Notes following Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Media Centre, Amphitheatre, Union Buildings, Tuesday 17 April 2007

PRESIDENT MBEKI'S VISIT TO FRANCE

Let me begin with the President's visit to France during which he met with President Chirac and his delegation on Thursday 12 April 2007. This was a very significant visit coming on the eve of the French election and the final days of President Chirac's tenure as President.

This presented an opportunity to review our past relations and how these can be taken forward.

The French government has viewed South Africa as a major strategic partner in Africa. President Chirac assured us that this will be maintained by the new French President. The French government will do everything possible to intensify and strengthen relations. The French government stressed the strong political and economic relations between both countries.

President Chirac expressed his confidence that France and Europe would continue to support all Africa's development and conflict resolution efforts and ensure that Africa plays its role in a globalizing world.

The French President committed France to supporting NEPAD and indicated that France will continue to ensure that the NEPAD-G8 relationship is continuously strengthened and increasingly concretized.

In this regard, he expressed his happiness that Africa will remain high on the G-8 agenda at the next Summit to be hosted in Germany. As you know, South Africa will attend this Summit.

He also welcomed the proposed Africa - EU Summit to be held in Portugal in the second half of 2007. As you know, this Summit has not been held for many years due to the differences in views of an invitation to Zimbabwe. President Chirac has indicated that this Summit which is absolutely vital to strengthening relations, will take place by the end of the year.

President Chirac also expressed his desire to see greater co-operation on the Security Council agenda and indicated that France supported the need to expand the Security Council and would support the African presence on an expanded Security Council.

There were extensive discussions on Darfur seeing that President Mbeki had just concluded his visit to Sudan. President Chirac indicated that the French government will continue to support all efforts to bring about a solution to the political, military and humanitarian situation in Darfur in particular and towards the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in general. President Mbeki briefed President Chirac in terms of the implementation of the CPA seeing that he had discussed this thoroughly while in Sudan. We agreed that both countries would remain in close contact in terms of the implementation of the CPA and the Darfur situation.

As you know, France has a special interest in Côte d'Ivoire and this matter was discussed by Presidents Mbeki and Chirac. Both Presidents welcomed the Ougadougou Agreement and indicated that this opened up the way for the implementation of all necessary agreements for free and fair elections in Côte d'Ivoire and to bring the national reconciliation process to its conclusion. We have agreed that to remain in touch to ensure this process is successfully concluded.

President Chirac then briefed us of the Security Council decisions on Lebanon and indicated that France strongly supported the establishment of an international court that will aim to determine those responsible for the assassinations of Hariri and other political leaders.

It was a very good visit and I believe that Africa will remain on the French agenda no matter who wins the forthcoming elections.

SINGAPORE STATE VISIT TO SOUTH AFRICA

President Thabo Mbeki will on Thursday 19 April 2007 host his Singaporean counterpart President Sellapan Ramanathan, who will be the first Singaporean Head of State to pay a State Visit to South Africa, for bilateral political and economic discussions at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

President Nathan will visit South Africa from Wednesday - Thursday 18-26 April 2007 and is expected to visit Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban.

This is a very important visit for South Africa since Singapore is an important member of the Indian Ocean Rim of which we are also part. Singapore has also played a leading role in the formulation of the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP) which was adopted in 2005 in Indonesia. This Partnership mandated all Asian and African countries to give expression to their political relations by expanding trade and economic relations. This visit will therefore, outside of the political relations, focus on the economic aspect of bilateral relations.

As you know, Singapore, is a very important player in South East Asia and I believe, we will learn from the experience of Singapore who has within a very short period of time, become a very successful economic story.

It also occupies a top position in terms of South Africa's total trade in the region and plays a major role within ASEAN which we believe could facilitate a broader free trade agreement between ASEAN and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

Our trade and investment figures are growing. We believe that while there is very impressive developments in this relationship, the scope for extending this relationship is much greater and we hope the business community will use this opportunity to investigate ways of strengthening this relationship.

MINISTER DLAMINI ZUMA TO HOLD DISCUSSIONS WITH COUNTERPART FROM NIGER

South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will on Wednesday 18 April 2007 hold bilateral political and economic discussions with her counterpart from Niger, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Co-operation and African Integration, Mrs Aichatou Mindaoudou at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria.

This will present an opportunity to have discussions on a series of issues - our bilateral relations, and political developments in West and Southern Africa including Côte d'Ivoire and the forthcoming Nigerian elections and indeed how we can move together towards achieving the African agenda.

COLLEGE KILLING IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The South African government expresses shock at the massacre of college students at the Virginia Tech University in the United States of America.

This is a very shocking event which does highlight some serious dysfunctionality in many societies around the world. We hope that the necessary lessons will be learnt from such tragedies that are becoming an increasing phenomenon in many countries in the Western world.

Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families.

BOMBINGS IN ALGERIA

South African Government Statement On The Algerian Bomb Blasts

The South African government has expressed its sadness, shock and outrage at the spate of bomb blasts that hit Algeria, today, Wednesday, 11 April 2007 claiming at least the lives of 17 people with more than 100 sustaining injuries. In this regard, the government strongly condemns this callous and cowardly act and extends its heartfelt condolences to the government and the people of Algeria, members and friends of the bereaved families and wishes those wounded a speedy recovery.

We hope that the recent spate of violence that has occurred in North Africa can be dealt with quite decisively before it begins unsettling a very important part of Africa and impeding the achievement of the African agenda.

Statement by Secretary-General on bombings in Algeria

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the terrorist bombings that occurred today in Algeria, killing and wounding many innocent civilians in what has been reported as an attempt against the Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem. He extends his sincere condolences to the Government and people of Algeria, and in particular, to the families of the victims.

The Secretary-General believes this deplorable incident, the latest in a series of similar attacks in the Maghreb region as a whole, shows the need for concerted international action against terrorism which has the effect of undermining the normal functioning of societies and disrupting the lives of ordinary people.

EU Presidency Statement on the attacks in Algiers

The EU Presidency was shocked to hear of today's attacks on the Prime Minister's office in the centre of Algiers and on a police station.

The Presidency most strongly condemns these attacks, which have claimed numerous lives and injured well over 100 people.

The Presidency conveys its heartfelt sympathy to the families of the victims and wishes those who have been injured a speedy recovery.

