Notes following Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Imbizo Media Centre, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town, Wednesday, 28 February 2007

AFRICA

We continue to be happy with the consolidation of multi-party democracy in Africa. Last week I briefed you on the Lesotho elections.

SENEGALESE ELECTIONS

As you know, Senegal held its Presidential elections on Sunday 25 February 2007, amid a tense atmosphere but without any violence. This atmosphere was partly due to the fact that a sizeable number of voters were said not to have received their voting cards in time to be able to cast their vote.

While the counting is said to have not yet been completed, preliminary results are indicating that, President Wade is currently winning the first round by approximately 55%.

The results are expected to be announced on Thursday or Friday this week after they have been verified by the Constitutional Court of Senegal.

SOMALIA

The situation in Somalia continues to remain tense and volatile.

On 21 February 2007 a district commissioner in north Mogadishu was killed by unknown assailants. Other recent attacks include mortar attacks on the Mogadishu International Airport (22 February 2007) and a car bomb explosion on 18 February 2007. Mortar attacks on Ethiopian troops based in the Digir Hospital are also becoming more common while on 21 February 2007 insurgents warned the AU that should peacekeeping troops arrive in Somalia they would become the focus of attack. A new group called the "Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations" or "Muqaawama" has claimed responsibility for other attacks aimed at Somali government buildings and Ethiopian troops. The group demands the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

Civil society organisations in Somalia have appealed to the international community to help at least 2,000 families displaced over the past two weeks by violence in the capital, Mogadishu.

"We are appealing to the international community, particularly to the United Nations, to come to the aid of these people," Muhammad Nur Ga'al, the deputy head of the coalition known as Civil Society in Action, said on Wednesday 21 February 2007 from Mogadishu. "Their situation is dire and if things don't improve quickly it will get worse."

The families, representing an estimated 12,000 people, fled their homes to escape continued heavy weapon exchanges between Ethiopian-backed government troops and unknown gunmen.

On 20 February 2007 the UN unanimously adopted Resolution 1744, which authorised the deployment of the AMISOM force into Somalia. This Resolution falls under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for enforcement measures. The role of AMISOM, will be to support dialogue and reconciliation in Somalia. The UNSC stressed the need for broad-based and representative institutions reached through all inclusive political processes in Somalia, as envisaged in the Transitional Federal Charter in order to consolidate stability, peace and reconciliation in the country and ensure that international assistance is effective as possible.

South Africa will continue to support the national reconciliation process in Somalia and is willing to assist the TFG to ensure that the national reconciliation process is all inclusive, incorporating all relevant role players including civil-society, clan elders, the UIC and the warlords.

SUDAN

On 12 February 2007, the SPLM concluded its five day National Council Meeting in Yei, Central Equatorial. The National Council Meeting deliberations focused on issues such as;

  • Transformation of the SPLM from a liberation movement to a political party;
  • Relationship between the SPLM and the National Congress Party (NCP);
  • Implementation of the CPA and;
  • Darfur situation. The National Council Meeting expressed concern for the non-implementation of key aspects in the CPA such as the Abyei Protocol and the withdrawal of the NCP backed militia from Southern Sudan.

The establishment of an independent commission to investigate corruption in the GOSS. The commission will focus on the awarding of government tenders since 2005.

The SPLM announced the relocation of its Headquarters to Khartoum. This move will allow the SPLM to play an active part in the Sudan national politics.

On 20 February 2007, First Vice President Salva Kiir issued a number of decrees for the formation of different committees in line with the recommendations of the National Council meeting.

These committees include;

  • The committee lead by Dr. Lual Dend which will be responsible for following up on oil revenues and monies transferred to the GOSS during the last period and this committee will report to the President within a month;
  • The committee lead by Pagan Amum will be responsible for resource development and administration;
  • The committee lead by Dr. Mansour Khalid shall investigate oil contracts and environmental and social effect; and
  • The committee formed for Upper Nile state to investigate on complains from citizens of the state against Dr. Lam Akol. All committees are expected to report within one month

Darfur Situation

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern about the situation in Darfur, decrying the "massive human sufferings" in the region, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes since 2003.

There has not been any real movement on the Hybrid force. However, on 16 February 2007, President Al Bashir said the UN should provide logistical and technical support to the AU instead of troops. He believes that the notion of a 'hybrid' UN/AU force meant that the AU would provide troops and the UN would provide the logistical back-up.

In this context the Secretary-General of the United Nations said that:

There are two tracks that are still going on, even though we have not yet finally agreed. One is the political process; a political dialogue process is going on at the highest level, including myself. And secondly, peacekeeping operation level is now being discussed. The United Nations will soon engage in detailed negotiations with African Union representatives and I'm also going to meet with the African Union Commissioner. And I have been constantly involved in this process. We have also been trying to resolve this issue of humanitarian assistance problems. There are still many people who are suffering because of the inaccessibility of the humanitarian community. I have strongly urged the Sudanese Government to allow this humanitarian assistance to be resumed.

Following the deployment of UN forces, President Bush has approved plans for wide-ranging financial and other sanctions against the Sudan if Khartoum does not allow the deployment of UN Peacekeepers in Darfur. The sanctions package is part of a three-tiered Plan B. Under the Plan, the US Treasury will block US commercial bank transactions connected to the Sudan Government, including those of oil revenues.

Britain's minister for Africa Lord David Triesman, speaking at the UN on Wednesday 21 February 2007, warned Sudan that it faces more sanctions unless it keeps agreements to promote peace in the war-torn region of Darfur and accused Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president of seeking a military solution to the conflict.

