France takes over divided Security Council

1st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

France took over the presidency of the UN Security Council on Sunday playing a central role in the international campaign against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and with a new crisis to handle in Syria.

The 15-nation council could not agree a statement condemning the violence in Syria and is increasingly divided over Libya, with Russia, China and India blocking new sanctions against Kadafi's entourage, diplomats said.

Russia and others believe that air attacks by France, Britain, the United States and their allies are going beyond UN Security Council resolutions.

Divisions could come to the forefront again this week when International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo briefs the council on Wednesday on a possible war crimes investigation.

UN special envoy to Libya, Abdul Ilah Khatib, the former Jordanian foreign minister, is also to hold talks with the council this week on his efforts to bring Kadhafi and rebel leaders closer to a ceasefire.

France is a key military leader in the international coalition patrolling the no-fly zone over Libya but French President Nicolas admitted this week he did not know how long the conflict would last now. "I cannot read the tea-leaves," he said at a summit in Rome.

And that will make life more difficult for France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud who also wants to use the month to bring more forgotten crises such as Democratic Republic of Congo back to the forefront of the council agenda.

An open debate on the country where millions have died in conflict since 1998 will be held on May 18. The United Nations now wants to draw down its biggest peacekeeping force -- about 20,000 troops -- in the country and turn more toward nation-building.

"It will be the most important moment of the month," Araud told AFP in an interview.

"It is a subject that is no longer on the front pages, but it is the kind of topic which forms the basis of the dignity of the United Nations," he said highlighting the work of the global body in DR Congo.

"These are extremely difficult, extremely blood conflicts which do not interest many among the major players in the international community. In a general manner, because they have no interests there, they do not want to get involved.

"The United Nations goes there and they are along going there."

Security Council ambassadors are also due to visit Africa at the end of May.

They are to go to Nairobi, to discuss the Somalia conflict and the transitional government's efforts, and to the southern and northern Sudan capitals, Juba and Khartoum.

Amid lingering tensions with the rival north, the south is to formally declare itself independent on July 9.

Araud said he is in the camp which considers the UN Security Council too formal -- "everyone just reads his speeches" -- and so he aims to use some "French fantasy" to add energy to the debate.

The ambassador said he made a first breakthrough when he was last the council president in February 2010 "I managed to convince everyone that we could use first names during closed consultions.

"You might say that is not very revolutionary, but I am going to try again to give the Security Council discussions a bit more character of a real exchange and not just ambassadors reading pre-written speeches.

"We have very often, too often, been just a series of monologues. So I am going to bring a bit of French fantasy into the game."

The French mission website is at

© 2011 AFP

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