Statement by USA Government

The United States condemns the terrorist attacks that occurred yesterday, April 10, in Casablanca involving suicide bombers and today's bomb attacks in Algiers. These horrific acts indiscriminately killed members of the security services and civilians alike. We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these atrocities, their families, and the people of Algeria and Morocco. We stand with the Moroccan and Algerian people and their governments in the struggle against extremism and violence, and support their efforts to secure a future of peace. There is no political justification for the murder of innocent lives.

ZIMBABWE

Senior SADC officials in Zimbabwe

The Executive Secretary of Southern African Development Community (SADC) key economic bloc arrived in Zimbabwe Wednesday, 11 April 2007 to identify what would be needed for an economic rescue package for the country. The Executive Secretary of SADC was tasked to undertake a study on the country's deteriorating economic situation by an extraordinary SADC Summit held between 28-29 March 2007 in Dar es Salaam. The SADC economic rescue initiative is aimed at assisting the Government of Zimbabwe to revive itself from the current economic challenges, with an inflation rate of more than 1,700%. We will now await his report.

Comments by MDC Leader Morgan Tsvangirai

The South African government welcomes the comments by the Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who expressed optimism on Thursday 12 April 2007 about planned talks between his party and President Robert Mugabe's government to end the crisis in the country.

"This crisis is going to be resolved through negotiations," Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Tsvangirai told a news conference in Harare.

"And Zanu-PF and MDC will sit down and negotiate under the tutelage and under the facilitation of South African President Thabo Mbeki."

"Things are moving. We want to see how President Mbeki is going to successfully resolve this crisis and we wish him well."

He confirmed receiving a letter from Mbeki on the planned talks, but declined to elaborate on the correspondence. (Note from Deputy Minister: President Mbeki had sent letters to the Secretaries-General of both factions of the MDC detailing how he intended to proceed with the mediation.)

Comment by Deputy Minister Pahad

The South African government awaits the responses of the Secretaries-General to President Mbeki's letter. We are now in the pre-mediation phase. We have received an initial draft from the Secretaries-General of the MDC as to how they see the processes unfolding. The Facilitation is in the process of studying this whereupon President Mbeki will determine a programme of action in the coming period.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Jean Pierre Bemba left the South African Compound in Kinshasa on Tuesday 10 April 2007 for Portugal where he is expected to receive medical attention. This came after the government of the DRC had granted Mr Bemba permission to seek medical care in Portugal. Mr Bemba was accompanied by his wife and children.

The political and security situation in the DRC remains calm.

The DRC Parliament held its first sitting of Parliament since the breakout of violence on 22 - 23 March 2007. During the session, the National Assembly speaker, Vital Kamerhe urged that an inquiry be held into the events of 22-23 March 2007 and the perpetrators be identified and punished. However, it must be emphasised that this should be conducted under the aegis of the rule of law.

On a positive step towards consolidation of peace and security in the volatile East of the DRC, Peter Karim, the last active militia leader in the Ituri district has formally integrated into the DRC National army. This is seen as an important achievement towards lasting peace and stability in the DRC.

Karim's eventual surrender followed intensive negotiations between the DRC government and the FNI, Karim's militia, since July 2006. South Africa supports the reform of the DRC's armed forces. The Security Sector Reform process needs to be speeded up resulting in a unified national army capable of protecting that country's sovereignty.

Boycott of Parliament by Movement for the Liberation of Congo

The Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) said on Saturday 14 April 2007 that it had taken the step to protest against the harassment and intimidation of its members and supporters by the state's security forces.

"We, the elected representatives of the opposition, consider the current climate of permanent insecurity does not permit us to work in the serenity that the mandate of a member of parliament requires," Thomas Luhaka, MLC National Executive Secretary, said in a statement.

"This is why ... we feel obliged to suspend, effective now and until further notice, our participation in the work of this [National] Assembly, until proper security conditions are established."

Luhaka said the party's decision not to participate in parliament was taken after the home of one of the party's MPs was ransacked by about a dozen Republican Guards.

He added that there was a "targeted and programmed operation" against MLC members.

An MLC spokesman said the party's suspension of National Assembly activities did not affect senators, who are expected to vote on whether to lift Bemba's immunity once the Supreme Court approves bylaws for the Senate, which could take another week.

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MISSION IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO UNTIL 15 MAY BY UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1751

"The Security Council,

"Recalling its resolutions and the statements of its President concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo,

"Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and its commitment to continue to contribute to the consolidation of peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the post-transition period, in particular through the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC),

"Noting that the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to pose a threat to international peace and security in the region,

"Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate and personnel strength of MONUC, as set out in its resolutions 1565 (2004), 1592 (2005), 1596 (2005), 1621 (2005), 1635 (2005) and 1736 (2006), until 15 May 2007;

"2. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."

Background

Before the Council was the Secretary-General's twenty-third report on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) (document S/2007/156), dated 20 March 2007, which covers major developments since his report of 21 September 2006 (document S/2006/759) and provides his recommendations for the Mission's future mandate.

The Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council approve the post-transition mandate for MONUC, to include a military component of 17,030 personnel and 760 military observers, and a civilian police component of 391 police advisers and six formed police units of 125 members each (all ranks) until 31 December 2007. MONUC would continue to operate as a fully integrated Mission, in which its work and that of the United Nations country team reinforce and complement each other.

Outlining a post-transition mandate for MONUC in section IV of the report, the Secretary-General notes that, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo has entered a new political era, significant core stabilization tasks in the Mission's current mandate remain to be completed. They include the creation of a stable security environment; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Congolese combatants; and support for the large and complex local election process. During the next phase, MONUC will also have to play a strong role in supporting the consolidation of democracy, maximize its contributions to security sector reform, contribute to the normalization of regional relations and help ensure the achievement of significant benchmarks in key areas identified in consultation with the Government.

Therefore, the Secretary-General proposes, the principal elements of the Mission's mandate would be to assist the Government in building a stable security environment; consolidating democracy; planning security sector reform and participating in its early stages; protecting human rights and strengthening the rule of law; the protection of civilians; and the conduct of local elections. In all areas of its work, MONUC would emphasize the role of civil society in political dialogue and decision-making, ensuring a rights-based approach and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security and 1612 (2005) regarding the protection of children.

An operational plan for MONUC's gradual downsizing and eventual withdrawal, the Secretary-General stresses, will require clear linkages between the achievement of key benchmarks and the handover of responsibility to other actors, including the Government; agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations; the World Bank; and multilateral stakeholders. Following the multidisciplinary technical assessment mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to be conducted by the Secretariat before September, the Secretary-General intends to report to the Security Council in November on benchmarks in key sectors and tentative timetables for achieving them, which would guide the Mission's gradual and phased withdrawal.

