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U.N. Implicates African Presidents

March 11, 2000

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Several African nations have violated international sanctions by aiding Angola’s UNITA rebels, supplying fuel and weapons and helping them fund their insurgency, a U.N. report says, according to two sources who have read the document.

Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema and Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore are accused of having allowed their countries to be used as bases for activities that violate the sanctions, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. They said the unpublished report recommends punitive measures against the violators.

Togo’s U.N. ambassador, Roland Yao Kpotsra, said late Friday that he understood Togo was implicated but said he couldn’t comment until he read the report. Officials at Burkina Faso’s mission said no one was available to comment.

While Togo’s president has long been friends with UNITA head Jonas Savimbi, the Togolese government has repeatedly denied that it helped UNITA get around the sanctions. Officials with the Togolese government were not available for comment today.

In addition to providing fuel and arms to UNITA, those nations and individuals implicated in the report allowed planes carrying banned items to refuel in their countries and dealt in banned UNITA diamonds, said a Western U.N. diplomat.

The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms and fuel embargo on UNITA rebels in 1993. Five years later, it expanded the measures to include a ban on rebel diamond exports, which are estimated to have supplied the group with up to $4 billion since 1992.

Individuals and officials in Gabon, Rwanda, South Africa, Congo, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, and the late president of then-Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, are also accused of violating the sanctions, the sources said, reading from the report.

A senior Rwandan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that his country cooperated with UNITA rebels and said Rwanda had assured the Angolan government that no such cooperation existed.

The document, which is to be released Wednesday, is the product of a panel of experts established by the Security Council last year to pinpoint how sanction violations allowed the rebels to re-launch their war against the government in December 1998.

The U.N. panel, the brainchild of Canadian ambassador and sanctions committee chairman Robert Fowler, prepared the report after visiting several African countries in the past six months and questioning top diamond dealers in London.

The experts found that the Antwerp, Belgium diamond market, described as the largest in the world for rough stones, has ``extremely lax controls and regulations,″ that allow illegal trading of banned UNITA diamonds, one source said, quoting from the report.

The panel recommends imposing sanctions on the rogue nations, including a call for a three-year arms embargo on any country that supplies UNITA with weapons. It also recommends blacklisting countries that do business with UNITA in violation of the sanctions, one source said.

South African Ambassador Dumisana Shadrack Kumalo said he had been briefed on the report and welcomed it, saying his government had cooperated in putting it together. South African individuals and companies were implicated in the report for diamond and arms dealings, he said.

The report names a few known individual sanctions-busters. It does not provide significant details about individual diamond companies that have bought UNITA diamonds in violation of the sanctions, one source said.

The government and UNITA _ a Portuguese acronym for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola _ began fighting after Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975. A 1994 U.N.-mediated truce collapsed when the government sought in 1998 to take seize land that UNITA refused to hand over as part of the peace agreement.

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On the Web: http://www.un.org

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