African Security Council Trio Thought Likely to Support U.S. on Iraq

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Despite Africa's stated common policy against the war in Iraq, analysts here believe the continent's three non-permanent members of the Security Council will back the U.S. when a vote is called on a final U.N. resolution.

Regional security analyst Dr. Hassouna Mustafa said any refusal by the three - Angola, Guinea, and Cameroon - to support the U.S. position could involve a risk they cannot afford to take.

"The options for African members in the Security Council are limited," he said. "The Republicans who control the Senate and the Congress could decide to limit development assistance to these countries."

Trade relations with Washington could also be strained, Mustafa added.

In order to secure passage of the latest resolution on Iraq - in the absence of a veto from a permanent member - the U.S. needs the support of eight other Security Council members.

It already has the backing of Britain, Spain and Bulgaria, and so needs another five.

With Syria and Germany having made their opposition clear, this leaves a pool of just six non-permanent members from which the required five votes will need to come - Mexico, Pakistan, Chile, and the African trio.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner last week visited Guinea, Angola and Cameroon to drum up support at the Security Council.

Nonetheless, Angolan Information Minister Hendrik Vaal Neto was quoted Tuesday as saying his country believed U.N. weapons inspectors should "finish their job first" and the U.S. should not "rush to go to war."

He denied suggestions that the U.S. was pressurizing the southwest African country to support its position.

But African analysts point to reports citing U.S. officials as warning that Security Council members failing to cooperate could risk "paying a heavy price."

Angola is a formerly pro-Soviet country that has been ravaged by decades of civil war. It also produces crude oil and gets much of its state income from oil operations run with heavy U.S. investment.

Angola moreover gets both security and humanitarian development assistance from the U.S.

Cameroon has had military relations with U.S. for many years, and American armed forces have been stationed there. The U.S. provided $190,000 in security assistance to the central African country last year, although humanitarian assistance was limited.

Cameroon's foreign minister, Francois-Xavier Ngoubeyou, speaking at the Non-Aligned
Movement summit in Malaysia, declined to say yet whether or not his country would back the latest resolution, presented Monday by the U.S., Britain and Spain.

While the governments of Angola and Cameroon are thought unlikely to face serious domestic opposition should they support the U.S. on Iraq, Guinea is a different situation.

Guinea has a majority (85 percent) Muslim population, and its government could face considerable internal opposition to any decision to support force against Iraq.

On the other hand, Guinea has in recent years received substantial U.S. security and humanitarian aid.

The government of Guinea is reported to be awaiting the next U.N. weapons inspectors' report at the end of this week.

"These inspectors were given a mandate by the Security Council," a Guinean diplomat was quoted as saying. "It's premature to make a decision [on the resolution] until the report is made."

A U.S. Agency for International Development policy document says Washington views Guinea as a moderate Muslim country, important to U.S. foreign policy interests.

USAID's support programs in Guinea cover natural resource management, health, education, and democratization.

French 'Bait'

As the U.S. presses to win over the African trio at the Security Council, they are also coming under pressure from the opposing camp, spearheaded by France.

France, which was one of the major European colonial powers in Africa, has been seeking to increase its sway on the continent, as illustrated by last week's summit of African leaders in Paris.

At the gathering, French President Jacques Chirac said African leaders had assured him of unanimous support that weapons inspections, not war, offered the best way to disarm Iraq.

Paris later announced a 50 percent increase in its foreign development assistance, with the largest chunk destined for African countries.

France is the former colonial ruler of Guinea and of part of what is now Cameroon (the other part was British-ruled), while Angola was a Portuguese colony.

Experts don't believe that the historical ties or French pledges of increased development aid will win over the African countries, however.

Hassan Warobi, a political scientist based in Kenya, described the French aid pledge as "bait" and a "token."

"It is unlikely that Africa would prefer France in place of the U.S.," he said.

(CNSNews Pacific Rim Bureau Chief Patrick Goodenough contributed to this report.)

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