The Secretary-General observes that, with the successful conduct of the 2006 elections and the installation of the new Government, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has reached an historic turning point. In his inaugural speech, President Joseph Kabila captured the significance of the moment in calling for respect for democratic principles, tolerance and inclusiveness, and for setting visionary goals for reducing poverty and raising living standards. However, the Government now faces the daunting task of realizing its ambitious programme for 2007-2011. By including the "governance contract" in that programme, the Government expressed its commitment to governance principles endorsed by the Congolese people and the international community.

According to the report, the largely peaceful and orderly passage from the transition period to the new dispensation has not been without cause for concern, including alleged widespread electoral corruption believed to have influenced results in several gubernatorial contests. Furthermore, the narrowing of the political space for an effective political opposition, including the exclusion of opposition members from the Bureau of the National Assembly, as well as the incitement to violence by some members of opposition parties, represent troubling tendencies that, if not reversed, threaten the country's nascent democracy.

Strongly urging Congolese political leaders to respect the principles of transparency, inclusiveness and tolerance of dissent, the Secretary-General stresses also that opposition leaders should adhere to those same democratic norms, voicing their views responsibly and without resort to violence. Failure to adhere to democratic principles would seriously undermine the credibility and ultimate legitimacy of the political leaders and institutions.

Assisting the Democratic Republic of the Congo in addressing the security challenges posed by armed groups in the east will remain a core element of the MONUC mandate, the report states. In the Ituri district, strong Government efforts remain vital to ensuring the entry of all remaining militia elements into disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, including through continued military pressure by the Congolese Armed Forces, supported by MONUC.

Commending efforts by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to resolve problems posed by the forces of renegade commander Laurent Nkunda and other armed elements, the Secretary-General urges the Congolese Government to develop a coherent plan for achieving security in the east, including through the completion of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, which should be accompanied by efforts to promote national reconciliation, recovery and development in the region. MONUC will continue to work closely with the Congolese Armed Forces to end the threat posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and non-integrated militias, including the Mayi Mayi and other groups. The FDLR problem should be addressed through a combination of political engagement, military dissuasion and possible relocation. Furthermore, the presence of the Lord's Resistance Army in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo remains a destabilizing element in the region that must be addressed with determination. The United Nations continues to support Uganda's efforts to address this problem.

Finally, the Secretary-General states that the establishment of the new Government offers an opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to normalize relations with neighbouring States, and urges the country to establish diplomatic relations with them as soon as possible. The recently signed Pact on Security, Stability and development in the Great Lakes Region offers a promising mechanism for regional cooperation, and the parliaments of the signatory States should ensure its early ratification.

Comment by South African government

It is our view that the extension until 15 May 2007 is not sufficient, especially in light of the report by the Secretary-General, outlined above.

We are a bit disappointed that there was no consensus to have the proposed extension to 31 December 2007 accepted at this session. We will continue to ensure that on the basis of this report we will support the extension until 31 December this year and if necessary, until next year.

We have always warned that in post-conflict situations, if the UN troops are withdrawn too early, then the danger of regression into conflict is very real. We will therefore continue to argue that the Security Council should not take decisions that could prove problematic.

BURUNDI

Peace Process

The government of Burundi and the Paliphehutu-FNL have agreed there must be consultations about issues the FNL has raised, inter alia, what will happen to the movement in future, and their leadership and combatants."

President Pierre Nkurunziza has agreed to explain to the rebels what positions he could offer, and which the constitution ruled out.

The date of the meeting has not been finalised.

Visit to Burundi by UN Peacebuilding Commission

An eight-member delegation from the newly established United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) visited Burundi last week in a bid to help consolidate stability there.

Led by Ambassador Johan L. Løvald, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, the delegation concluded its four-day trip on 14 April.

Conclusion of Visit

The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) is committed to supporting Burundi, including by helping mobilize resources to fight poverty Ambassador Johan L. Løvald, said in Bujumbura on 14 April 2007.

"I have reiterated the strong support of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission to the Government and people of Burundi concerning ongoing efforts to consolidate peace," Ambassador Johan Løvald told reporters after wrapping up a four-day visit to Burundi.

The eight-member delegation from the PBC met with the President, government ministers and other officials as well as representatives of civil society, women's groups, the private sector and religious communities.

"I have reiterated the commitment of the Peacebuilding Commission to work with the Government and other stakeholders, within our mandate, to assist in resource mobilization in the fight to eradicate poverty and promote community recovery," Ambassador Løvald said.

From the meetings, he said the PBC delegation learned of the country's determination to "deal with the problem of poverty and the need to secure a better future for all, not least the young generation," he added.

Government officials also appealed for participation in a planned donor conference to be held in May. "We also received a uniform message for increased resources for development," Ambassador Løvald said.

He noted that in meetings with government officials, he stressed the importance of adhering to all peace agreements as well as promoting "inclusive political dialogue, human rights and good governance."

SUDAN

President Mbeki's visit to Sudan

President Mbeki visited Sudan with two objectives:

  • To discuss the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). There is an agreement that President Mbeki will at regular intervals hold discussion with President el-Bashir and Vice President Salva Kirr on this implementation of the CPA; and
  • To discuss the Darfur situation with regard to the AU-UN Hybrid Force.

President Mbeki on conclusion of his visit to Sudan on the issue of a hybrid force for Darfur said, "There are some final negotiations that will take place between the UN, the AU and the Sudanese government …I'm quite confident that those matters will be resolved."

Sudan accepts AU-UN Hybrid Force for Darfur

Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol said on Monday 16 April 2007 that Khartoum had fully accepted the second phase of a United Nations plan to bolster a peacekeeping operation in Darfur, including the deployment of helicopter gunships.

"Sudan has accepted the second phase of the agreement of UN support for the African force," Akol told a news conference.

"The meeting in Addis Ababa was decisive, and its results constitute a breakthrough," said Akol of talks between the United Nations, the African Union and Khartoum in the Ethiopian capital on April 9.

Sudan's acceptance "opens the door to new phases," he said, adding that the ball "is now in the UN's camp".

Akol said that Khartoum had also agreed that the chain of command for the second phase conform to UN practises.

