, UNITED NATIONS, Dec 2 – The UN Security Council on Friday refused to delay a vote next week on taking sanctions against Eritrea so the isolated country’s head of state can make his case, diplomats said.
The vote is set for Monday but President Issaias Afeworki does not have enough time to get to New York, according to the UN envoy for the impoverished nation, which is accused of plotting an attack on an African Union summit this year.
Several Security Council members, including Russia, China and South Africa, argued in informal talks for the vote to be delayed for two days, diplomats said. But the 15-member body stuck to the schedule demanded by the United States and Gabon, which drew up the resolution.
“It is going to be Monday,” said Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin after the talks, but he said the details of who would be present are not clear. Some East African ministers are expected to address the meeting by video-link.
Afeworki asked in October to speak to the Security Council which sent an invitation this week.
Eritrea’s UN ambassador Araya Desta told AFP that Afeworki wanted to attend but did not get a visa to enter the United States on time to organise a flight.
However US officials said visas were granted within hours of the application being made. Diplomats said Afeworki still had three days to get to the UN headquarters.
Council members Gabon and Nigeria drew up the sanctions resolution against Eritrea. Gabon, backed by the United States, had pressed for a vote last Wednesday but they were persuaded to wait until Monday to give Afeworki a chance.
Ethiopia and other East African countries have led the campaign outside the council for tougher action against Eritrea.
Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993 and the two have remained arch-rivals ever since.
A UN report this year accused the Asmara government of involvement in a plot to bomb an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital.
Kenya has complained about Eritrea’s backing for Al Shabaab Islamist militants in Somalia, while Djibouti has a border dispute with its neighbour.
The UN sanctions monitoring group said in a report released in July that Eritrea was giving political, financial and logistical support to Al Shabaab and other groups.
The draft sanctions resolution would widen a travel ban and assets freeze against Eritrean individuals and entities passed by the Security Council in 2009.
It demands that Eritrea “cease all direct or indirect efforts to destabilise states, including through financial, military, intelligence and non-military assistance.” It also “condemns” the alleged Eritrean plot to bomb the African summit.
The government has denied the allegations and the Eritrean ambassador called the resolution “outrageous”.
Demands in the first draft resolution to ban investment in Eritrea’s key mining industry and a government tax on remittances sent back by Eritrean workers abroad have been dropped.
The resolution “decides” that Eritrea shall “cease using extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea from its nationals.”
The document also expresses concern at the “potential use” of Eritrea’s new mining revenues to “destabilise the Horn of Africa region”. It calls on UN states to use greater “vigilance” in dealing with the Eritrean mining sector.