong enough to maintain its territorial integrity but not so powerful to threaten its neighbours. None favours the break-up of the Iraqi State.

The Support Group should consist of Iraq including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself. Other countries for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea-could also become members.

The United Nations Secretary-General should designate a Special Envoy as his representative.

A new diplomatic offensive involving countries of the region and, where necessary, those outside, is being advocated.

Dealing with Iran and Syria

In diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests. Accordingly, the Support Group should actively engage Iran and Syria in its diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions.

Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests.

The United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya.

The United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues. The United States should consider incentives, as well as disincentives.

IRAN. The United States and Iran cooperated in Afghanistan, and both sides should explore whether this model can be replicated in the case of Iraq.

SYRIA. On the 28 January 2007 Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's Special Reperesentative Ashraf Qazi, and Foreign Minister Walid Muallim discussed recent developments in Iraq and their impact on the region. The Special Representative's visit to Damascus is part of a regional tour aimed at hearing the views of Iraq's neighbours and encouraging them to contribute to the Government's successful efforts to reduce violence, bring greater stability and promote national reconciliation.

Mr Qazi stressed the need for greater regional engagement in support of the efforts by the Government of Iraq in reducing violence, bringing greater stability and promoting national reconciliation among all Iraqis.

According to a New York Times article, following the historic visit of the Iraqi President to Iran, Iran's Ambassador on Sunday 28 January 2007m to Baghdad outlined an ambitious plan to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq.

The Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qumi said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what the called "the security fight." In the economic area, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction, a failure on the part of the US since American-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago.

"We have experience of reconstruction after war," Mr Qumi said referring to the Iran-Iraq was in the 1980s.

Mr Qumi said Iran would soon open a national bank in Iraq, in effect creating a new Iranian financial institution. A senior Iraqi banking official, Hussein al-Uzri confirmed that Iran had received a licence to open the bank, which he said would apparently be the first "wholly owned subsidiary bank," of a foreign country in Iraq.

An agricultural bank and three private banks also intend to open branches. Other elements of new economic co-operation included plans for Iranian shipments of kerosene and electricity to Iraq and a new agricultural co-operative involving both countries.

Iran's offer of military assistance to Iraq included increased border patrols and a proposed new "joint security committee."

Basic Positions

The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. This diplomatic effort should include every country that has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors. Iraq's neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own.

Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively.

The Iraqi government should accelerate assuming responsibility for Iraqi security by increasing the number and quality of Iraqi Army brigades. While this process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units.

If the Iraqi government demonstrates political will and makes substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should make clear its willingness to continue training, assistance, and support for Iraq's security forces and to continue political, military, and economic support. If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.

The report makes recommendations in several other areas. They include improvements to the Iraqi criminal justice system, the Iraqi oil sector, the U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the U.S. budget process, the training of U.S. government personnel, and U.S. intelligence - capabilities.

It would be wrong for the US to abandon the country through a precipate withdrawal of troops and support. A premature American departure would certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions. The near-tern results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilisation and a threat to the global economy. Al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the US to return.

Following the Baker-Hamilton Report, President Bush announced his new Iraq Strategy in his State of the Union address on Tuesday 23 January 2007:

We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq - a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

The Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20 000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighbourhoods, and serve as advisors embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out.

Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended. They pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party. They have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks to achieve reconciliation, to share oil revenues among all of Iraq's citizens, to put the wealth of Iraqi into rebuilding Iraq, to allow more Iraqi's to re-enter their nation's civic pride, to hold elections, and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province. But for all this to happen, Baghdad must be secure.

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country - an in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties.

The Democratic Party's Response to President Bush's Speech: Senator Jim Webb

This country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years.

Many warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

The President took us into this war recklessly

We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable - and predicted - disarray that has followed.

The majority of our nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought - nor does the majority of our military.

We need a new direction.

Not one step back from the war against international terrorism.

Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos.

But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the street of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

It is clear that the call for a new diplomatic strategy involving all roleplayers is being increasingly echoed by many players in the US body politik and internationally.

The Baker-Hamilton Report emphasizes the point that the problems in the Middle East and Asia are integrated and a key aspect to a regional solution is the Palestinian issue.

It observes that the United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush's June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

  • There is no military solution to this conflict.
  • The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war.
  • No American administration will ever abandon Israel.
  • Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute
  • The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set forth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and in the principle of "land for peace."
  • The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peace such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.

There must be a renewed and sustained commitment to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts

This effort should include the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge Israel's right to exist) on the other. The purpose of these meetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at the Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate track.

Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include:

  • Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.
  • Consolidation of the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.
  • Support for a Palestinian national unity government.
  • Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush's two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.

The importance of the Baker-Hamilton observations is given greater urgency by the continuing crisis in the Middle East.

The UN Under-Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari in a report to the Security Council said:
"None of us can afford another year like the last one in Lebanon and the Middle East," he stressed. Therefore a resumed political process between Israel and the Palestinians was a clear priority. The Secretary-General encouraged the two leaders to build on their progress to date by implementing agreements and by starting to address the fundamental issues of the conflict. Solutions were urgently needed to the political impasses, both among the Palestinians and in Lebanon. The Secretary-General encouraged leaders in both contexts to overcome their differences and find a way to move forward, which served the best interests of their people. Lebanon, as its people knew too well, could ill afford any further deterioration. For many Lebanese ugly spectres of the past had begun to emerge. All sides had a shared responsibility to resolve their political differences through the democratic process and in a peaceful manner, in order to spare their populations further anxiety, insecurity and turmoil.