Sudan, he said, "has not observed the cease-fire, has committed military forces to try to achieve military solutions, has not disarmed any of the (pro-government) janjaweed (militia), and has not really engaged in a political process as contrasted with a military process."

The result, he said, was that conditions on the ground are getting worse and worse, while humanitarian organizations are finding it more difficult to get aid "to destitute, starving, dying people".

The AU PSC has taken a decision to dispatch a mission to Chad, CAR and the Sudan to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the situation on the ground and identify the obstacles impeding the implementation of agreements signed by Chad and Sudan. As you know an agreement was signed by Sudan and its neighbours on the fringes of the Franco-Africa Summit in Cannes, France but this seems to have not been implemented.

On 20 February 2007,the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon recommended the deployment of a peacekeeping operations of 11 000 personnel for Chad and the Central African Republic to stop the spill-over of conflict from the Sudan to its neighbouring state, Chad and the Central African Republic.

International Criminal Court Naming of Two People

The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor named a Sudanese minister and a militia commander on Tuesday as the first suspects he wants tried for war crimes in Darfur and suggested more could follow.

Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked pre-trial judges to issue summonses for Ahmed Haroun, state interior minister during the height of the Darfur conflict, and militia commander Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb.

"Our work sends a signal: those who commit atrocities cannot do so without impunity," he told a news conference.

Haroun is currently Sudan's state humanitarian affairs minister.

Khartoum said the ICC had no jurisdiction to try any Sudanese suspects, either rebels or from the government side.

"All the evidence the prosecutor referred to is lies given to him by people who bear arms against the state, bear arms against citizens and kill innocent citizens in Darfur," Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi said in Khartoum.

Clearly the naming of these individuals and others adds a new dimension to attempts to find a solution to the crisis in Darfur.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Processes in the DRC continue to be consolidated.

Political

Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga received overwhelming parliamentary support / voted for his government programme, titled "New Foundation", inclusive of the Cabinet Ministers being instituted in their various portfolios, on 24 February 2007.

Of the 397 parliamentarians present (total of 500), 295 voted in favour of the new government programme, while 94 voted against, with eight abstentions. The programme's main focus is on boosting development. through new measures to increase security and justice and to fight corruption and poverty.

Prime Minister Gizenga indicated that his government would follow an open-market approach, including privatisation, to ensure progress on the five priorities named by President Joseph Kabila, namely; infrastructure, employment, education, water and electricity, and health. The government is counting on 14.35 billion dollars over five years to finance the ambitious programme. More than half would come from international financial backers.

South Africa will continue, through the Security Council and interaction with other international partners to encourage the necessary support for the consolidation of post-conflict democracy.

The opposition Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, criticised the programme as just a "string of good intentions." Francois Muamba, MLC deputy leader, said the government appeared to consider foreign financing a given, "something that is not the case," and chastised Prime Minister Gizenga for not aiming high enough with his target of eight percent economic growth.

Prime Minister Gizenga responded by insisting that he would soon "engage in negotiations" with the International Monetary Fund in order to re-establish the required conditions needed to access budgetary aid, which was halted last year after the country apparently failed to control public spending.

According to the UN the DRC parliament also indicated that it had created a commission to probe the post-electoral bloodshed that erupted following a governorship election in the western province of Bas-Congo last month, killing 134 people.

Security

A court martial in Bunia (Ituri region in the Orientale Province in North-Eastern Congo) sentenced 13 soldiers to life imprisonment on conviction of war crimes over a massacre in the Ituri region a military prosecutor announced on 20 February 2007. The military court in Bunia, the main town in the strife-prone northeastern part of the vast country, on 20 February 2007 handed down its verdicts on 15 soldiers of the army's first brigade who were charged during December 2006 with war crimes, murder, breaking orders and culpable absence from duty. The Ituri defence force court also handed down life jail sentences to four former members of an Ituri militia, the Nationalist and Integrationalist Front (FNI), for the 2003 murder of two UN military observers. Among the 13 soldiers jailed for life, four were sentenced in absentia, and the court gave their army captain a suspended six-month jail term for culpable absence from duty and acquitted a lieutenant, the Bunia prosecutor added. The convicted men were also ordered to pay $315 000 in damages to the victims' families "in solidarity with the Congolese state". In such trials the court typically orders the state to pay damages and interest when the convicts patently cannot afford to do so. The soldiers were sought in connection with a civilian massacre at Bavi, about 40km south of Bunia, after the discovery of three graves containing up to 30 people discovered in November 2006. A team from MONUC joined authorities in a probe after being alerted by local and international human rights groups in the area, and located the graves thanks to a tip-off from a soldier. Witness accounts said government forces "abducted the civilians and then forced them to work in local gold mines, to harvest and gather food products, or to transport goods".

Clashes broke out between the army and Rwandan and Congolese militias in North Kivu province (eastern Congo which borders the frontiers with Rwanda and at least 23 combatants have been reported killed and caused thousands to flee, the army and U.N. officials announced on 21 February 2007. Rwandan and Congolese fighters were trying to stop Congo's national army from being deployed in the area. Rwandan Hutu militia have operated in eastern Congo since fleeing Rwanda in 1994.

We do believe that the Security Council must deal with these remaining Hutu militia if we are to maintain peace and stability in this area. Their remaining active in the area is a matter of concern for us.

