It appears that decision time is getting closer for the United Nations on a number of important international issues this week, including a U.S. push for the U.N. Security Council to impose targeted sanctions against four Sudanese nationals accused of human rights violations in Darfur. Washington could force a vote on the issue in the coming days, according to U.S. officials.
Last Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton circulated a draft resolution that would authorize travel and financial sanctions against a Sudanese military commander, two rebel commanders and one Janjaweed chief. So far, China -- which is a major trading partner and importer of Sudanese oil -- and Russia have opposed such sanctions, maintaining they could hurt the prospects of peace talks underway in Abuja, Nigeria (which are to conclude by April 30). A vote on the draft resolution, which most council members support, would force China and Russia to take a public stand on the matter by blocking the sanctions or allowing them to go through. However, if a vote takes place this week, the U.S. is also expected to simultaneously press for a council statement that would express support for the peace talks, in an effort to address Chinese and Russian concerns and possibly avert a veto.
U.N. Management Reform: A U.N. General Assembly budget committee has been intensely discussing a draft resolution proposed last week by a group of developing countries who want to delay approval of a reform plan by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to overhaul certain management procedures. The U.S. and most major contributors to the U.N. largely favor Annan's management plan and oppose the draft resolution. Many developing countries believe the Annan plan would reduce their influence. Amb. Bolton has warned that assembly adoption would amount to a rejection of the secretary general's plan and deal a strong blow to the U.N. reform process.
Iran: The clock is ticking as Security Council members await the release of a key report on Iran's nuclear program. International Atomic Energy Chief Mohammed Elbaradei is to report by Friday whether Iran has complied with IAEA demands to halt uranium enrichment (which Tehran has so far rejected) and answer important questions about its nuclear efforts. A long and difficult negotiation in May on how the Security Council will respond to the report is forecast by diplomats. At this point, Russia and China are opposed to strong measures, (including sanctions) against Iran if lack of compliance is reported. But it is not yet clear if Moscow and Beijing would agree to a council resolution that would make mandatory what the council has so far only "urged" Iran to do in its March 29 statement that imposed the April 28 deadline.