LEBANON

For many Lebanese ugly spectres of the past had again begun to emerge, he said, stressing the shared responsibility of all sides to resolve their political differences peacefully through the democratic processes in order to spare their populations further anxiety, insecurity and turmoil.

The demonstrations that had started in Beirut on 1 December 2006 were largely peaceful until Tuesday 23 January 2007. Following a call from the opposition for a general strike, thousands of Lebanese from opposing political factions had faced each other, often violently, on the streets. Few regions of the country had been spared by the unrest that had led to at least three dead and more than 100 injured - some very seriously. Major roads throughout the country had been effectively blocked by burning tyres and earth barriers. A tense calm had returned to Beirut following the decision by the opposition to suspend the strike, but tensions remained high. The opposition had stated that further escalation would occur unless government acceded to its demands.

General stability had returned to southern Lebanon due to the deployment of the enhanced United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces, which continued to enjoy a high level of co-operation.

Israel's violations of Lebanese airspace continued. Civilians continued to be killed and injured by the cluster munitions dropped on Lebanon during last year's conflict. At least 840 individual cluster strike locations had been identified to date, each containing up to hundreds of individual bomblets or sub-munitions.

ISRAEL - PALESTINE

The ceasefire in Gaza, agreed to remains in place although militants had continued to fire rockets into southern Israel in the past two months.

The ceasefire had not been extended to the West Bank and operations to arrest or kill wanted Palestinians continued regularly. During the reporting period, 28 Palestinians had been killed and more than 130 injured in Israeli military operations, while 10 Israelis had been injured by Palestinian militants. Egypt continued to lead efforts for the release of the Israeli corporal captured last summer and of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Prime Minister Olmert had undertaken to transfer to President Abbas's office US$ 100 million of the more than half a billion dollars withheld by Israel; to intensify the upgrading of crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel; and to ease checkpoint procedures in the West Bank while removing a number of roadblocks. However, the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported a modest easing in the operation of a few West Bank checkpoints and the anticipated removal of roadblocks had yet to be observed.

Furthermore, Israel approved the repopulation of a settlement deep in the Jordan Valley, in violation of the Roadmap. While that decision had been put on hold after international protests, settlement activity continued, and the number of West Bank settlers, excluding those in East Jerusalem, had increased by nearly 6% since 2005. moreover, the Government's pledges to remove outposts remained unfulfilled, and the construction of the barrier on the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, factional tensions had risen to acute levels in mid-December and early January. A total of 43 people had been killed in Palestinian-on-Palestinian conflict. The Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff had resigned and an official inquiry into the conduct of last summer's conflict with Hizbollah continued.

Professor Gambari said the implementation of those understandings had proceeded slowly. Israel, in the past few days, had transferred the US$ 100 million. The office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported a modest easing of the operation of a few West Bank checkpoints, but the anticipated removal of roadblocks had yet to be observed. Access and movement should be improved. During the first 16 days of 2007, the average exports out of Karni stood at approximately 46 trucks a day. That represented an improving trend, but still reflected only 11% of the target of 400 per day. He encouraged further progress in this regard. In the same period, Rafah had been opened primarily for pilgrims for only 32% of the scheduled opening hours. Finally, there had been no discernable improvement in movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. According to OCHA, the number of barriers currently on the ground - 527 - represented a 25% increase over the course of 2006.

He said that internal violence had been accompanied by heightened and negative political rhetoric and threats, and strengthening of factional forces. President Abbas had announced that the Hamas-affiliated Executive Special Force, under the Ministry of Interior, was illegal unless immediately integrated into existing security services. Tensions had also flared in late December, and the President had called for early presidential and parliamentary elections unless agreement was reached on a National Unity Government. Nevertheless, each time factional fighting had threatened to spin out of control, President Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had reached understandings to de-escalate tensions.

Efforts to form a Palestinian National Unity Government had resumed, involving dialogue in Gaza, as well as in Damascus, he continued. It appeared the main issues of disagreement were over control of the interior ministry and the strength of the language concerning the commitment to Arab and international resolutions. While refusing to countenance recognition of Israel, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashal recently told news outlets that Israel's existence was a reality and that, with the formation of a Palestinian State on the 4 June 1967 borders, "'there will remain a State called Israel, this is a matter of fact'".

He said that President Abbas had recently met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and subsequently met Khaled Mashal. A joint statement issued after that meeting had stated that progress had been made towards a National Unity Government; the leaders had called for an end to internal fighting. The statement had also rejected the concept of an interim Palestinian State with provisional borders. President Abbas had subsequently reaffirmed that early elections remained on the table if a National Unity Government was not formed.

Public institutions built up by the international community had been severely weakened by a lack of operational funds, energy shortages and military damage.

The worsening situation on the ground had underscored the limits of what international assistance could accomplish, he said. Without greater freedom of access and movement, and without a political process that was carrying the parties towards a two-State solution, the most aid could do was contain, for a limited time, the spread of grievances and instability. The experience of the past year showed that that type of investment brought rapidly diminishing returns.

Efforts to stop the inter-Palestinian conflict and to form a government of national unity have not met with much success.

President Abbas and the Syrian born leader of Hamas, Khaled MIshaal met in Syria on Sunday 21 January 2007.

