UN Gives Sanction Violators Chance to Improve

April 28, 2000

UN Gives Sanction Violators Chance to Improve

The United Nations Security Council has given countries accused of violating sanctions against Angola's UNITA rebels six months to improve their records before deciding whether to impose U.N. penalties.

According to the Associated Press, the council warned in a unanimously adopted resolution that it would consider "appropriate action" against violators based on accusations in a blunt report on breaches of the sanctions and a continuing investigation by a new monitoring panel. While vague and lacking actual punitive measures, the resolution marks the first time the council formally suggested applying "secondary sanctions" for violators of U.N. embargoes, diplomats said.

In a groundbreaking report issued last month, an independent investigation outlined the violations of the U.N. fuel and arms embargo and ban on rebel diamond sales that enabled UNITA to restart a 20-year-old war with the government in December 1998, shattering a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

The report alleges the presidents of two African nations, Burkina Faso and Togo, helped UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi with arms and fuel shipments in exchange for diamonds.

The report also accuses Belgium of having such lax standards in its Antwerp diamond markets that rogue dealers were able to trade UNITA gems with virtually no obstacles.

The countries implicated have denied the allegations, defended their records and challenged the report's evidence, noting it relied heavily on information provided by rebel defectors. Several, however, told the council they had taken measures to investigate the allegations by setting up government commissions and committees.

The independent panel report recommended a host of measures to tighten the grip of sanctions around UNITA, including a three-year arms embargo on countries that violate the weapons ban. The chairman of the sanctions committee for Angola, Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada, says the absence in the resolution of any new embargoes shouldn't be seen as a lack of resolve by the council.

- by Mark E. Dixon