"We are waiting for the UN to decide the financing of this phase so that we can ask African countries for their troop contributions," he said.

Secretary-General Welcomes Agreement by Sudan on United Nations Heavy Support Package for African Union Mission There

The Secretary-General has received the letter from the Government of Sudan confirming its agreement on the entire heavy support package of the United Nations assistance to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and welcomes it.

The Secretary-General is encouraged by this development and intends to move expeditiously with the deployment, in close cooperation with the African Union. He affirms his intention to consult with the Government of Sudan and expects the latter to urgently provide the land and other facilities necessary for the deployment of the heavy support package, including permission to explore for water and meet all operational requirements. He encourages the troops and police providers, as well as all donors, to contribute generously towards the earliest possible strengthening of the peacekeeping operation in Darfur. At the same time, he urges that hostilities on the ground be stopped without any further delay.

The United Nations will intensify its efforts to implement the Addis and Abuja agreements aimed at an inclusive political process and the provision of effective protection of the population, in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Darfur, in close consultation with the African Union. It will also maintain close contact with the League of Arab States.

Meeting between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Chair of AU Commission Alpha Omar Konare

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held talks yesterday Monday 16 April 2007 at the UN Headquarters with the head of the African Union (AU) Alpha Omar Konare on the latest political, humanitarian and security developments in Darfur before they jointly met Council members for informal discussions. Special envoys for the Darfur crisis for the UN and AU respectively, Jan Eliasson of and Salim Ahmed Salim also participated in the talks.

Speaking to reporters after that meeting, Mr. Ban thanked the efforts of many world leaders, including the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United States, China and South Africa, as well as Mr. Konaré and the head of the League of Arab States.

"This is a very positive sign," he said of the Sudanese acceptance letter. "The people in Darfur have suffered too much and too long."

UNMIS condemns killing of AU Peacekeeper in Darfur

It is still a matter of concern that troops in the African Union mission are being attacked and killed. It is therefore a matter of urgency that the agreement on the hybrid force is implemented soonest.

The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on Monday 16 April 2007 spoke out against the weekend killing of an African Union (AU) soldier serving with the AU peacekeeping force in Darfur (AMIS) - the latest in a series of attacks prompting calls for all sides to improve the security situation in the strife-torn region.

UNMIS "strongly condemns the killing of an AMIS Officer on 14 April 2007 near the AMIS camp in El Fasher by unknown armed men," the mission said in a statement released in Khartoum.

The mission said it is "deeply concerned about the repeated attacks against AMIS personnel that resulted in 10 deaths since the beginning of the year as well as several carjackings," and called on all parties to immediately halt these acts.

The sides were also called on "to respect fully the agreements they have signed to improve the security situation in Darfur."

UNMIS urged all parties to identify and hold responsible the perpetrators of the attacks.

Libya to Host Summit on Darfur

Ali Abdel Salam Triki, Libya's deputy foreign minister, said on Friday 13 April 2007: "A conference on Darfur will take place on April 28 with representatives of the United States, Britain, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, the African Union and European Union".

Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the EU concerning recent developments in Darfur

The European Union is particularly concerned about the direct clashes between the Chadian and Sudanese armies that took place on 9 April.

The European Union calls on the authorities of Chad and Sudan to exercise restraint and to return to observing the commitments in the Tripoli Declaration. The European Union urges the two sides to do everything possible to avoid an escalation at the frontier, which would lastingly damage the peace efforts in Darfur and would further exacerbate the suffering of the people of Darfur and eastern Chad.

In this context the European Union condemns the continuing attacks against the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), most recently on 10 April near Sortony in northern Darfur, which it considers to be deliberate violations of the ceasefire in force and of the UN Security Council resolutions on Sudan. The European Union presents its sincere condolences to the family of the Rwandan soldier killed during the latest attack.

These new incidents demonstrate once again the gravity of the situation and the extent of the regional dimension of the Darfur crisis. They underline the urgent need for the hybrid force to be deployed in Darfur and for a United Nations operation in eastern Chad.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir said on conclusion of discussions with President Mbeki in Khartoum that he was counting on South African mediation to help contain tensions with Chad after recent border clashes between Sudan and its eastern neighbour.

"President Mbeki has always had contacts with Chad on ways to contain the tensions between both our countries and these contacts are continuing," said Beshir.

"God willing, these contacts will yield positive results," he said, a day after an incursion by the Chadian army into Sudanese territory in pursuit of rebels.

Comments by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes

Under-Secretary-General for the United Nation's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Holmes has warned that at the current rate, if the situation in Sudan's Darfur region continues, over half the population in the region could be displaced within the next 18 months.

During his briefing to the UN Security Council on his trip to Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), Holmes spoke of his meetings with government leaders in all three countries, where he stressed the responsibility of each government to protect its population.

Humanitarian efforts on the part of the international community need to be accelerated in order to ease the burden of the refuges, displaced people and the local inhabitants whose resources are stretched, he said.

CAR

"Humanitarian organisations estimate that one million Central Africans, around one-fourth of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance … and it is clear that … the humanitarian response is still insufficient," said Holmes, citing the lack of infrastructure, including roads, as one of the reasons for the delay in providing aid.

"There's an urgent need in the CAR, where tools and seeds are needed for the people living in the bush. There are sufficient funds available to do that. The problems are not so much funding as infrastructure and logistics in a very difficult part of the world where there are virtually no roads, and it's hard to get there, to find people. They are not in camps, they are scattered all over the bush," he added.

But the solution for CAR - as with other countries in the region - is two-pronged: dealing with the political situation and security issues.

After meeting civilians in the CAR bush, Holmes said that it was not just rebels that were responsible for the insecurity, but also the CAR Armed Forces (FACA) and the Presidential Guard. Part of a plan would be to get the groups to consent to a ceasefire in order to start negotiations for a durable political solution, he said.

Better security is necessary, especially on the borders with the Sudanese region of Darfur, and a professional army could help protect the civilian population and respect their human rights.

"Another possibility could be to demand that the African Union and CEMAC (Central African Economic and Monetary Community) look into the possibility of reinforcing the mandate of [their] 380 FOMUC soldiers. This could include, for example, monitoring military activities in the north and the surrounding borders," said Holmes.

Chad

The situation in Chad has "significantly degraded" since the council visited the country in 2006 according to Holmes, especially in eastern Chad, where the number of displaced rose from 50,000 to 140,000 in just a few months.