Hamas indicated that it would relinquish the position of Foreign Minsiter as this Ministry works closely with the PLO process, which Hamas is outside of and would therefore not be in the position to use effectively. Second, Hamas would also relinquish the position of Finance Minister.

The problematic issue however, was the position of Interior Minister. President Abbas informed Mishaal that any new government/Interior Minister, should not recognise the Executive Force, which was created by the current Interior Minister, Said Siam, as he (President) does not regard it as a legal structure since its creation was not sanctioned through his office, which is a requirement of the Basic Law (Palestinian constitution)

President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at the WEF in Davos said, "We are at a junction now, either yes or no. I would tell you, this doesn't need more than two weeks, maximum three weeks … if we fail to achieve a national unity government that allows us to lift the siege, I will call for presidential elections."

More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in fighting between the rival groups since Abbas called last month for presidential and parliamentary elections.

President Abbas and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, pledged on Sunday 21 January 2007 to curb Palestinian bloodshed, however the violence continues.

The Hamas government has also been crippled by Israel withholding Palestinian tax revenues amounting to over US$ 500 million.

The Palestinian president also said he expects to hold talks with the US and Israel within a month on the framework for establishing a Palestinian State.

Rejection of Temporary Borders Plan by President Mahmoud Abbas

In December 2006, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni proposed setting up a provisional Palestinian state, with a border based on the separation barrier Israel is building in the West Bank.

The idea of provisional borders forms part of the second stage of the US Roadmap. During the first phase, Israel as supposed to stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian Government would dismantle and disarm all militant groups.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, January 14th 2007 during a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, adamantly rejected "any temporary or transitional solutions, including a state with temporary borders,". Palestinian officials in recent weeks have grown increasingly wary of the idea, fearing they will be stuck indefinitely with a truncated state.

Meeting of the Quartet: 2 February 2007

Secretary of State Rice will host a meeting of the Quartet on 2 February 2007 in Washington. The meeting of the Quartet Principals - Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, the European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner - will discuss recent developments in the Middle East since their last meeting on September 20, 2006 and in particular - ways to energise international engagement in support of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and progress in accordance with the Roadmap.

It is time that the Quartet begins to seriously address challenges. I do not believe that the Quartet has worked urgently and consistently enough. It is now the time for decisive action and the Quartet must begin to take serious action.

Failure to do so, surely must force us to reflect on what President Mbeki wrote in the ANC Today (vol 6 ? 49) stated the grave situation in the Middle East and West Asia demands the concerted attention and action of both the countries in the region and the rest of the world. The question can no longer be avoided - is it not time that the United Nations, genuinely representing all nations assumes its rightful position and leads a global process to address all the inter-connected challenges facing the peoples of the Middle East and West Asia.

None of us is entitled to succumb to a destructive paralysis by resigning ourselves to the expectation that the sister peoples of the Middle East and West Asia are ineluctably condemned to be consumed by an unstoppable conflagration, foretold by current events as an impending and modern frightening apocalypse, as a result of which mere anarchy would be loosed upon the world.

Global challenges that threaten the whole world demand multilateral solutions.

It is in the context of what I have just said that I want to raise some issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme:

Resolution 1737 (December 2006)

  • It requires Iran to co-operate fully with the IAEA in resolving the outstanding questions surrounding Iran's nuclear programme and to take steps necessary to build international confidence in its nuclear programme
  • It requires Iran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and to stop work on all heavy water related projects, including construction of a heavy water research reactor. This suspension is subject to IAEA verification and the Security Council has requested the IAEA Director-General to report to the Security Council on Iran's compliance by 23 February 2007.
  • It prohibits all Member States from supplying Iran with items, including dual use equipment, which could contribute to these proliferation sensitive activities and Iran's alleged development of a nuclear weapon delivery system. Iran is similarly prohibited from exporting such equipment or technology to other countries.
  • For those few items not included in this ban, such as components for light water reactors and their fuel, notification of their export must be reported to the Sanctions Committee established by the resolution by the Member States in question prior to the transfer.
  • The resolution requires that all States prevent the provision to Iran of any technical assistance, training or financial services related to those activities covered under the ban
  • Finally, the Resolution requires States to freeze the assets of individuals and entities identified in Annex A to the resolution, or subsequently added to the list by the Sanctions Committee, as having a significant role in Iran's nuclear and missile programmes, as well as to provide notification to the Sanctions Committee of any travel by these individuals to their State.
  • UN member states are obliged to report to the Security Council within 60 days of the passing of Resolution 1737 on the measures that they are taking to implement this resolution.
  • If Iran fails to comply with this resolution within 60 days from the date of its adoption (23 February 2007), the Security Council will review the situation and consider the adoption of additional, tougher measures in response to this non-compliance.

Iran's Response

  • Iran has said that it is open to "unconditional negotiations" with the USA, however it would participate in such talks within the boundaries of Iran's rights as a nation. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmeddinejad said, "The Iranian nation has chosen its own way in line with the international conventions and no one can create obstacles for them."
  • After Resolution 1696 was adopted, Iran's representative to the UN in Vienna asserted that its peaceful nuclear programme posed no threat to international peace and security, and, therefore dealing with the issue in the Security Council was unwarranted and void of any legal basis or practical utility. Iran said that the action by the Council, which was the culmination of efforts aimed at making the suspension of uranium enrichment mandatory, violated international law, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA resolution.
  • The Security Council passed Resolution 1737 on December 23 imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. President Ahmeddinajad said on Sunday 21 January 2007 that the UN Resolution was born dead and even if they adopt 10 more of such resolution it will not affect Iran's economy and policies.

