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Darfur, Iraq main concernsas Spain heads UN Council

1 September 2004

MADRID – The humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s Darfur and the ongoing instability in Iraq topped the agenda as Spain took over the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council Wednesday.
Spain took over the presidency weeks ahead of a diplomatic offensive by the country’s new Socialist leaders.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is set to open a three-day visit to New York on September 19 accompanied by Foreign Minister and former EU Middle East envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Spanish officials said no meeting was scheduled between Zapatero and US President George W. Bush.

In contrast, the Spanish leader will meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, French President Jacques Chirac, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Chilean counterpart Ricardo Lagos on September 20 as part of Lula’s initiative to stop the spread of hunger.

Prior to Zapatero’s surprise general election victory in March following the Madrid train bombings, Spain, under his conservative predecessor Jose Maria Aznar, was a solid supporter of the US-led intervention in Iraq.

The new administration has reversed this policy.

Zapatero pulled Spanish forces from Iraq within weeks of formally taking power in April, having made withdrawal a key electoral pledge.

Darfur will immediately loom large as Spain embarks on its one-month presidency, with the UN having threatened possible sanctions against Khartoum.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Constance Newman on Tuesday held talks with senior Sudanese officials in Khartoum before returning to Washington ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Darfur expected later this week.

A Security Council deadline for Sudan to rein in pro-government militias accused of conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign in Darfur or face possible sanctions expired on Sunday.

According to the United Nations, more than 1.4 million people have fled their homes and more than 30,000 have been killed during the 18-month-old Darfur conflict, many in raids conducted by pro-Khartoum Arab militia.

A range of consultations and briefings – many on assorted African flashpoints – are in the pipeline through September, while the Spanish presidency will also oversee reports into UN missions in Afghanistan and Haiti, where Spanish troops are currently being deployed.

Also on the agenda are two reports emanating from UN Resolution 1546, adopted in June on the transition to a provisional Iraqi government.

The United States will present a third report to the Council on September 10 on the operations of multinational forces stationed in Iraq.

Madrid, which wanted Iraq to come under sole UN control, agreed to vote for the text while adding the rider that it believed it “does not represent the Spanish) government’s aspirations.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International appealed to Spain to use its presidency to “create an international commission of inquiry on war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the use of rape as a weapon of war” in Sudan.

Amnesty called on Spain to “step up diplomatic pressure on Sudan to respect its engagements,” including the disarming of militia.

The Security Council has 15 members, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States being permanent members.

A further ten states are serving two-year terms after their election by the UN General Assembly.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news