Those in refugee and IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps have been forcibly recruited into the fighting, including children, said Holmes. Chadian locals have been hosting Darfur refugees and Chadian IDPs, and this has stretched their natural resources, especially water, to the limit.

"The humanitarian response must be stronger, faster, and more strategic," Holmes told the council. He envisions a long-term plan that will directly help those in need, prioritising the relocation of the refugee camps that are currently exposed to attacks.

The UK ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry, agreed. "We need to see the adequate protection of civilians and above all sanctuary for those in UN camps," he said after the Holmes briefing, referring to the attacks last week in the villages of Tiero and Marena that killed at least 65 people and wounded 70, according to the United Nations' refugee agency, UNHCR.

Holmes met with Chadian Prime Minister, Delwa Coumakoye, where he stressed the urgency for "the Chadian government to begin to fight [those committing crimes with] impunity, and offer, as it is necessary, protection to the Chadian people and the refugees in eastern Chad." While Coumakoye agreed in principle, he reiterated to Holmes that a robust police force would be acceptable, but not a peacekeeping force.

"An international security presence is … as I understand it and as it was indicated in the Secretary-General's report on the subject, indispensable to assure the protection of refugees and displaced persons in eastern Chad," said Holmes.

Holmes has proposed an urgent 90-day plan to be implemented before the rainy season, to offer aid to the people hardest hit by the violence. Currently the UN appeal for Chad has only received 23 percent of the US $174 million needed.

"Signs of optimism in Chad? I did not see signs of optimism in Chad. I think the problems there remain very serious and are getting worse," said Holmes.

Darfur

"One of the saddest facts of the [last] three years … is that the people who were in the camps then are still there today, no doubt beginning to lose hope of ever being able to return to their homes and former lives," said Holmes, during his briefing on Darfur. He spoke of his visits to the camps, and of stories he had heard such as the rape of two young girls by police officers.

"As I walked through As Salaam camp near El Fasher, in North Darfur, hundreds of little boys and girls trailed in my wake. I couldn't help but wonder how many might yet suffer this horror," he said.

"Acts of brutality which occur every single day force the population to flee their homes," said French Ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere. "We recall that a generalised climate of violence is occurring in Darfur and Sudanese security forces are not taking charge of their responsibility towards civilians," he added.

As the crisis in Darfur continues, Holmes asked how long the humanitarian effort can continue, and for long Darfur bear the human cost. Although Sudan's President Bashir promised the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in January that humanitarian access would be forthcoming, it remains a factor, according to Holmes.

Holmes was denied access to Kassab camp in the northern part of the region. "One can easily imagine [the] daily struggles faced by aid workers on the ground in Darfur," he commented.

Violence against aid workers is also a major factor, he said, referring to a government raid on an NGO compound in Nyala in January. Twenty people, including NGO workers, UN and AMIS staff, were arrested and abused.

"The humanitarian community feels rightly, doubly victimised in this incident," said Holmes, who noted that while he asked for charges to be dropped against the workers, it "does not look like the symbol of cooperation the international community is expecting".

The problem lies in the Sudanese government's belief that aid staff are engaged in "inappropriate 'political' behaviour", whereby aid workers advise civilians of their human rights, Holmes told the council.

"In other words, giving food and shelter is acceptable, speaking out about violations of humanitarian law is not," he said.

Speaking to reporters, Holmes said no one can be absolved of harming civilians and aid workers: not the rebels, nor the government forces.

"The response I had from rebel leaders was very encouraging as far as it went. They entirely accepted the need to respect humanitarian workers and made promises that whenever they were told about humanitarian vehicles that were stolen they would do their best to get them back," he said.

Translating these promises into reality is another matter, however, as Holmes acknowledged that rebel movements are increasingly fragmented on the ground.

Holmes went on to describe the difficulties in resolving issues that affect Darfur, Chad and CAR.

"If we are going to solve the individual conflicts in a lasting way, we need a regional approach where the issues are tackled as far as possible in parallel."

That said, while the desire to blame the regional crisis entirely on Khartoum may be strong, each individual government needs to itself. "In other words, there have to be national solutions in addition to the regional approach," concluded Holmes.

SOMALIA

South Africa continues to be very concerned about the violence in Somalia.

It is estimated that at least 1 086 people were killed in four days of recent heavy clashes between Ethiopian forces and Islamist fighters backed by clan militia in Mogadishu.

The fighting, which erupted late last month left an estimated 4 334 people wounded.

Damage to property by the heavy fighting was an estimated "$1.5bn".

Comment by South African government

We do hope that there too political action can be taken to help stop the violence. This is the worst violence since the conflict broke out 15 years ago. It is clear that there are fundamental problems that must be looked at. A military solution is not possible.

Postponement of Peace and Reconciliation Conference

On Sunday, the chairperson of a committee planning a peace and reconciliation conference, Ali Mahdi Mohmamed, said the meeting would now be held June 14 2007.

"We are trying to reconcile the Somali clans and we are waiting for international support," Ali Mahdi Mohmamed said on Sunday.

Comment by South African government

It is my view that this delay is a very volatile military situation is very unfortunate and we must urgently attempt to fast track this reconciliation conference.

UIC negotiations with Somalia Interim Government

A senior leader of the Union of Islamic Courts has offered to negotiate with Somalia's interim government if its Ethiopian allies leave the country.


"The Somalis are now more united that before proving that they are one nation against the Ethiopian invaders."

"Somalia is a 100% Islamic nation and Somalis do love Islam and like to deal with Islamists."

Comments by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said with fighting in Somalia is at its heaviest since the outbreak of war over a decade ago, he is deeply concerned over the dire situation in the war-torn country where civilians fleeing the capital, Mogadishu, have been harassed, threatened, raped and robbed.
The fragile ceasefire between warring sides agreed to on 1 April crumbled when the fighting resumed yesterday in Mogadishu.

"Although it seemed that there was some hope, it took only days for the truce to be broken and the suffering of the population to be on the rise again," he said.

Last month in Mogadishu, hundreds of civilians were killed and more than 1,000 wounded were registered in the city's two main hospitals. Almost 200,000 people have fled Mogadishu because of the bloodshed since 1 February.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that aid workers are being thwarted in their efforts to assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups by the deteriorating security situation, harassment, intimidation and even detention.

Relief providers are further hampered by the difficulty in accessing aid supplies in Mogadishu because of the military's presence and activities.

