On the Security Council agenda: U.S. Ambassador John Bolton concludes his tenure as council president for the month of February with a focus on the crisis in Darfur, Sudan and what to do about it. Last year, the Security council authorized targeted sanctions against those impeding the peace process and appointed experts to investigate whom sanctions should be imposed against. On Monday, council members will begin discussions on the panel report, which names about 18 individuals who could eventually be subject to sanctions, which would include a travel ban and asset freeze. Those individuals include Sudan's ministers of defense and interior and its intelligence chief, as well as some senior military and police officers, two militia leaders and three rebel commanders. U.S. diplomats said Monday's meeting is a step toward the U.S. goal of getting U.N. sanctions imposed on specific individuals and the U.S. is already working in Washington to get the names listed. What's not clear is whether various council members -- like China which has opposed sanctions against Sudan in the past -- has had a change of view.
Bolton is also expected to press ahead for a new Security Council resolution authorizing a major U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur to take over from a smaller African Union-run effort. But again, the US seems be out front on this move, with other council members determined to wait until the African Union officially approves such a transfer. The group meets on Friday, March 3.
On Tuesday, the Middle East takes center stage with an open meeting and closed-door consultations on the topic. The sessions will provide a chance for council members to discuss the status of an ongoing investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the state of Syrian cooperation with the inquiry as well as recent Palestinian elections and what to do when a new Hamas-led cabinet is formed, most likely in March. U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Alvaro de Soto is also to brief. He's been warning that cutting funds for Palestinians now could lead to a collapse of the current caretaker Palestinian government.
On Wednesday, the Security Council presidency rotates to Argentina for the month of March and a program of work for the month is being formulated.
Management Reform: U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan -- who returns from meetings abroad -- is slated to present a long-awaited report to the 191-member General Assembly on Thursday about overhauling management at the U.N. Last week, his chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, promised the plan would include "radical" proposals. The U.S. has been on the vanguard of pursuing far-reaching and continuing reform, and Ambassador Bolton has stressed that "reform is not a one-night stand."
A New Human Rights Council? Last week General Assembly President Jan Eliaason presented a compromise plan for a new council to replace the long-discredited Human Rights Commission. He hoped it could be approved as early as this week. But the U.S. was not completely pleased with the text and indicated it might need to be renegotiated in order to strengthen it. Various member states, human rights groups and the secretary general gave it qualified support but urged approval.