'The British do the diplomacy, and the Americans write the cheques'

by Rory Carroll, Duncan Campbell, Jo Tuckman and Rory McCarthy (Friday February 28, 2003, The Guardian)


Security council Six countries with an uncertain stance must weigh up the risks - and rewards - of backing the US

Six waverers hold votes on the United Nations security council, and therefore the key to UN backing for war with Iraq. They are being wooed by the alliance of the US and Britain and by France. A UN observer said yesterday: "The British are doing the diplomacy and the Americans are writing the cheques."

Angola Willing to come off the fence in return for post-civil war aid

The latest diplomatic signals from Luanda suggest that Angola is coming off the fence to support a new UN resolution authorising war in Iraq.

Officially the government still toes the African Union's line that military action is a last resort, but a shift in tone in recent days suggests lobbying by the US and UK is paying off.

Observers caution that Angola's security council vote could go either way and the foreign minister, Joao Miranda, has kept his options open. Yet he struck a hawkish tone in comments to the Associated Press, pointing out that Luanda clinched peace via a 27-year civil war.

The government, which relies heavily on US investment and foreign aid, would not be swayed by peacenik neighbours, he added. Britain's minister for Africa, Valerie Amos, met President Jose Eduardo dos Santos yesterday, following up on phone calls by George Bush and Dick Cheney. Angola was offered help by the US for post-civil war reconstruction and Washington has said it would turn a blind eye if the government goes back on promises of moves to open democracy.

US companies are also heavily involved in Angola's oil industry, and it is believed that the US gave technical intelligence support leading to the killing of the rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, last year.

Cameroon President under pressure to drop allegiance to French in election year

Cameroon has been one of France's most forthright supporters in the security council, wanting to find any way to avoid war against Iraq. One of the reasons is that France is by far the biggest donor and business partner for Cameroon, and it carries most of the country's debt. On top of that one-third of the population of Cameroon is Muslim.

On the other hand, it doesn't want to break ranks with the other African security council members, which look more likely to side with America. And with Cameroon's president, Paul Biya, facing a turbulent election to continue his 20-year rule, he is reluctant to upset the US or any other western contributor to the International Monetary Fund.

Cameroonian ministers stress that their position is not entrenched and that the two weeks before the resolution deadline may be enough for the inspectors to complete their work. James Astill

Chile Public fiercely opposed to war, but trade ties may swing its vote

Chile is currently under heavy pressure from the United States to fall into line on Iraq but has yet to make a final decision. Initially, Chile favoured a moderate approach which would allow the UN inspectors as much time as they needed but over the past two days they have come under increasing pressure to back the US.

President Bush has personally called President Ricardo Lagos to ask for his support. While the details of the telephone conversation have not been revealed, there is much speculation in Chile that the US is using the possibility of a free trade agreement, currently under discussion in the US, to extract support from Lagos. Public opinion in Chile is opposed to the war and La Tercera newspaper summed up much of the media's reservations yesterday by running strong criticism of the USposition.

But Chilean diplomats say they are under pressure to back the US. Japan, a leading trading partner, has also been trying to persuade Chile to back the US position.

"There is an incessant action by the United States with all the countries that are members of the security council," said the Chilean deputy foreign minis ter, Cristian Barrios, last week. "Every time the United States calls, it's to discuss the situation from their point of view."

Guinea Muslim state quietly weighs up advantages of siding with US

Ambiguity remains the watchword for a Muslim state which officially agrees with Africa's doves but is busy weighing the material benefits of supporting Washington when it takes over the security council's rotating presidency tomorrow.

"We advocate continued inspections, but not indefinitely," said its UN ambassador, Mamady Traore. "We are not going to sell our dignity because we need money or material. Not my country."

Given Turkey's public haggling with the US, few accept such statements at face value.

By abstaining or voting "no", Guinea would win the approval of most African Union members as well as the gratitude of France, its second biggest aid donor after the US. For an impoverished state struggling to cope with refugees and regional turmoil the rewards of voting "yes" are looming larger, according to analysts.

The US has promised to train Guinea's army rangers; Guinea will also receive much of the £4m Britain recently earmarked for west Africa's refugees. Baroness Amos visited the capital, Conakry, earlier this week.

Mexico Close ties to US, but public opinion is against the war in an election year

Mexico's anti-war position began to flag this week, opening for the first time the possibility of a vote in favour of a resolution giving a green light to military action.

The government insists that nothing has changed and that it is merely promoting a consensus solution within the security council, but the tone is undoubtedly new.

Last week President Vicente Fox publicly prayed for peace; this week he has urged for the complete disarmament of Iraq without the previously routine addition of the phrase "by peaceful means" or mention of the inspectors. US pressure is assumed to be behind this change of emphasis.

Rumours are rife of sweeteners being promised to restart stalled negotiations for a deal for Mexican migrants. But no reliable details of behind-the-scenes wrangling have yet emerged, and the US would have to offer a lot to offset the domestic political cost for Mr Fox in an election year with the Mexican public overwhelmingly against the war.

If it was voting today Mexico would be likely to abstain.

Pakistan Power of Islamist parties likely to force Musharraf to abstain

After strident opposition to a war against Iraq, General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, began to waver this week when he suggested that Hans Blix's next report to the security council might yet encourage him to vote for the second resolution.

"All weapons of mass destruction should be destroyed. We'll take a definite position after seeing the Blix report," the general said at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Yesterday, Christina Rocca, the US assistant secretary of state, arrived in Islamabad to win his vote and she may be encouraged by these words. Nevertheless most analysts in Islamabad still predict that Pakistan will abstain, noting that Gen Musharraf also said this week he wanted to "give peace a chance".

He is under tremendous pressure at home, where the vast majority of Pakistanis oppose a war in Iraq.
Islamist parties, which for the first time in the country's history have become a significant opposition force in parliament, are promising a "million-man march" against the war in Karachi on Sunday. More street protests will certainly follow.

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