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African Nations React to Iraq War


As the U.S.-led war against Iraq continues, so does reaction from around the world.

Three African countries - Angola, Cameroon and Guinea - are members of the U.N. Security Council. They would have cast crucial votes on whether to approve military action against Iraq had a second U.N. resolution been presented to the council. While they did not get a chance to do so, some African countries, as well as the African Union, are making their views on war with Iraq known.

"Our position is very clear. It has not changed since the meeting of the Central Organ [of the African Union] of February 3 at the heads of state level, where it was decided that we would have preferred the full implementation of Resolution 1441 by Iraqi administration," said African Union spokesman Desmond Orjiako. "If the inspectors had continued with their work, Africa believes that some other peaceful means could have been found in disarming Iraq instead of going to war."

Mr. Orjiako said war kills innocent people and destroys needed infrastructure. In addition, he said Africa has other concerns.

"Our biggest concern is that war between the rich and the poor begets greater poverty for the poor, especially for the Africans who are already marginalized as the poorest continent in the whole hemisphere," he explained. "We would have liked that 100 percent of the billions of dollars and pounds are being expended for this war should have been given to Africa in aid to solve these so many problems. We have the problem of HIV/AIDS; we have the problems of conflicts, and the problem of natural disasters."

Some African countries see the Iraq war differently. Ethiopia is one of two African countries listed by the State Department as members of the coalition of the willing. Abdul Mejid Hussein, Ethiopia's ambassador to the United Nations, said his country knows the devastation of war, having fought one of the longest civil wars in Africa. But Ambassador Hussein said the history of Ethiopia has made it necessary for it to support the war against Iraq.

"For us in Ethiopia, it takes us back to the mid-'30s, when Fascist Italy and Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and the League of Nations did nothing. So if we put it in perspective, for us, the failure of collective security is not a good thing. Our position is that the United States as an old ally and friend asked us for a couple of things to grant them overflights and basing, and we agreed to that. That's our position," Mr. Hussein said.

Ambassador Hussein said Ethiopia is proud to be a part of the regional and global fight against terrorism. He said Ethiopia supports the African Union position on finding a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis. But Ambassador Hussein said on a bilateral level, Ethiopia and the United States enjoy over 100 years of diplomatic friendship.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has been an outspoken opponent of war against Iraq. Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesman for the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed President Mbeki's concerns that the war against Iraq is a blow to multilateralism.

"We express our regrets at the launch of a war against Iraq. It is our view that war is not a solution to world problems. We think that it sets a regrettable precedence of undermining the authority of the United Nations. In that context, therefore, we call on the United Nations to assert its authority to ensure that, whatever action is being undertaken, takes place within the framework of international humanitarian law," Mr. Mamoepa said.

On the eve of the attack on Iraq, Wednesday, March 19 the United States for security reasons temporally closed its embassies and consulates in a number of countries, including South Africa. But Mr. Mamoepa said no one should have the impression that this was the end of bilateral relations between the two countries. On the contrary, he said bilateral relations between South Africa and the United States are on course.

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