"These incidents compromise the independent and impartial nature of the humanitarian response," said Mr. Holmes. "Indeed, they are paralyzing the response."
Violence in the capital has increased since the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by Ethiopian forces, dislodged the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu and much of the rest of the country at the end of last year. Mortar rounds and other fire have since killed many civilians in residential areas and settlements housing 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

CÔTE D'IVORE

Things are moving positively with a real possibility of completing the political process.

Côte d'Ivoire's new prime minister, Guillaume Soro, leader of the New Forces rebel group, has formed a government whose task would be to reunite the divided country and lead the way to elections by the end of the year.

The new government is comprised of 11 ministers from President Laurent Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front and seven from the New Forces. Five posts each go to the two leading opposition parties - the Rally of Republicans of former prime minister Alassane Ouattara and the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire of former president Henri Konan Bedie.

There are four women in the cabinet, down from five under former prime minister Charles Konan Banny.

The UN said last week that beginning on 16 April peacekeepers would begin their phased withdrawal from the buffer zone by leaving their checkpoints and going to observation posts within the zone. The new peace agreement stipulates that the number of observation posts will be reduced by half each month. The peacekeepers are to be replaced by a united Ivorian defense force.

Additionally, on Wednesday 11 April 2007 the government, rival armed groups and international peacekeepers agreed on a schedule to dismantle the country's buffer zone.

"Dismantling the buffer zone is expected to begin on 16 April at midnight. However, the process should not involve major upheaval on the ground. It will allow Ivorians across the country not be restricted while entering and leaving this zone", the United Nations force in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI) said in a statement.

The accord specifies that 11,000 UN and French forces monitoring the area would be reduced by half every two months until their complete withdrawal. They will be replaced by joint patrols of Ivorian army and former rebels.

Declaration by the Presidency on Behalf of the EU on the Formation of the New Government in Côte d'Ivoire

The European Union takes note of the formation of the new government in Côte d'Ivoire on 7 April 2007 and welcomes its commitment to peace.

The European Union invites the new government and the President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire to become involved resolutely in the implementation of the action advocated in the political agreement concluded in Ouagadougou on 4 March 2007 in order to relaunch the peace process defined by UN Security Council Resolution 1721.
With a view to finding a rapid solution to the crisis affecting the whole country, the European Union calls on the parties to move forward on the key issues, including: identification of the population, Defence and Security Forces issues, the DDR (disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration) programme and the organisation as early as possible of free, fair, open, democratic and transparent elections.

The European Union will continue to accompany Côte d'Ivoire on the road to consolidating peace and development.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

Amnesty

President Laurent Gbagbo, signed the amnesty into law on Thursday 12 April 2007, opening the way for thousands of Ivorians wanted for crimes committed during the 2002-2003 civil war to return home.

The law covers crimes committed by soldiers and civilians living in the country and abroad, but excludes war crimes and economic crimes in what was once a thriving African economy.

The text grants amnesty from prosecution for all crimes against the state dating back to September 17, 2000, the day the home of then military ruler Robert Guei, sparking the opening rounds of the civil war.

The law also says that compensation will be paid to all victims of the crimes it covers.

"The modalities of compensation, reparations and rehabilitation will be fixed by law," it said.

MIDDLE EAST

Talks between Palestinian President and Israeli Prime Minister

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, have held the first of a series of fortnightly talks aimed at moving the peace process forward.

For the first time in six years the two leaders discussed the future shape of a Palestinian state, in what officials described as "frank and positive" discussions.

The two leaders also discussed a possible prisoner swap, exchanging Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Palestinian groups, for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

"Prime Minister Olmert... said it was important for Abu Mazen to use his full weight on the issue," a senior Israeli government official told AFP news agency.
Olmert and Abbas will hold their next meeting in the West Bank town of Jericho before the end of the month.

Comments by Israeli Government

Miri Eisen, Olmert's spokewoman, said: "It was a positive meeting, part of the ongoing dialogue which helps build confidence between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership."

"They talked a bit about the political horizon," Eisin said, citing "economic ideas that can be implemented".

She added that "final-status" issues were not raised in the first half of the session, also attended by Israel's defence and foreign ministers and Abbas aides.

Ahead of the meeting, Olmert told his weekly cabinet meeting that Israel was ready to talk to Arab nations about their peace plan for the region.

"We are ready to hold talks with any combination of Arab states on their ideas and I would be glad to hear their ideas on the Saudi initiative," he said.

"I'll be glad to hear their ideas and for them to listen to ours," he added. "I hope there will be a chance for such meetings."

Comments by Palestinian Government

Saeb Erekat, a senior adviser to Abbas, said: "This meeting is only the beginning. I don't think that one meeting can solve all the problems ... or [reach] the political horizon."
Arab Plan of 2002

An Arab League committee of 13 foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Wednesday 18 April 2007 to talk about setting up several working groups to promote the 2002 Arab initiative.

Kidnapping of BBC Journalist

The South African government calls on the Palestinians to release the BBC journalist they are currently holding hosting as this only serves to detract from their very real and just cause.

Palestinian-Israeli Prisoner Exchange

Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, has submitted 1,400 names it wants in exchange for Corporal Gilad Shalit, held by Gaza fighters for 10 months.

The statement from Ehud Olmert's office said he had convened a meeting of senior officials and intelligence commanders to discuss the list.

Israeli political sources described the list as "highly problematic" and unacceptable because many on the list had "blood on their hands".

Israel said it would continue its contacts on the matter with Egypt, through whom Hamas handed the names of the prisoners to Israel.

It said that while there had been "some progress in negotiations, they are far from being completed".

"The various reports that have appeared in this context must be treated with due caution in order not to create false hopes," it added.

Ghazi Hamad, an aide to Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister and a Hamas leader, said: "If Israel continues to insist on its own criteria, it will be responsible for the failure to reach a deal."

Aid to Palestine

Oxfam has called on the European Union to resume sending aid to the Palestinian government or risk its territories becoming a failed state.

Oxfam said poverty levels had risen by 30%, basic services faced meltdown and factional violence plagued the streets.

This situation, it says, may prevent a two-state solution with Israel.

Oxfam said the EU should not miss what it called an "opportunity to restore the faith of the Palestinian people in the Europeans' role as an honest broker" of the Middle East peace process.

"International aid should be provided impartially on the basis of need, not as a political tool to change the policies of a government," said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs.