From the provincial Kivu North capital, Goma, a U.N. official, Andrew Zadel, indicated that 8,620 displaced people had fled to the nearby village of Nyanzale and 14,000 others were receiving aid from the Red Cross at Kikuku. But it was unclear how many in Nyanzale had fled the latest clashes and how many were simply in need of aid.

BURUNDI

Signing of a General Co-operation Agreement

On the 14 February 2007, South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma signed a General Co-operation Agreement at the Africa-France Heads of State and Government Summit in the French coastal city of Cannes with her Burundian counterpart Antoinette Batumubwira, Minister of External Co-operation and International Relations.

The signing of the General Co-operation Agreement has the potential to unlock possibilities for both countries in the area of nation-building, economic development and in further strengthening the already good relations.

New CNDD-FDD Leadership Structure

The CNDD-FDD altered its structure at the congress, with the party being run by a five-member Executive Committee, dealing primarily with administrative issues. An umbrella structure, consisting of six members and known as the 'Council of the Wise" will be chaired by President Nkurunziza.

Deployment of 1100 SANDF troops to Burundi

Cabinet has approved the deployment of 1100 South African soldiers to Burundi as part of an African Union special task force. This was at the request of the AU and as part of South Africa's commitment to contribute to socio-economic and political stability on the continent. This deployment will contribute to peace and stability in Burundi and ensure that the progress towards peace in that country is not reversed. This is basically increasing our involvement in Burundi and the view is that because we've worked in Burundi and made so much progress, it's absolutely vital that in areas where we're already involved, it's important for us to make sure that we consolidate the gains we have made there and make sure that we don't revert.

Peace Process

The leadership of the Paliphehutu-FNL is now in Bujumbura where they are participating in the Joint Verification Mechanism chaired by South Africa, the mechanism created for the purpose of implementing the ceasefire agreed to by both parties.

The JVM is in the process of creating joint liaison teams that will deal with various aspects of the ceasefire. The joint liaison teams that have been prioritised are:

  • The team dealing with the release of all political prisoners; and
  • The team to deal with the establishment of assembly points where all combatants of the FNL will be assembled for the purposes of their disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.

The importance of this phase in the peace process is that armed struggle and conflict has now ended and any new issues will be dealt with through negotiation with all parties by the countries of the region and the Facilitator.

CÔTE D'IVOIRE

In an endeavour to resolve the political impasse in Cote d' Ivoire President Gbagbo addressed the nation on December the 19th, 2006 during which he announced a Five Point Plan. The Plan seeks to address the following issues: national dialogue with the rebels, acceleration of the disarmament and the reunification of the country; the cancellation of the confidence zone; creation of a National Civic Service; and the establishment of an aid program for the return of the displaced war victims.

At an ECOWAS Summit in Ouagadougou on 19 January 2007, the leaders welcomed the initiative by President Gbagbo for dialogue with New Forces leader Guillaume Sorro and called upon the Chairman of ECOWAS to facilitate the dialogue to give momentum to the peace process. As a result President Compaore of Burkina Faso, in his capacity as the new Chair of ECOWAS invited all the Ivorian political formations to preliminary talks held on 05 February 2007 in Ouagadougou. The Ouagadougou talks focused on: disarmament; the redeployment of the administration; the identification and; the organisation of elections.

In its Summit held in Addis Ababa from 29-30 January 2007 the African Union urged the Ivorian parties to redouble efforts to bring the peace process to its logical conclusion on the basis of resolution 1721, adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 1 November 2006, through direct dialogue as proposed by President Laurent Gbagbo and supported by ECOWAS and the African Union.

The Security Council issued a media statement welcoming the new initiative. The statement said that that the initiative should lead to the implementation of the roadmap as outlined in Resolution 1721 (2006). In addition the Security Council also supported the recommendation by ECOWAS and the International Working Group (IWG) that the Security Council pays a visit to Cote d'Ivoire.

On 10 January 2007, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1739 extending the mandate of UNOCI until 30 June 2007.

We are generally happy regarding the positive developments in Africa but remain concerned regarding the possibility of regression.

IRAN: NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Germany on Wednesday 21 February 2007, on the fringes of the Quartet meeting said:

"The Iranian nuclear issue is another very serious concern to the international community. As the Secretary-General of the UN, I also have been trying to be a help in resolving this issue as much as I can. The international community was reasonably encouraged by the recent agreement on the North Korean nuclear issue through the Six-Party Process. We must address this issue as soon as possible. I urged the Iranian Foreign Minister to continue to resolve this issue through negotiations with the international community, particularly led by the European Union."

It is in this context that Mr Larijani, the Chief Iranian Nuclear Negotiator who had been visiting Europe and participated in the a major Security Conference in Munich, visited South Africa at the weekend and held discussions with President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday 25 February 2007.

These discussions took place within the framework of our ongoing discussions with Iran as members of the IAEA Board of Governors.

Report by the Director-General Of The International Atomic Energy Agency On The Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement And Resolution 1737 (2006) By Iran

The main findings are that, pursuant to its NPT safeguards agreement, Iran has been providing the IAEA with access to declared nuclear material and facilities and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports. The IAEA is therefore able to verify that Iran has not diverted declared nuclear material.

The IAEA finds that Iran's declaration on the inventory of nuclear material at its Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant is consistent with the results of the IAEA's evaluation.

However, no progress with regard to efforts to verify fully past development of Iran's nuclear programme. As a result, the IAEA is unable to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities or to provide assurances about the exclusively peaceful nature of that programme.