Iran's statement came days after the US announced that it would deploy a second aircraft carrier, the USS Stennis, to the Gulf.

An unnamed Iranian military commander, reported to the have said this is "aimed at evaluating defensive and fighting capabilities of the missiles."

Sunday's test (21 January 2007) would be the first since the UNSC imposed limited sanctions on the country in December 2006, banning the sale of materials and technology that could be used in nuclear and missile programmes.

"As our Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] said, no Iranian official has the right to back down on Iran's nuclear right."

On 8 January, Khamenei rejected the UN resolution, vowing that the Islamic Republic would not back down in its nuclear drive."

  • Mohammed Saeedi, Deputy Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran was annoyed by the UNSC's Resolution 1737. Iran believes that the resolution is "illegal and unfair."
  • Despite the action against Iran, on 15 January 2007, there were reports of Iran's intention to phase in 3000 centrifuges more at the Natanz nuclear plant over a period of time. Iranian government spokesman has denied this.
  • On Monday, 22 January 2007, it was announced that Iran had rejected 38 IAEA inspectors. All IAEA members receive lists of designated inspectors annually and have the right under their safeguards agreements not to accept the inspectors proposed by the Agency.
  • Mr Ali Larijani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, has stated that Iran will continue co-operation with the IAEA based on the NPT and Safeguards Agreement.
  • The next meeting of the Board of Governors will take place in March 2007 and a further report by the IAEA Director General is expected in time for the meeting.

On Sunday 28 January 2007 UN Atomic Head Mohamed ElBaradei told a Davos Forum that military action against Iran's nuclear sites that Washington has not ruled out, would be crazy and the two sides should stop flexing muscles and start direct dialogue.

Iran said on Sunday it needed time to review a suggestion by the Dr ElBaradei of a "timeout" under which Iranian nuclear work and UN sanctions would be suspended together.

"Iran needs time to review such an initiative to see whether it has the capacity to resolve Iran's nuclear issue," Iran nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said when asked about the "timeout" proposal.

"Iran's nuclear issue is a multi-faceted issue and we cannot say yes or no to such a suggestion."

"ElBaradei's initiative to have a "timeout" can be considered, and through this suggestion a political solution can be found to this (nuclear) issue."

Reports of Iran barring nuclear inspectors

The IAEA "requested Iranian authorities to reconsider their decision."

The US on Monday denounced Iran's barring some inspectors as an attempt to "dictate terms" to the international community.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the IAEA sent a letter last week calling for all 38 inspectors to be reinstated after an announcement on Monday that Iran was blocking them from entering the country.

Iran has sent a letter to the IAEA officials overseeing the IAEA's inspection of the Iranian nuclear programme.

Iran had banned Christian Charlier, an official overseeing the IAEA's inspection of the Iranian nuclear programme, who is Belgian, last April from entering the country in retaliation for alleged leaks to the press.

Iran has said in recent months that it want Charlier no longer even to see reports on Iran at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna.

In December 2006 the Iranian parliament had adopted a bill requiring the government to revise its co-operation with the IAEA in retaliation after the UN Security Council that month passed a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to end its uranium enrichment work.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters on Monday that "any country had the right to refuse inspectors."

Last July, Dr ElBaradei said that 200 inspectors were charged with investigating Iran's nuclear activities.

The banned inspectors are from Britain, France, Germany - the three EU countries which have led nuclear talks with Iran as well as Canada and the US.

UN resolution implications for South Africa

  • South Africa is obliged to report on its compliance with Resolution 1737 to the Security Council Committee by the end of February 2007.
  • The obligations (in Resolution 1737) for Member States are extensive and are contained in operative paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12 and 17. Essentially the obligations are to restrict the transfer of certain listed items to or from Iran, freeze assets or certain listed persons, and monitor their travel.
  • One of the important aspects of the resolution is the decision, set out in operative paragraph 18, to establish a Committee of the Security Council consisting of all members of the Council, including South Africa. The mandate of the Committee is to:

    • Seek from all States, and in particular those in the region and those producing the items, materials, equipment, goods and technology referred to in the resolution, information regarding the sanctions taken by them to implement the sanctions and whatever other information the Committee may consider useful;
    • Examine and take appropriate action on information regarding alleged violations of the sanctions;
    • Consider and decide upon requests for exemptions;
    • Determine additional items, materials, equipment, goods and technology to be specified;
    • Designate additional individuals and entities subject to the measures imposed;
    • Promulgate guidelines to facilitate the implementation of the sanctions, including a requirement that Sates proposing the addition of individuals and entities against whom sanctions are to be imposed, provide a motivation; and
    • To report at least every 90 days to the Security Council on its work and on the implementation of this resolution, providing observations and recommendations, in particular on ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the sanctions.

  • Some have expressed concerns at aspects of Resolution 1737 (2006) including:

    • Although the resolution recognises the legal right of States to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, it contradicts this through various measures that impact directly and almost completely constrain Iran's ability to engage in any nuclear activity, even relating to peaceful uses of nuclear energy
    • Without providing any evidence of the existence of a weapons programme or the involvement of persons or institutions in support of such activities, the resolution includes a list of individuals and entities that are subject to travel restrictions and/or whose assets need to be frozen.