"With Palestinian institutions collapsing and insecurity growing, the resumption of international aid to the Palestinian Authority is a necessary step to preventing further suffering and securing a just and lasting settlement on the basis of international law," he said.

The EU was the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian government until Hamas came to power in March 2006. Since then, the EU has redirected its aid, worth 700m euros (US $943m) in 2006, through a special mechanism to help the neediest people while bypassing the government to avoid contact with Hamas.

The new Palestinian Finance Minister, Salam Fayyad, told EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday 11 April 2007 that his government urgently needed a resumption of funds. Mr Fayyad said that one billion euros ($1.35bn; £681m) in aid was still needed this year in order to avert a deepening of the crisis.

IRAQ

Statement by United Nations Secretary-General following Attack on the Iraqi Parliament

The Secretary-General deplores the bomb attack in the Iraqi Parliament today which has killed several Parliamentarians and left many more people wounded. This attack targeted Iraq's elected officials and attempted to undermine one of the country's sovereign institutions.

The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims, the Government of Iraq and the Council of Representatives. He once again urges all Iraqi leaders to come together in a spirit of unity in order to stem the violence and work towards a more peaceful and stable Iraq.

UN SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT ON TERRORIST ATTACK TARGETING IRAQI PARLIAMENT

"The Security Council condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Iraq that targeted the democratically elected Council of Representatives. The Security Council expresses its deep sympathy and condolences to the victims of this heinous act of terrorism and their families, and to the people and the Government of Iraq.

"The Security Council underlines the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice, and urges all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Iraqi authorities in this regard.

"The Security Council reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

"The Security Council further reaffirms the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. The Council reminds States that they must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

"The Security Council reiterates its determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.

"The Security Council strongly supports efforts to promote national dialogue, reconciliation and broad political participation in ensuring unity, peace, security and stability in Iraq. Furthermore, the Security Council demands that those who use violence in an attempt to subvert the political process must cease hostilities, lay down their arms and participate in that process.

"The Security Council reaffirms its continued support for the Iraqi people and Government as they rebuild their country and strengthen the foundations of sustainable peace, constitutional democracy and social and economic progress."

EU Presidency Statement on the bombing of the Iraqi Parliament

The Presidency of the European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack on the Iraqi parliament on 12 April in which eight people were killed and many others were injured. The Presidency conveys its sympathy to the families of the victims and wishes those who have been injured a speedy recovery.

This was an attack on a major symbol of the nascent Iraqi democracy. The Iraqi people, by holding elections and referendums under extremely difficult conditions, have proved that they want to shape their country in a peaceful and democratic fashion.

The Presidency hopes that the Iraqi people and government will not let violent extremists distract them from this course, and it calls upon all groups and parties in Iraq to embrace their country's development towards peace and freedom.

The international community has a duty to strengthen Iraqi democracy using all means at its disposal. The conferences scheduled to be held in Egypt on 3 and 4 May will make a major contribution towards that end.

Statement by British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett

'I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear of this appalling attack on the democratically elected members of the Iraqi Parliament going about their day to day business. My thoughts go out to the families and friends of those killed and injured in this terrible act.

'Nothing could highlight more the twisted minds of those who are seeking to disrupt the democratic process in Iraq. Those who carry out these outrageous attacks offer nothing to the Iraqi people except more murder and destruction. The Iraqi people have shown great fortitude and courage - they deserve our full and continued support.'

Comments by Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI has voiced his dismay over the turmoil in Iraq and described the country as "torn apart by continual slaughter".

"Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees," the pope told tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter's Square to hear his Easter "Urbi et Orbi" [to the city and the world] message.

He condemned terrorism and the use of religion to justify a "thousand faces of violence" and said "peace is sorely needed".

Elsewhere in his speech the pope touched upon the Middle East saying the region's future was "put seriously in jeopardy" by the political paralysis in Lebanon.

But he said he saw "some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority" following the formation of a Palestinian unity government last month.

NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION

IRAN

Comments by President Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday 9 April 2007 that Iran had begun producing nuclear fuel on "an industrial scale."

During a visit to the Natanz nuclear facility, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the nuclear programme was on its way to the "summit".

"Today... this country has joined the countries that produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale," Ahmadinejad said.

However Mr Larijani said on Wednesday 11 April 2007 that Tehran is open to discussing concerns over its nuclear program, but will not agree to preconditions for the negotiations."

Ali Larijani's comments were a rejection of the U.N. Security Council's demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment before any talks begin. "Any proposal is acceptable should it be effective for reaching compromise, understanding and removal of concerns of both sides."

Mr Larijani salso said he will hold talks with the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in the future. "We had earlier held two telephone conversations and were supposed to negotiate with each other on April 10-13.

"But, this was not possible for me. So, it was decided that the talks would be held after Solana's working trip." He added, "Solana is interested in precise talks. He has said he has ideas which are supported."

The SNSC secretary stated that he told Solana that talks cannot resume based on the previous approach.

Comments by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said here Tuesday that Iran's talks with 5+1 on its peaceful nuclear activities should be comprehensive and serious, adding that they should be objective-oriented and aim to come up with a thorough solution.

"If they have something new to talk about, we have repeatedly declared our readiness for comprehensive and unconditional talks," he said.

Comments by Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani

Larijani also threatened to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty if Tehran were subjected to further international pressure over the issue.

"If they pressure us further we will have no choice but to reconsider our membership of the NPT, as parliament has ruled," he said.

Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Reza Aqazadeh said on Tuesday 10 April 2007 that Iran's plan was not installation and launch of just 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz nuclear site. "We have plans to install 50,000 centrifuges," he told IRNA in an interview.

"This is while we have made investment and planning for 50,000 centrifuges at Natanz.

"When we say we have entered industrial scale enrichment, (it means) there is no way back. Installation of centrifuges will continue steadily to reach a stage where all the 50,000 centrifuges are launched," he stated.

"I was concerned the foreign media would misuse the issue and pretend that Iran's nuclear program would end up in installation of just 3,000 centrifuges," he said.

On future plans of his organization, Aqazadeh added, "The AEOI intends to develop, optimize and update nuclear technology in the future."

In response to a question on an international tender for construction of two 1,000MW power plants, he said, "We will announce the tender for the two power plants within the coming days." He added that Iran owed its progress on peaceful nuclear energy to the guidelines of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

"Sometimes it was very difficult to make a decision but the Supreme Leader adopted wise decisions on such circumstances."