Iran has not suspended enrichment related activities as required by the Security Council.

Maximum enrichment level of 4.2% of Uranium-235.

Iran has provided IAEA inspectors access, but has declined to agree to remote monitoring, pending clarification from the IAEA on the legal basis for this request and examples of where such monitoring has been applied to other countries.

Iran has not yet ratified the Additional Protocol.

No further developments with regard to the issue of finding the source of the lowly enriched uranium (LEU) and highly enriched uranium (HEU) particles found at Iranian sites.

Iran has made no new information available to the IAEA concerning its P-1 and P-2 centrifuge programmes.

Iran has not provided the IAEA with a copy of a 15 page document describing the procedures for the reduction of UF6 to uranium metal and the casting and machining of enriched and depleted uranium metal into hemispheres. However, this document remains under IAEA seal.

Iran has not agreed to any of the required transparency measures, which the IAEA regards as essential for clarification of certain aspects of the scope and nature of its nuclear programme.

Comments by Iranian Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Mr Larijani

The 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy and similar initiatives launched for the same purpose reveal the fact that this fact-changing global developments have drastically transformed the international and regional security realities which necessitate a review and redefinition of the previous analytical and management tools.

It is vitally important for all of us to find a way out of this dilemma by creating the required analytical and management capabilities. And any delay in this regard can potentially culminate in the eruption of new crises. And any miscalculated efforts for the settlement of the key issues can prepare the ground for a new spate of confrontations.

The primary purpose of any unilateral, bilateral or multilateral security strategy, alliance or pact is the establishment of order: an order which is aimed at settling the convergent or divergent interests, values and ideologies in the system of international relations. Any world security order can be viable and sustainable only if it meets the material and moral interests of individuals and societies which include Justice, freedom, well-being and respect for their identities. An order which fails to meet the afore-mentioned interests for individuals, groups and states is an arbitrary order which is doomed to break down due to the injustices that it is bound to bring in its wake.

A sustainable order can not entail anything other than inclusive aims.

A sustainable security order rejects the attainment of the interests of one side through intimidation, coercion, and violence at the expense of others. An international and regional security order can be sustainable only if it is underpinned by understanding and concord.

In the security order prevailing in the Cold War era the two superpowers were engaged in colonising the smaller states and paid little attention to the underpinnings of a sustainable order that is respect for identity of societies, sustainable development, justice and democracy. This situation led the Iranian people to launch a great revolution to change the status quo in 1979.

The United States not only failed to put pressure on this regime for its inhuman behaviour and human rights abuses but it also supported it as a Gendarme for the region to control other small regional states and a military coup was launched against the government of Mossaddegh.

However, peace cannot be equated with stability, because it connotes and entails more than that. Our world has lost peace at the expense of stability for sacrificing freedom and justice. Disrespect for the main ingredients of a sustainable security order has laid the breeding grounds for suspicion, hostility and ultimately confrontation with colonialism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, unilateral security order prevailed. Unilateralism essentially nurtures militarism. The only superpower has ties the issues of development, democracy or human rights in other countries to their submission to its unilaterist policy and adopted a war-like attitude towards countries which tried to guard their independence.

After the victory of the Islamic Republic, Iran has seen almost one general election each year. Do you know of any other state in our region which has been so much dedicated to democracy as Iran? The US administration's policy was denial, isolation and sanctions. This policy has resulted in nothing other than further stiffening the resolve of the Iranian people.

The pursuit of this one-dimensional policy in other regional states has given rise to opposing movement. Nixon in his book "Victory without War" states: "In the west we speak of the fundamentalists, while fundamentalists speaks of the problems of peoples. It is quite natural that they listen to them."

The policy of monopolization of international security cannot ensure a sustainable order and peace. Sustainable security requires mutual understanding and close attention to the main ingredients of security.

Mutual understanding is ties to constructive diplomacy and constructive diplomacy requires a common will and common will entails shared opportunities.

If common paradigms are created between big powers and regional powers, the sustainability of international order and peace can be hoped to be sustainable. What common paradigms can be found in these two areas.

1. Democracy: democracy is a principle which should underpin any common approach in the future. An order cannot be meaningful and sustainable without democracy. Sometimes one hears that some regional states lack cultural and political development for democracy. This is more of an irresponsible justification than a reality. Because democracy cannot be exported in the form of a package to a region. Wherever the process of democratisation starts it has to be experienced and practiced and, of course, not without difficulties. Without democracy, real order and peace will be impossible.

2. Respect for other cultures: the view which believes that there should be a single individual and social lifestyle clearly lacks the intelligence to appreciate the cultural and sociological significance of other societies. Respect for the cultures, customs and traditions of other nations are indispensable for peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding.

There is security in most of Iraq and only a limited part of that country is suffering from insecurity. These secure regions have two characteristics: first they border on Iran. As you know, Iran has one of the longest common borders with Iraq which amounts to 1350 kms and all the Iraqi provinces which are close to the Iranian borders enjoy security. Second, the American troops are not present in those provinces.

3. Iran has played a unique role in the fight against drug trafficking in the region and has suffered immense human and material losses. All the efforts have been surprisingly played down or ignored in Afghanistan. The US continues to regard Iran as part of the axis of evil despite the role it has played. Iran believes in rationality and constructive interaction in International Relations but never ignores its independence.