Outside of United Nations Security Council measures there are actions taken by the USA against Iran:

  • President Reagan on 29 October 1987, issued Executive Order 12613 imposing a new import embargo on Iranian origin goods and services. Section 505 of the International Security and Development Co-operation Action of 1985 was utilised as the statutory authority for the embargo, which gave rise to the Iranian Transactions Regulations, Title 31 Part 560 of the US Code of Federal Regulations.
  • President Clinton issued Executive Order of 12957 prohibiting US involvement with petroleum development in Iran as in the opinion of the US "Iranian sponsorship of international terrorism and Iran's active pursuit of weapons of mass destruction." On 6 May 1995 he signed Executive Order 12959, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as well as substantially tightening sanctions against Iran.
  • On 19 August 1997, the President signed Executive Order 13059 confirming that virtually all trade and investment activities with Iran are prohibited.
  • Corporate criminal penalties for violations of the Iranian Transactions Regulations can range up to US$500 000 with individual penalties of up to US$250 000 and 10 years in jail. Civil penalties of up to US$ 11000 may also be imposed administratively.
  • Transfers to any of the "States of concern" automatically trigger US sanctions laws. The statutory provisions described below mandate actions that must be taken by the US President or his designee when proliferation-related activity occurs that triggers the provisions. The US President or his designee has the authority to waive the imposition of sanctions if certain criteria are met. The sanction laws include:

    • Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act of 1992

      • The Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Action of 1992 mandates sanctions against governments or persons that transfer or re-transfer goods or technology so as to contribute knowingly and materially to efforts by Iran or Iraq to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or destabilising numbers and types of certain advanced conventional weapons. Sanctions against persons consist of two-year bans on USG procurement from or exports to the person.

      • In the case of transfers by foreign governments, the mandatory sanctions include:

        • For a period of one year, suspension of US assistance (except for urgent humanitarian assistance)
        • Suspension of co-development, co-production and military and dual-use technical exchange agreements;
        • Suspension of exports to the country of items on the US munitions list; and US opposition to multilateral bank assistance to the country.

    • Iran and Syria Actions Act

The mandatory non-proliferation related sanctions regarding Iran is triggered by transfers that:

    • Contribute to Iran's acquisition of Weapons of Mass Destruction
    • Advanced conventional weapons
    • Enhance Iran's military or paramilitary capabilities
    • Enhance Iran's ability to develop their petroleum resources
    • Enhance Iran's ability to maintain their aviation capabilities

    • Iran Non-Proliferation Act of 2000

The Iran Non-Proliferation Act of 2000 provides for sanctions against any foreign person if there is "credible information" that the foreign person transferred to Iran items listed by the multilateral export control regimes (Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group, Wassenaar Arrangement), regardless of whether the item is used in Iran's weapons programme. All such transfers must be reported to Congress every 6 months.

Sanctions against the foreign person may include:

    • Prohibition on US Government procurement
    • A ban on foreign assistance
    • A ban on imports
    • A ban on licenses of arms exports and dual-use items

    • Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1994

Section 821 of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1994 provides for procurement sanctions against any US or foreign person that knowingly and materially contributed through exports of goods or technology, to the efforts of any individual, group or non-nuclear weapon state to acquire a nuclear explosive device or unsafeguarded special nuclear material.

    • Symington Amendment

Section 101 of the AECA prohibits the US Government from providing various types of foreign assistance to any country that the US President determines has delivered or received nuclear enrichment equipment materials, or technology unless certain conditions apply to the non-proliferation transfer.

    • Glenn Amendment

Section 102(b) of the AECA requires sanctions against:

    • A foreign country that transfers a nuclear explosive device (or components or design information for such a device) to a non-nuclear weapon state
    • A non-nuclear weapon state that receives a nuclear explosive device (or components of design information for such a device)
    • A non-nuclear weapon state that detonates a nuclear explosive device.

Sanctions include:

    • Termination of various types of foreign assistance
    • Termination of certain arms sales
    • Restrictions on the provision of USG credit, credit guarantees, and loans from US banks to the foreign government
    • USG opposition to loans from international financing institutions; and
    • Restrictions on US dual-use exports

  • In August 2006 the US imposed sanctions on two Russian firms for allegedly passing on equipment to Iran that could be used in a nuclear weapons programme.
  • The US on 5 January 2007 announced sanctions against 24 foreign entities including Russian, Chinese and North Korean firms for allegedly selling banned weapons to Iran and Syria. The measures were imposed under the 2005 Iran and Syria Non-Proliferation Act.
  • Three Chinese State-run companies, two other Russian firms and a Russian individual, as well as, entities from Iran, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Malaysia and Mexico were also imposed with the sanctions. The measures took effect as of 28 December 2006.
  • "The introduction of umpteen sanctions against us is a form of unfair competition targeting our company and all Russia," said Valery Kartavtsev, a spokesman of Rosoboronexport
  • The Russian aircraft firm Sukhoi was also targeted by those measures, however those sanctions were lifted against the jetmaker in November 2006 after angry protests. Kartavtsev said Rosoboronexport adhered strictly to international and Russian law and had not yet received any official notification of sanctions.
  • Re-exports of items containing more than 10% US content are also prohibited.
  • The US announced on 9 January 2007 that it had frozen the assets of Bank Sepah (based in Iran) Bank Sepah International PLC (based in the UK) and Ahmed Derakhshandeh (Chairperson and Manager of Bank Sepah International PLC), Shahid Hemmat Industries Group and Shahid Bakeri Industries Group - companies that have been designated under USA Executive Order 13382 for having been involved in proliferation activities.

