African leaders push UN for change of focus

Sep 17, 2002 02:00 AM

African leaders, led by South African President Thabo Mbeki, have banded together to prevent US President George W. Bush from shifting the focus of the United Nations and the world away from their Africa plans with focus on Iraq. As part of their strategy to downplay US threats against Iraq, the African leaders have sought to head off Bush’s attempts to woo oil-rich African nations at the expense of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

In private meetings held within the UN general assembly, African leaders have made it clear that the meetings are meant to discuss African issues, which they fear the US will force onto the backburner.
"It is an insult that Bush came to the UN and spoke only about Iraq. He said nothing about the issues that are burning for the rest of the UN’s members. Those issues, and not Iraq, are why all these leaders are here today," a high-ranking member of Mbeki’s delegation said.

Bush, who in recent weeks has been chasing support from western leaders for attacks on Iraq, met with a group of African leaders, with his choice of countries seemingly affected by the amount of oil they produce. Salih Booker, director of the advocacy group Africa Action, told that he feared Bush’s interest in Africa’s oil would trump his stated commitment to promoting democracy and economic development on the continent.
"Oil largely defines US relations in Africa," he said. "Those countries that have oil, regardless of their democratic credentials, will get first service in line over other African countries."

Source: EEA Online
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