4. Two years of negotiation and suspension of all nuclear activities resulted in a plan in which nothing was clear and which Dr ElBaradei and other Europeans said was an inappropriate plan. During the last year, pressure was imposed on Iran: either we stopped nuclear activities or we would be referred to the Security Council and other threats. Even after long negotiations with Mr Solana, Iran's case was referred to the Security Council.

Iran's nuclear case in a general view:
It is related to the past
It is related to the present.
It is related to future conditions.

What is related to the past if there are any questions Iran is committed to answer them, and we sent a letter to the IAEA and announced that we are ready to work out a modality on the condition that Iran's case returns to the IAEA. In other words we have commitments in this part.

Regarding what is related to the present, not only nuclear activities of Iran are under the supervision of the IAEA and their inspections are going on, but also Dr ElBaradei and the Europeans know that the current situation of Iran is continuing with the supervision of the IAEA and is in the framework of NPT and safeguards.

The main concerns of those who talk with me is related to the future. Some of them frankly said that they could not accept that even Iran reaches to peaceful nuclear knowledge, because they were concerned about future wrongdoings.

These comments are surprising. These kinds of justification cannot be found in international laws, that before crimes have been committed, some are already looking for punishment. But at the same time, in response to the incentive package and also in our negotiations with Mr Solana we said that we are ready to have all of our nuclear activities in a consortium so that others can participate in our activities and as a result we build confidence. Despite the fact that according to the international arrangements we are not obliged to do so, but to prove our good intention we are ready to do so. What is wrong with this logic? Does the attitude of the other side not create suspicion that either we should act like Israel and have the atomic bomb and not accept NPT, or if we act in the framework of IAEA and NPT they are not going to consider rights for us?

Repeatedly we announced frankly that in Iran's National Security Doctrine, there is no room for atomic and chemical weapons and we consider them against the Islamic laws. The Supreme Leader of Iran in this connection released a decree that weapons of mass destruction are prohibited religiously. Besides, we know that Iran's action in this way will trigger an atomic arms race in the region which as a result will endanger the peace and stability of the region and the world. Therefore, we support the idea of a Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction.

But the irrational preconditions such as suspension of uranium enrichment set for the resumption of negotiations are standing practically as an obstacle in the way of the settlement of this issue. Now, it has been almost eight months that such preconditions have inhibited the settlement of this issue. Now the question arises that if three out of these eight months have been spent on negotiations what possible damages could have occurred? And now that this has happened, what achievement has been made? An answer to this question, one may say that a resolution has been issued against Iran and this country has been brought under pressure. Was the original intention of this process anything other than finding a solution to this problem? So, one can see that this misguided approach has not solved the problem and has been originally launched with some other motives.

This is a public response by the Iranians on how they see a negotiated solution to this issue. As you can see, they are insisting that the matter revert to the IAEA and that there should be no pre-conditions and all matters should be discussed openly and transparently.

Iran's Response to IAEA Report

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran's student news agency ISNA as saying: "Iran has obtained the technology to produce nuclear fuel and Iran's move is like a train ... which has no brake and no reverse gear".

"We dismantled the rear gear and brakes of the train and threw them away sometime ago."

Manouchehr Mohammadi, one of the deputies to the foreign minister, was quoted by ISNA as saying at a conference in the central city of Isfahan: "We have prepared ourselves for any situation, even for war."

Iranian Envoy to IAEA

Iran's envoy to International Atomic Energy Agency Ali-Asghar Soltanieh said on Thursday that Iran's continued nuclear activity is not a strange issue since it is done according to a schedule already reported to the UN atomic agency.

He told IRNA here that all enrichment activities of Iran are viewed by cameras and supervised by nuclear inspectors.

Soltanieh underlined the fact that only 24 countries in the world have been known by the agency as not involved in nuclear issue while majority of them including Vatican do not work in this field. He added that the industrialized countries in Europe and also US have not been among these countries.

He remarked that the claims about undeclared Iranian nuclear substances and related activities in no way show lack of Iran's cooperation, because, as the agency has said, it is a long process which in Japan's case lasted thirty years.

Soltanieh said El-baradei's report serves as another document which refutes the claims of those who, with no rhyme or reason, accuse Iran of doing unpeaceful activities.

He said the report asserts that the agency has verified lack of any diversion of Iranian nuclear activities and that all produced substances are under the agency's supervision.

Soltanieh also said that the UN nuclear watchdog chief's report shows that the results of measuring ambient samples in Natanz conform fully with Iran's related statements and confirms Iran's reports on less that 5 percent level of uranium enrichment.

Iran's envoy to IAEA said that El-Baradei's report precisely echoes Iran's full readiness to resolve the few remaining issues out of the Security Council and within the agency's assignments.

International Reactions

Permanent 5 + Germany

The P5 + Germany held a meeting in London on Monday 26 February 2007 to discuss fresh sanctions against Iran following an IAEA report presented to the Security Council on Thursday 22 February 2007. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday 1 March 2007.

Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state, said he hoped the meeting would quickly produce a draft resolution to "see Iran repudiated again". He said it was too soon to say what provisions the resolution might contain.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, said that what Iran needed was not a reverse gear, but a stop button. She also pledged direct talks with Iranian officials if Tehran halts its nuclear enrichment programme.

Muslim Foreign Ministers meeting in Pakistan

Foreign ministers from seven Muslim nations meeting in Islamabad have called for a diplomatic answer to concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.