  • South Africa will continue to participate in the work of the UNSC and the 1737 Committee with a view to support ongoing dialogue and a peaceful resolution of this issue.
  • The world cannot afford further escalation of conflict in the Middle East region and South Africa will continue to work with all parties in an effort to resolve this issue in a sustainable manner.

Increasing US military presence

On 18 January 2007 a second US aircraft carrier the USS John C. Stennis, was deployed to the Persian Gulf. The current US administration is making no secret of the fact that the amount of American military might that is being concentrated in the region is intended to bring pressure to bear on Iran, which the it blames for the failure of its mission in Iraq.

According to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, the build-up of American military power in the Persian Gulf is intended to get Iran's attention. He was quoted as saying "By all appearances, the Iranians believe that we are bogged down in Iraq and that they possess the initiative giving them the ability to pressure us in various ways.

The New York Times have reported that the United Kingdom will follow suit by adding minesweeping vessels and magnetic "sleds" carried by helicopters to improve the ability to counter Iranian mines that could block oil-shipping lanes.

The Baker-Hamilton Report has called for a new diplomatic offensive to include Syria and Iran as the only realistic way of achieving regional peace and security.

Is this not the way forward?

AFRICA

Somalia

The Ethiopian government announced that Ethiopian troops have begun to withdraw from Somalia on 23 January 2007.

The statement said that Ethiopian troops were forced to move into Somalia on 24 December 2006 in a counter-offensive to repulse the two-pronged offensive of the ICU forces and their extremist allies on Baidoa.

The Ethiopian troops went into Somalia with a clear mandate from the Ethiopian legislative body, the Parliament. The mandate makes it clear that the Executive Branch has an obligation to withdraw the troops immediately upon the completion of the mission with involves the removal of the clear and present danger to Ethiopia's security. The mission has been completed.

US Airstrike

The US had conducted a second airstrike in Somalia.

The new airstrike came two weeks after an AC-130 plane killed what Washington said were eight Al-Qaeda affiliated fighters hiding among Islamist remnants pushed to Somalia's southern tip by Ethiopian and Somali government forces.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, "We're going to go after al-Qaeda and the global war on terror, whatever it takes us."

On Wednesday 24 January 2007 US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger met SICC leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who was being held by Kenyan intelligence.

Ranneberger also responsible for Somalia, has said Ahmed was among those who could play a role in the inclusive reconciliation process Washington and many diplomatic players, believed was necessary to unify Somalia's multiple factions.

Ahmed, one of the most visible faces of the SICC during its 6 mo nth rule of most of southern Somalia, surrendered at the Kenya-Somalia border

African Peace Mission

Nigeria is readying hundreds of troops for deployment to Somalia for possible participation in an African peacekeeping force: "There are indications that we might be asked to contribute troops for peacekeeping in Somalia. A battalion is being prepared in the event that we are asked," Colonel Ayo Olaniyan, a spokesperson for the Nigerian army said.

Mozambique is reconsidering whether it will contribute troops to peacekeeping forces deployed in Sudan and Somalia, Defence Minister Major-General Tobias Dai said: "We have ordered a thorough study to be conducted before we intervene, then we will decide … we need to know the region, the nature of the conflict, and its evolution and also understand different efforts that we would propose."

Sudan

Rebel commanders in northern Darfur said on Monday 22 January 2007 that government aircraft has hit three villages over the weekend - claims the Sudanese government strongly denied.

In an exclusive BBC interview President Bashir confirmed his troops had carried out the bombardments.

He said the government had no option but to strike as 80% of attacks on civilians in the region were carried out by rebel groups, undermining security: "They are not supported by the government. The government is fighting them.

After the signing of the peace agreement with a leading rebel group in May 2006, rival rebels formed a new alliance called the National Salvation Front, President Bashir told BBC.

President Bashir said the group had received "massive military support in full view of the international community" and set out to target those who had signed the peace deal.

Militias have since carried out large-scale attacks on Sudan Liberation Movement positions in northern Darfur, controlling its movements, the president said: "We heard no condemnation of this movement or the countries supporting it. But as soon as we were forced to send armed troops to deal with it we heard talk of violations and a ceasefire breach."

Côte d'Ivoire

The leaders of the G7 met on Thursday 18 January 2007 following the call of the New Forces for a consultation of the opposition.

The G7 expressed their concern about the deadlock in the peace process since the adoption of resolution 1721/2006 by the UN Security Council.

This deadlock is characterised by:

  • The freezing of the implementation of the integration of the commanding unit of the two armies;
  • The non-issuance of birth and nationality certificates - the process has stalled;
  • The failure to launch the identification process and the production of the electoral list;
  • The non deployment of the administration;
  • The freezing of the military dialogue;
  • The failure to dismantle the militia groups;
  • The delay in the implementation of the DDR;
  • The delay in the restructuring of the army;
  • The confiscation of State Media by the Presidential camp.

The G7 also expressed their concern that the obstacles in the peace process could lead to a delay in the production of the electoral list and the organisation of the elections.

The leaders of the G7 affirmed their approval of this proposal for a direct dialogue with the Head of State and encouraged the Secretary General of the New Forces in that regard in order to play a part in breaking the current stalemate within the strict provisions of resolution 1721/2006.

The G7 agreed to strengthen their alliance and effectively contribute in the implementation of the various accords, notably Resolution 1721/2006 for the organisation of free and transparent election by October 31st 2007. They decided to form a commission in charge of making proposals.