International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, has said it has gaps in its knowledge about Iran's plans that must be filled before it can decide whether or not the programme is peaceful.

The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog Dr Mohamed ElBaradei said on Thursday 12 April 2007 that Iran was still at the starting stage of creating a uranium enrichment plant and that concerns stemmed more from its motivations than the scale of production.

"There are various definitions of industrial scale production. Iran is still at the starting stage of creating a uranium enrichment plant," Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters in Riyadh.

"The fears do not only stem from Iran conducting industrial production but rather Iran's aims behind (enriching uranium) before it has nuclear reactors for electric power generation that need enriched uranium."

"(Iran) is still going ahead with the construction of the Natanz reactor ... with the goal of having 54,000 centrifuges. Now it is still at the hundreds stage," ElBaradei said.
ElBaradei confirmed that IAEA inspectors were in Iran. They began this week a routine visit to the Natanz facility where Iran carries out its enrichment work, an Iranian official has said, and could provide the first independent assessment of Iran's assertion.

"Since uranium is being enriched under the supervision of the IAEA, this means Iran cannot enrich uranium to the scale that would raise concerns on its use for weapons," he said.

"The risk from Iran is not of tomorrow or after tomorrow, we have to understand this. Even those who believe Iran's goal is to produce nuclear weapons, believe this will not happen for years," ElBaradei said.

"The risk is linked to the future possibilities in Iran's intentions, and this will require a global solution for regional security."

Mohamed ElBaradei, said on conclusion of visit to the Middle East that fears about Iran's future nuclear intentions are "not for today, but in the coming five to 10 years," an apparent reminder to Mideast nations they don't need to rush into nuclear programs for fear Iran will build a nuclear weapon soon.

"We still have plenty of time to solve the problem peacefully," he said.

"We haven't seen the (Iranian) program dedicated for military purposes and we didn't see underground installations," ElBaradei said Sunday 15 April 2007.

"We still have a lot of time to cooperate to resolve these problems by peaceful means. There is no way to resolve the problem and reach a solution except by negotiation," he said.

At the end of the day the Middle East should be a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, a zone in which Israel and Iran are both members," ElBaradei said.

"This is the last chance to build a security system in the Middle East based on cooperation and trust and not the possession of nuclear weapons."

EU Presidency Statement on the Iranian nuclear programme

The Presidency of the European Union has noted with great concern the announcement by Iran that it intends to begin uranium enrichment on an industrial scale.

Such a step by Iran would directly contradict the repeated requests by the IAEA Board of Governors and the binding calls on Iran by the UN Security Council, in Resolutions 1737 and 1747, to suspend all enrichment-related activities.

The Presidency of the European Union once again urges Iran to comply with the demands of the international community and to create the conditions for a return to the negotiating table and for a solution to the conflict surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme.

Comments by European Commission

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, urged the Islamic Republic Tuesday to comply to its obligations under the NPT.

"Iran should comply to its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and that it should implement the UN Security Council resolution," Commission spokesperson for external relations, Christiane Hohmann, told reporters in Brussels.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister, you say you are confident the situation in Côte d'Ivoire is moving forward. Are you confident that the twice postponed elections will now be held?

Answer If processes are moving and if all parties agree, and if the two outstanding issues - identification and unification - can be resolved I cannot see why we cannot meet the deadline.

However, if the deadline cannot be met, then the Security Council would have to discuss whether to extend this deadline or not. This will have to be by the collective decision of all Ivorian parties.

As I said, in our discussions with the French, who are very familiar with this situation, there was a general feeling that we are on track.

At the moment, we do believe that we can meet the deadline.

Question Deputy Minister, has South Africa been requested by the Security Council to provide equipment and personnel to the hybrid force in Darfur?

Answer Now that the decision has been taken regarding the hybrid force, the Secretary-General, together with the AU, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Sudanese government will have to meet and determine exactly what is needed.

We hope that the meeting that is currently underway in New York, chaired by the Secretary-General will emerge with concrete details on how to unpack the broader agreement.

We will deal with any further requests as they emerge from the AU.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, will South Africa be a strong proponent in the Security Council to have MONUC's mandate extended?

Answer The DRC is very crucial to the peace and stability of Africa. A peaceful, stable DRC is fundamental to the implementation of NEPAD and the African agenda - because of its centrality and resources.

We have been arguing in the Security Council with a few countries, in line with the report of the Secretary-General, that we must not take hasty decisions regarding ending the MONUC mandate based on costs.

We fully support the Secretary-General's view that the full MONUC contingent should be extended until 31 December 2007 and if need be further extended.

We will take a very proactive position on this matter.

There is a French resolution that is being discussed. We will make recommendations where we need to but we will fully support the extension.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, I remember seeing a report last week that the US would want to propose regulations to prevent countries that do not have uranium enrichment purposes to not have access to such technology. What is your view of this?

Answer We think that the right of all countries who belong to the IAEA to have nuclear energy for peaceful purposes cannot be challenged nor debated.
Those who are signatories to the Charter and who comply with all regulations are entitled to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

As you know, South Africa does have its own PMBR programme.

Incidentally, in our meeting with the French, who are one of the most advanced countries in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, we discussed collaboration in this area.

We also accept that it is Iran's right, as a member of the IAEA, to use nuclear energy for peaceful means. The challenge with Iran is that there is no confidence because of past experiences and no security as to its future intentions. This is why we support the Iranian right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while calling on Iran to conclude its discussions with the IAEA so that their programme can be declared safe.

The right to use nuclear power cannot be curtailed by those who already have such power although we will not support the use of this power for non-peaceful means.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, how can you be sure that Iran will not use nuclear energy for purposes that are not peaceful?

Answer This is why we have been strongly urging the Iranian authorities - within the IAEA, the Security Council and bilaterally - to overcome this no-confidence between the EU-US and Iran by completing their negotiations and answering satisfactorily the two outstanding issues so that their programme can be declared safe.

The key thing is: Iran's present capacity to produce nuclear weapons is not being disputed. What is being questioned is Iran's future intentions. This debate can be closed if Iran complies with requests by the IAEA.

We cannot look at future intentions. My concern is that as we warned a few months ago, Iran is threatening to withdraw from the IAEA and not adhere to the non-proliferation treaty. We are therefore urging the Director-General of the IAEA to spend a lot more time finalising this matter.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
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17 April 2007

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