The joint statement read by Khurshid Kasuri, Pakistan's foreign minister, said: "The ministers reviewed with deep concern the dangerous escalation of tension especially over the Iranian nuclear issue."
Kasuri said: "It is vital that all issues be resolved through diplomacy and there must be no resort to use of force."

Arab League

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa Saturday reiterated the Arab stand on Iran's nuclear issue, calling for continuous dialogue instead of military action or legal procedures that could lead to the deterioration of the situation in the region.

Moussa said the door to dialogue was still open regarding Iran's disputed nuclear issue, regardless of some calls for tougher sanctions against Iran for defying a UN Security Council resolution, which demanded a stop to Tehran's uranium enrichment,

The Iranian nuclear issue will be discussed at a meeting of the Arab League Council at the level of foreign ministers on March 3, according to Moussa.

Spain

Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain's foreign minister, has called for continuation of diplomatic efforts to solve Iran's nuclear issue and said that the EU would push for dialogue. He called for employment of all the required potentials to opt for a diplomatic solution to the problem to avoid unwanted situations which might lead to confrontation or rising tension between Iran and the international community.

Russia

Russia has questioned the usefulness of additional sanctions. Vitaly Churkin, Moscow's UN ambassador, said the goal is to reach a political solution, not impose sanctions. Churkin said: "We should not lose sight of the goal and the goal is not to have a resolution or to impose sanctions. The goal is to accomplish a political outcome of this problem."

Britain

The Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, said 'It is clear from Dr El Baradei's report that Iran has not complied with Security Council Resolution 1737 and has failed to suspend its enrichment related and reprocessing activities, as required by both the IAEA Board of Governors and Security Council.

'We remain committed to a negotiated solution on the basis of the far reaching proposals we made last June, which would give Iran everything it needs to develop a modern civil nuclear power industry and provide a basis for wider co-operation.

'Iran has so far failed to take this positive path and comply with Security Council requirements. As envisaged in Resolution 1737, we will therefore work for the adoption of further Security Council measures, which will lead to the further isolation of Iran internationally. We will now be consulting closely with our European, Chinese, Russian and US partners and other Security Council members on next steps. We remain determined to prevent Iran acquiring the means to develop nuclear weapons.'

The situation in the region is very tense and many observers are talking of the possibility of a military strike against Iran. The USA has launched the largest military buildup in the Persian Gulf since 2003. Three carriers and frigates, as well as US marines are now on standby off the coast.

An article in the New Yorker magazine (25/02/07), by Seymour Hersh describes a special planning group at the highest levels of the US military had expanded its mission from selecting potential targets connected to Iranian nuclear facilities, and had been directed to add sites that may be involved in aiding Shia militant forces in Iraq to its list.

Elements of the tough new approach towards Tehran outlined by Hersh include:

  • Clandestine operations against Iran and Syria, as well as the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon - even to the extent of bolstering Sunni extremist groups that are sympathetic to al-Qaida
  • Sending US special forces into Iranian territory in pursuit of Iranian operatives, as well as to gather intelligence
  • Secret operations are being funded by Saudi Arabia to avoid scrutiny by congress. "There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions, "Hersh quotes a Pentagon consultant as saying

His assertion that the Bush administration was actively preparing for an attack on Iran was denied by the Pentagon. "The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous, "the Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, told reporters.

The US has no intention of attacking Iran, secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a television interview broadcast on 22/02/07.

"Let me just say here publicly, the US has no desire for confrontation with Iran, None," Rice told CNN.

In the interview Rice also reiterated her offer to talk to Iran "any time, any place" if Tehran first halts its uranium enrichment programme.

No plan for Iran attack - Blair

British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted Thursday there was "no planning" under way for an attack on Iran, while defending his record on Iraq.

"You can't absolutely predict every set of circumstances that comes about but sitting here now talking to you, I can tell you Iran is not Iraq,"

"There is, as far as I know, no planning going on to make an attack on Iran and people are pursuing a diplomatic and political solution".

"But I personally think that you will never have a situation where you simply say there are no set of circumstances in which you could ever conceive of anything."

MIDDLE EAST

A United Nations study has found that growing numbers of people in the Gaza and the West Bank are "food insecure" and becoming dependent on food aid.

Poverty has risen since the international community cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas won parliamentary elections last year, the new report from the World Food Programme said.

The weakening of the Palestinian economy has also made previously secure workers - such as fisherman, farmers, and small traders - increasingly desperate, a UN press release publicizing the report said.

46% of Palestinians are now food insecure or vulnerable.

In 2004, 35% of Palestinians were food insecure.

"Many people, who cannot afford to buy food, have been forced to sell off valuable assets such as land or tools," the report said.

Another UN agency, UNRWA, handles food distribution for refugees.

Arnold Vercken, the WFP country director said, "The poorest families are now living a meager existence totally reliant on assistance, with no electricity or heating and eating food is prepared with water from bad sources.:

"This is putting their long-term health at risk."

Campbell called the increased humanitarian assistance a "Band-Aid" solution that did not offer a permanent solution to the economic problems of the Palestinians.

Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan's prime minister, said peace in the Middle East depended on a fair solution to the Palestinian problem and urged a united stand against radicalism: "Durable peace in the Middle East demands an honourable solution of Palestine based on justice, equity and realism in line with the wishes of the Palestinian people," and a Palestinian unity government would help progress towards a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.