BURUNDI

  • Agreements have been reached with the Paliphehutu-FNL regarding their participation in the Joint Verification Mechanism (JVM)
  • All outstanding issues have been resolved.
  • The Facilitator is ready to set new dates and will begin consultations in this regard.
  • It is expected that by mid-February the processes of demobilisation, disarmament and re-integration of the Paliphehutu-FNL will begin in earnest

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Political

The political scene is dominated by speculation around the continued delay in the announcement of the new Government for the DRC. This uncertainty is also copiously fed by the media to the extent that the Office of the Prime Minister, through the spokesperson Mr Godefroid Mayobo, issued a statement on Thursday 25 January 2007, for the second time during the last two weeks, to call on the population to be patient. According to Mr Mayobo, the Prime Minister Mr Antoine Gizenga, wants to ensure that the new Government is announced in a "proper manner" and that it will be able to respond to the expectations of the population. The Prime Minister, according to the statement, is working closely with the President on the finalisation of the Government and there is absolutely no truth in the rumour of friction between the two parties. The President and the Prime Minister agreed on six "phases" that would lead to the formation and announcement of the new Government. The last phase is now being finalised and the Government will thus be announced within the following few days.

The six phases are the following:

  1. agreement on the configuration of the team;
  2. the distribution of governmental responsibilities;
  3. consultations with coalition partners;
  4. allocation of posts to parties;
  5. proposal of candidates and
  6. choice of appropriate candidates.

According to Vital Kamerhe, President (Speaker) of the National Assembly, the new Government will be announced on Tuesday 30 January. He does not see a real "delay" in the announcement of the Government as it was clear from the start that such an announcement would only be done after the elections of the Senators (Friday 19 January) and the Provincial Governors and Deputy Governors (Saturday 27 January). As expectations for posts within the AMP Alliance of the President are high, it was important to get a sense of the strength of the Alliance in these institutions and to see which personalities could be accommodated here before the Government is finalised. It should be recalled here that the AMP Alliance has gained a majority of Senators in 7 of the 11 provinces with the remaining 4, including the town-province of Kinshasa, going to the UN (Union for the Nation) of Jean-Pierre Bemba (who was also elected Senator for Kinshasa). The results of the elections for Governors and Deputy-Governors will be available as from Sunday 28 January.

In the meantime however, the election of Governors and Deputy Governors are already marred by controversy because of a decision by the DRC IEC to exclude two UN candidates, both members of the MLC party of Jean-Pierre Bemba, from the election because of their dual nationality. According to a complaint lodged at the IEC, Mr Dominique Kanku, UN candidate for Kasai Oriental and Alex Kande, UN candidate for Kasai Occidental, have not renounced their Belgian citizenship and therefore, in terms of Congolese law, they are not eligible for election. The election in these two provinces have consequently been postponed till 10 February

Vital Kamerhe also informed the Mission that he is planning to call an extra-ordinary session of Parliament on Monday 29 January. The aim of this session would be to finalise parliamentary operational rules and to start working on the 2007/2008 programme. The idea is also to put pressure on the Prime Minister not to delay the announcement of Government beyond Tuesday 30 January.

The United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, arrived in Kinshasa on Friday 26 January on his first official visit to Africa. In his address to the DRC Parliament on Saturday morning (27 January), he congratulated the Congolese population for the "spectacular progress" made during the last seven years. He warned however that this is in fact only the start of the process and that much remained to be done. He took the opportunity to ensure the Congolese population of the support of the United Nations and the international community for the "gigantic task" of reconstruction and development that lies ahead. The UNSG flew to Kisangani where he will be meeting with President Joseph Kabila Kabange.

Election of the DRC Senators: On 19 January 2007, 108 Senators were elected during the elections which were free of political incidents. These senators were elected out of 26 electoral constituencies representing 26 provinces as provided by the Constitution. In the exception of Kinshasa that provided 8 seats, each Province provided 4 seats. The coalition led by President Kabila garnered 58 seats and that of Mr Bemba 21 seats. The President party the PPRD acquired 22 seats whilst the MLC had 14 seats. The RCD garnered 7 seats where the Prime Minister Designate Mr Gizenga's party got just 1 seat which may weigh negatively on him regarding the composition of the new Government. The significance of the Senatorial elections is that 4 Senators are experienced former Prime Ministers during Mobutu's reign.

Election of Governors and Deputies: Though the IEC still has to officially announce the results today, 29 January 2007, on 27 January 2007 elections were conducted in the DRC to elect Governors and Deputies. Throughout the eleven Provinces, only two Kasai Provinces' elections were postponed to 10 February 2007. Of the nine Provinces where elections were held, Senator Bemba's Coalition only won the Equateur Province and the rest of the Provinces were won by President Joseph Kabila's AMP Party. In Kinshasa, the Governor is from the PPRD and his Deputy from PALU, Kinshasa is thus under the control of President Kabila's AMP Party.

Security in the East: The security situation in the Eastern DRC has become bearable due to the mediation role initiated by Rwanda between the government of the DRC and the rebel group led by General Laurent Nkunda. The initiated mediation has produced a peace deal between the government and General Nkunda. General Nkunda has made a commitment that his fighters would be integrated into the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). The commitment comes in the backdrop that General Nkunda's warrant of arrest (issued via Interpol for his alleged war crimes committed by his forces in 2004 in Bakuvu) is still pending. By implication, the peace deal initiated by Rwanda, could bring less tension between the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda long accused of backing General Nkunda. Over a thousand of Gen Nkunda's soldiers from 81st and 83rd brigades have begun their integration into the National Army. Negotiations are ongoing particularly regarding Gen Nkunda's reported demand for his warrant of arrest and his future role in the DRC. It was earlier reported that he was demanding for the withdrawal of warrant of arrest and indicated his intention to go to exile.

