US cashing in on money muscle
03/03/2003 08:14 - (SA)

Washington - The United States is using trade interests as leverage in its diplomatic efforts to persuade certain United Nations members to vote for a new resolution at the security council to allow military strikes against Iraq.

Two of those nations, Mexico and Chile, both non-permanent members of the 15-nation security council, are in an awkward position as a result, experts say.

Mexico forms part of the North American Free Trade Agreement and is America's second most-important partner with trade worth $232bn (about R1 898bn) a year.

Chile is set to seal a free-trade accord with Washington to eliminate customs tariffs on industrial and agricultural produce within 12 years.

Ambler Moss, director of the Dante B Fascell North-South Centre, a policy research institute at the University of Miami, said: "Both Mexico and Chile are in an extremely difficult and vulnerable situation right now."

The two nations are also negotiating a pan-American Free Trade Area of the Americas scheduled to get off the ground in 2005.

A good personal relationship between Mexico's President Vicente Fox and President George W Bush has lost some of its glow in recent months.

Special envoy sent to Chile

Now, Latin America has returned to the back-burner at the White House with the fight against terrorism and the prospect of war on Iraq being more-pressing issues.

The United States, Britain and Spain, which have put forward a second resolution on Iraq to the United Nations, need six more votes - nine in all - to ensure it is passed.

France, Russia and China from the five permanent security council members - the other two being the United States, Britain - could veto it since they support a separate move to extend weapons inspections in Iraq.

The other security council non-permanent members are Germany, Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Spain, Guinea, Pakistan and Syria.

On Friday, Washington sent a special envoy for Latin America, Otto Reich, to Chile to try to secure the South American nation's vote.

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said after meeting Reich that Chile was waiting for the five permanent council members to make a decision, since "it is not for certain major countries to abstain, which would force us, the smaller countries, to make the decision".

"What they (Mexico and Chile) might do is to sacrifice their own political considerations because the immense majority of people in their countries are against the war and against supporting the United States in this thing for expediency."

The position of Angola is more difficult still.

The southern African nation has been trying to join up to the African Growth and Opportunity Act to allow it improved access to the US marketplace in certain areas of commercial activity to the 38-nation members, including Cameroon and Guinea.

Angola itself has a need to capitalise on its oil resources and thus seeks to attract US oil company investors.

Walter Kansteiner, US assistant secretary of state for Africa, visited Luanda last week to meet Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, who also received a phone call from Bush. - Sapa-AFP