African votes to decide on Iraq war

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afrol News, 14 February - As the UN Security Council today is set to discuss a resolution that may legitimise a war against Iraq, it may well be the three African votes that are decisive. If Angola, Guinea or Cameroon vote against war, a French or Russian veto will not be necessary. But how will they vote?

None of the three temporary African Security Council members has so far announced how they will vote. There are however indications Angola will vote alongside the USA, Cameroon together with France, while Guinea's vote remains totally open. 

Nine votes are necessary to approve a resolution in the Council, if no permanent member opts for a veto. On the other hand, there is no need for a majority to not approve a resolution - abstention is enough. Therefore, those favouring a new resolution that opens for an attack against Iraq are the ones needing to raise sufficient votes. 

The secured votes in favour of an attack on Iraq are those of the US, UK, Bulgaria and Spain. The very pro-American government of Chile is also seen as a relatively secure supporter of a new resolution. Further, it is believed that Angola has been won for a US-British draft resolution text. 

Voting against a resolution that legitimises an Iraq war will most certainly be Syria, Germany, France, China and Russia. Pakistan and Mexico probably will not support a pro-war resolution and are expected to abstain or vote against. The anti-war coalition needs to keeps Pakistan and Mexico from voting and win over Guinea or Cameroon to effectively block a majority vote for an attack on Iraq. This achieved permanent members France, Russia and China will not have to use their veto and will sound more credible in claiming there is a worldwide alliance against war. 

The scramble for the African votes has been held at high diplomatic levels. Even if Africa as a region is profoundly against a war, as manifested in a recent resolution against war in the African Union, there are strong indications of check book diplomacy by Washington and Paris in Angola, Guinea and Cameroon, that disregards Africa's official view. 

In Washington it is claimed that Angola has been won over for the US-British resolution text. Angola, which is a close ally of South Africa - the sub-Saharan African country that most clearly has condemned an Iraq war - has been under tremendous US pressure. Discussing Angola's stand, even US officials consequently emphasise the important economic relations between the two countries: Angola provides one sixth of the USA's total oil imports, making America its biggest investor. In January, the US announced that it would give an additional US$ 4.1 million emergency relief for Angola. 

US President Bush earlier this week has spoken by phone with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola. According to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, the two presidents had discussed the Iraqi crisis and expressed "their shared view that Saddam Hussein must disarm and comply" fully with previous UN resolutions. These are however arguments also used by the anti-war block, and Mr Fleischer could not announce any direct Angolan support for a US draft resolution. 

In Cameroon, the French diplomacy has been equally active as the Americans i Angola. French President Jacques Chirac has spoken by phone with his Cameroonian counterpart, Paul Biya, and vague reports from Yaoundé suggest Cameroon favours giving more time to the UN's weapon inspectors. 

Cameroon traditionally has been one of the most stable French allies on the African continent, and President Biya has always been able to count on firm support from Paris. New oil reservoirs and a US-finances oil pipeline from Chad to the Cameroonian coast however have led to closer ties between Yaoundé and Washington/Houston. 

Guinea remains the most insecure factor in the Council's vote. The French ex-colony has a proud tradition of claiming its independence towards Paris, but also has been more attached to Moscow than Washington throughout its history. 

Guinea's military dictator Lansana Conté in person is reported to favour a pro-African vote against war, thus demonstrating Guinea's traditionally independent views. On the other hand, Conakry is becoming increasingly dependent on US economic and military aid. The IMF, which is thoroughly dominated by US capital, has become Guinea's major financial source and Guinean military are trained and equipped by the US. 

Just as in Europe and the EU, thus, the concept of unity will probably become the losing party in the scramble for African votes in the Security Council. The ongoing check book diplomacy has demonstrated the governments are more bound to follow national economic interests that working for African unity. 

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