On the whole, the security situation in the country seems to be calm following the resumption of negotiations with Gen Nkunda. However, the situation can change any time, as evidenced by the reported fighting between two groups of General Nkunda's forces, those that are against and for the integration within the FARDC.

There has been another pocket of violence in the Eastern Part of the DRC carried out by dissident soldiers from the DRC Armed forces. The fighting began on 27 January 2007 in the North Kivu villages of Luke and Murambi. MONUC is monitoring the situation as it unfolds. The challenge remains the security sector reform in the country.

Military

In this regard, two issues have dominated the headlines and discussions during the last two weeks, namely the urgency of a proper programme of integration for the Army and the "mixing" of the troops of General Laurent Nkunda.

In eastern DRC, the "mixing" as opposed to "integration" of the troops of rebel General Laurent Nkundabatware started on Friday 19 January. The team of Captain Sonica Van Rooyen (SANDF) has started the physical registration of Nkunda's first 1000 troops. In an interview with RFI, General Nkunda committed himself to have all his troops "mixed" with the FARDC. It seems however that negotiations concerning his own situation and future are still continuing. The Mission has picked up that President Kabila is not too eager about having Nkunda integrated into the FARDC. Nkunda for his part, wants the international warrant of arrest against him lifted. (During his speech in Parliament today, the UNSG said "it is imperative to resolutely attack the problem of foreign armed groups who continue to operate in the country and commit crimes against the population". The DRC Members of Parliament responded to this shouting "Nkunda, Nkunda".) There is increasing speculation that Nkunda will be given political asylum in South Africa or in Rwanda.

UN Support in DRC

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, on his first official trip abroad, told a meeting of the National Assembly in the DRC, "Now, DRC is a true source of hope for all of Africa," while acknowledging the "gigantic" tasks ahead, including improving health, education, basic services and infrastructure across the massive country, while providing jobs and using revenue generated from natural resources for improving living conditions.

He pledged to help the DRC push back poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination.

"But as strong as the support of the international community may be, the key to a better future in the DRC is in your hands," he said urging those present to enter into a contract with themselves and the people they represent, as well as global partners. This should focus on good governance, he added, because re-establishing State authority is key to consolidating peace and democracy.

"I ask therefore that all of the parties represented in this august Assembly and all the leaders of the country work together, placing the interests of the Congolese people above all."

He said the creation of an army and police is essential so that the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) can transfer its responsibilities to the government based on an agreed timetable.

Creating a true national army requires first that all former combatants be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into Congolese society, he noted. In parallel, it is essential to resolutely tackle the problem of armed foreign groups which continue to operate in the country and to commit crimes against the people.


Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, what are you hearing from Addis Ababa regarding the tabling of South Africa's African Peer Review Mechanism report?

Answer The report was tabled yesterday. As with any country report being tabled, the country in question is given the opportunity to respond to the report. This report is now being studied by other Heads of State and Government and will be further discussed at the next meeting.

It is unfortunate that elements of the report have already been reported in the media as a result of leaks.

The APRM process is a very important process. It is our view that it should not be compromised just because it has been leaked and selectively reported on.

Question Deputy Minister, did President Mbeki respond to the report?

Answer Yes, President Mbeki would have had an opportunity to respond to the report as the President of the country.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, you indicated many instances of US unilateral sanctions against Iran. To what extent do such actions undermine the work of the United Nations Security Council?

Answer Over the years there have been many independent actions against Iran, Libya, the late Saddam Hussein and North Korea - which are outside the UN Security Council framework.

The Baker-Hamilton Report now indicates that these actions are not enabling progress despite billions of dollars being invested.

A new diplomatic offensive is certainly required and we must ensure that any actions against Iran and Syria are not counter-productive and creates obstacles rather than solutions.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, what is South Africa's position on Sudan's chairmanship of the African Union?

Answer Our view, is that the AU, like its predecessor the OAU, has many other more pressing issues with which to deal like poverty and underdevelopment.

Sadly, the debate over who will chair the body, which is prevalent in many major international newspapers today, is diverting attention from many more important issues that must be dealt with - precisely the issue of Darfur, Somalia, and as the discussions in Davos have indicated, how to progress in the World Trade Organisation Talks.

I am convinced that African Heads of State who will meet to discuss this matter, will emerge with an African position that is in the best interests of the African continent and people.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, do you think the murder of Mr Rattray will lead to tourists being skeptical of visiting South Africa?

Answer We must at the outset express shock and concern at the murder of Mr Rattray since such acts only strengthen perceptions that crime is out of control both in South Africa and beyond its borders. I believe that many sections of the international media would have covered this story.

The Cabinet Lekgotla has just emerged with the view that crime can only be handled comprehensively if it is dealt with holistically. There are many reasons for crime - poverty and underdevelopment, the erosion of the social fabric of society.

We all have a role to play in combating this phenomenon. We need a partnership against crime.

The government, civil society, religious leaders, must intensify our efforts to inculcate values that will strengthen our social fabric.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

29 January 2007

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