On 22 February 2007 in Jeddah, The secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, yesterday expressed his anguish and dismay at the world's silence on Israel's blatant moves to Judaize Jerusalem and change the holy city's historic character. The OIC was formally established in September 1969 after the burning of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
"When the Buddhist statues were being demolished in Bamiyan, the whole world rose up against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," he said in an exclusive interview with Arab News. "UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was very active then, but not a word is being said against what Israel is doing to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Nobody utters a word against the Israeli aggression. Nobody is really taking any action. There is silence all over."

Comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

In an interview in Germany on Wednesday 21 February 2007 on fringes of Quartet meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, "Peace and security in the Middle East has been long standing and unresolved. This has great, very serious and important implications for world peace and security, not only the situation in the Middle East. We were encouraged by the recent diplomatic initiatives including the most recent Mecca deal, as well as the trilateral meeting among the United States, Palestinian Authority and Israel, though this process may be very sensitive and may be very difficult because of the very complex nature of the situation. However at this time, it would be crucially important for the international community to encourage this Mecca deal and this ongoing diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. I know that this will be again a very difficult process but, this time, what we need to do is to encourage the parties concerned, and participants should try to encourage and try to make the sort of framework to support such kind of peace process."

MIDDLE EAST QUARTET STATEMENT FOLLOWING 21 FEBRUARY BERLIN MEETING

The following statement by the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) was issued 21 February, following its meeting in Berlin:

The Quartet principals -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner -- met today in Berlin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

Secretary Rice reported on her recent 18 February meetings with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, the 19 February trilateral and United States efforts to facilitate discussions between the parties. The Quartet welcomed these efforts and expressed the hope that the result-oriented dialogue initiated between Israeli and Palestinian leaders will continue in the framework of a renewed political process, with the aim of defining more clearly the political horizon and launching meaningful negotiations. The Quartet reaffirmed its determination to promote such a process, in cooperation with the parties and other regional partners. The Quartet urged the parties to refrain from measures that prejudge issues to be resolved in negotiations.

The Quartet reaffirmed its statements regarding its support for a Palestinian Government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map, and encouraged progress in this direction.

The Quartet discussed efforts under way for a Palestinian national unity Government, pursuant to the agreement reached in Mecca on 8 February. The Quartet expressed its appreciation for the role of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the cessation of violence among Palestinians.

The Quartet concluded with a discussion of possible further steps by the international community in the context of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

It welcomed preliminary ideas put forward by the European Commission to meet the needs to better coordinate and mobilize international assistance in support of the political process and to meet the needs of the Palestinian people.

The Quartet reaffirmed its commitment to meet regularly and asked envoys to monitor developments and actions taken by the parties and to discuss the way ahead. It was agreed to schedule a meeting in the region soon.

Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Olmert's remarks on Monday 19 February 2007 at the Knesset:

We made it clear, as simply and as plainly as possible - it being completely evident that our demand, like that of the international community and the US, is that a Palestinian government that accepts the Quartet principles thereby recognizes all of the agreements that have been signed between the State of Israel and the PA, and will carry them out.

This does not mean recognition via some sort of empty statement, but carrying out all of these agreements, recognizing the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and, of course, an absolute halt to terrorism in all its expressions - Qassam fire and attempts to perpetrate other attacks. Moreover, it is clear that all other commitments - including that to release Gilad Shalit immediately - must be upheld.

I also added that we will not recognize any government that does not honour these commitments. Neither will we cooperate with it or its ministers. We decided, I decided, that in any case, but I also said so to the Cabinet and I think it reflects the views of all ministers that we must continue to keep a communications channel with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Haniyeh on 19 February 2007, stressed that he stood by President Mahmoud Abbas in support of the Mecca Accord and for dealing with external pressures. Haniyeh said "we stand by President Abbas to safeguard the Agreement and deal with international pressures that seek to maintain the state of tension in the Palestinian arena."

The member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council and member of the PLC Mohammad Dahlan said that the Palestinian Authority would not allow Israel to impose its inconvenient logic on President Abbas and the Palestinian people. Dahlan indicated that they have reached to internal understandings that were crowned by the Mecca Accord and extensive efforts have been exerted to restore unity. We will not allow Israel to impose its inconvenient logic on Palestinians. Dahlan indicated that Olmert demanded that Hamas be excluded from the Cabinet, adding: "But this time we told them we will not go by what you say." To this demand, President Abbas said: "I respect your position but I do not agree with you … We have our own agenda on restoring the Palestinian conformity."

The spokesman of the interim government stressed that the national unity government, over which negotiations for its formation are underway, has the readiness to start negotiations with the US Administration. Hamad said that the United States is asked to change its overall positions and deal positively with the national unity government, and the unity government is ready to talk to the US Administration. Hamad added that the position of the US had not changed and if the US insisted on adopting the same policy with the same mistakes, then it means an opposition to the entire Palestinian people, given the Mecca Agreement forged between Fatah and Hamas on the formation of a unity government. Hamad clarified that the Mecca Accord is a broad and flexible Agreement with a clear policy that provides ample space for political action.

Hamas on Thursday 22 February 2007 said the United States was trying to undermine European efforts to ease an economic blockade of a new Palestinian unity government.

"It (the United States) aims to undermine the European and Russian efforts in order to continue the siege imposed on our people," said Palestinian Information Minister Youssef Rizqa of Hamas.

US Secretary of State announced the likelihood of Washington withholding an aid of $86 million that has been allocated for training and equipment of the Palestinian presidency's security forces if the new government was not to comply with the Quartet's conditions.

