UN Security Council wrangles over Eritrea sanctions

December 1, 2011 2:59 pm

, UNITED NATIONS, Dec 1 – UN Security Council nations on Wednesday wrangled over a bid to impose new sanctions on secretive Eritrea, which has been accused of plotting a bomb attack on an African summit.

With some countries insisting Eritrea’s President Issaias Afeworki be allowed to address the council, Russia led opposition to demands by the United States and Gabon for a vote Wednesday, diplomats said.

US ambassador Susan Rice said the 15 member council finally agreed to hold a vote on the resolution on Monday.

The measure would widen the scope of sanctions ordered against Eritrea in 2009.

The Security Council has spent almost two months discussing a resolution drawn up by Gabon to condemn and Afeworki officially asked to put his country’s case against sanctions.

The United States opposes his presence however.

“We still think it’s redundant and likely counterproductive to have a spectacle in the Security Council in which heads of state make emotional statements,” Rice told reporters as she emerged from the talks.

“But if that’s what they choose to do, it will happen and we will vote on Monday,” she added.

Gabon officially registered a resolution on Tuesday and, with US backing, said it would call for a vote on Wednesday. The start of Security Council meetings was held up by the heated talks, diplomats said.

Sanctions on Eritrea’s crucial mining industry and banning a government tax on remissions from abroad have been taken out of the resolution in the negotiations in recent weeks.

But the current draft still includes a threat to increase the number of individuals subject to current sanctions. It also includes references to an alleged Eritrean plot to bomb an African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January and the country’s support for Shabaab Islamist militants in Somalia, diplomats said.

In December 2009, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo, travel restrictions and asset freezes on Eritrean leaders for their alleged support to Shabaab in the civil war against Somalia’s Western-backed transitional government.

“Even without the sanctions, there is still tough language in the new resolution,” said one diplomat involved in the talks, on condition of anonymity.

Rival Ethiopia has been calling for sanctions against Eritrea for several months because of the plot. Kenya has raised concerns over the Shabaab links as it is battling the Islamist militia.

Afeworki has strongly denied arming Shabaab rebels or that Eritrea was involved in a plot, outlined in a UN sanctions committee report, to bomb the summit in the Ethiopian capital.


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