U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is still abroad in Spain and then he's off to the Netherlands where, among other things, he will take part in the 60th anniversary commemoration of the U.N.'s International Court of Justice in The Hague. Meanwhile, here at the U.N. in New York, diplomats and UN staff enjoy a short week (The U.N. takes Good Friday as a holiday).
African issues dominate this week: Council members are still trying to hammer out an agreement on how to authorize the transfer of the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor to the Netherlands from Sierra Leone for security reasons. Thorny legal questions and issues aimed at ensuring that he not be able to challenge his arrest and trial in The Hague need to be resolved before council action. In addition, further funding and security have to be agreed upon. (Already, some $14 million is needed for the Special Court in Sierra Leone and last Friday Annan renewed an urgent appeal to member states for voluntary contributions.)
On Thursday, the council is scheduled to hold an open briefing to be followed by closed-door consultations on the latest developments in Darfur. Taking part will be the African Union's chief mediator for Darfur peace talks, Salim Ahmed Salim, who is to update council members regarding recent talks held in Nigeria. Meanwhile, efforts are still underway on how to transition an African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur to an eventual U.N.-run mission in the fall. Also, the U.N.'s chief emergency relief official, Jan Egeland, was prevented last week by the Sudanese government from visiting Darfur to evaluate humanitarian conditions. The Sudanese government has indicated that he would be permitted to visit in the future but so far, U.N. officials say, there has been no formal invitation.
Extension of the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea is also on the schedule. The current mandate expires this weekend.
Other issues: The International Atomic Energy Association's director, Mohamed Elbaradei, is expected in Tehran for a short visit to meet with Iran's nuclear negotiator and other government officials. Elbaradei is due to report by April 28 on Iran's compliance with U.N. Security Council demands to halt all uranium enrichment activities and clarify outstanding questions about its nuclear efforts. He said last week that his nuclear monitoring agency needs to understand certain important issues before it "could be satisfied that all activities in Iran are exclusively for peaceful purposes." He described its current state of knowledge as "hazy."