According to a BBC report on Thursday 22 February 2007, it seems clear to most observers outside the Israeli government and sections of the Bush Administration in Washington that Hamas is moving towards the Quartet principles.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said it was crucially important to encourage the Mecca Agreement.

The Russians feel something similar. Recognition of a Palestinian government is crucial because it would allow the money tap to be re-opened.

Israel believes that if Hamas will not do as it is told, it should stay isolated - and noises are coming from the Israeli government suggesting that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ought to be isolated too if he chooses, in their view, to sell out by joining Hamas.

Austria's Foreign Minister: "I think it is important that Europe is visible and is active in the Middle East peace process in order to promote a political process and it is therefore important that the German President has so firmly committed to creating a process with Quartet. This is the second meeting of the Quartet already within a few weeks and there is a plan for involving the regional partners in the Middle East more closely. There is the plan for holding quite soon a meeting in the region. And I think this is an important element to develop a joint choreography. The momentum has to come from the Israeli Palestinian situation, but partners in the region and the international community have to act simultaneously to pick up necessary elements for a political process."

IRAQ

A Shia militia leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, has criticised the continuation of car bombs in Iraq and withdrew his support for a security crackdown in Baghdad.

The move by al-Sadr, is a blow for Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, who had expressed optimism about the US-backed offensive. Until now, al-Sadr has supported the plan, seen as a last ditch attempt to halt all-out civil war in Iraq.

Al-Sadr said the crackdown would not work because US forces were involved: "There is no benefit in this security plan because it is controlled by the occupied."
"(The United States) is watching car bombs explode, taking the souls of thousands of innocent Iraqi people."

Troop debate

Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, urged the Democratic-controlled US Congress not to interfere in the conduct of the Iraq war and suggested president George Bush would defy troop withdrawal legislation.

But Senator Carl Levin, Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said legislators would step up efforts to force Bush to change course. "The president needs a check and a balance," said Levin.

Rice said on Sunday that proposals being drafted by Senate Democrats to limit the war amounted to "the worst of micromanagement of military affairs."

She said military leaders such as General David Petraeus, the new US commander in Iraq, believe Bush's plan to send more troops is necessary. "I can't imagine a circumstance in which it's a good thing that their flexibility is constrained by people sitting here in Washington, sitting in the Congress."

Visit by Deputy Minister Pahad to the Gulf and Iran

I will leave with my delegation on Saturday 3 March 2007 to the Emirates, Qatar and Iran for the IOR-ARC meeting.

I believe that this visit to the region will provide an opportunity to get a sense of what the major regional players are thinking and get a sense of what developments have occurred after the meeting of the P5+Germany and indeed to get a sense of the what the position of the Quartet is following what the Europeans are saying.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister you mentioned that the summons issued by the ICC will add a new dimension to the conflict in Sudan. Does the South African government support this development?

Answer South Africa is a signatory to all the conventions of the ICC and we therefore support all processes related to the ICC. Once the ICC has declared the processes they will be implemented

These two people have been named and perhaps others will be named as well. Extradition will then be sought.

This is not matter of whether we support this development or not. We are part of the processes of the ICC.

Question Deputy Minister regarding Iran - what is South Africa's view of further sanctions on Iran?

Answer We have consistently said that we support a world free of weapons of mass destruction so we will continue to fight against countries who already have nuclear weapons as well as against countries who are trying to manufacture such programmes.

It has been our view, one that has been echoed by the ElBaradei report that there is presently no conclusive proof that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme.

However, clarification is sought from Iran regarding its past activities. We have been urging the government of Iran to comply with such requests and conclude the outstanding matters with the IAEA authorities.

It is clear from what Mr Larijani has said that if the matter goes back to the IAEA, they would be willing to conclude all outstanding matters.

I want to believe that as has been said on many occasions there is no one saying that Iran has embarked on a programme to develop weapons of mass destruction. What is being said is that there is no trust towards Iran seeing that they have given assurances in the past and gone back on their word.

We must encourage confidence building mechanisms.

Until we get a sense of how the P5 will proceed, we are out of the loop on the matter however, we do know that China and Russia are opposed to sanctions.

Question Deputy Minister what will South Africa's
position towards Iran be when you are President of the Security Council?

Answer South Africa will assume the Presidency of the Security Council on 1 March 2007. We cannot however comment much on the what is happening on this matter seeing that the P5 and Germany are having discussions behind closed doors. Until we have been briefed of the outcomes of these discussions, we will be unable to make much comment.

We will however urge the Iranians to comply with the request from the IAEA for full compliance. We will insist on a political solution.

Question Deputy Minister your visit to the Gulf region and Iran - can this be seen as a solidarity visit?

Answer No this is not a solidarity visit - Iran is hosting a meeting of the members of the Indian Ocean Rim. I will also be visiting the Emirates and Qatar.

President Mbeki will in March pay a visit to Saudi Arabia and I will later in the year pay another visit to Iran where I will co-chair our annual bilateral consultations. I will at this time also visit other countries of the region.

As I have mentioned in one of my other briefings - the Baker-Hamilton report has said very clearly that the Middle East conflict can only be resolved if we deal with the matter of Palestine and Israel. In this regard, Iran and Syria are key to the solution. We would want to get a better sense of what the thinking on these matters are in the region.

Question Deputy Minister will South Africa, in principle, oppose sanctions against Iran?

Answer We cannot deal with imaginary issues - we must note the context of this matter. We must consider the proposed resolution. I do however reiterate that the body that is best placed to deal with this matter is the IAEA.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

28 February 2007

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