A Tiny Nation's Envoy Caught


By Maggie Farley

Sydney Morning Herald
November 7, 2002

Missing: one softly spoken, full-bearded Mauritian ambassador with independent views. Last seen leaving a United Nations Security Council meeting without throwing his full support behind a United States resolution on Iraq. May have run foul of perceived US economic pressures in the diplomatic arena.

Mauritius has recalled its UN ambassador, Jagdish Koonjul, for not accurately conveying his government's pro-US stance in the Security Council debate over how to disarm Iraq, a senior official from the Indian Ocean nation said this week.

The White House was so concerned Mauritius was not squarely behind it that it sent a warning to the capital, Port Louis. The Mauritian response was swift - Mr Koonjul did not show up for his Friday meetings at the UN because he was packing to go home.

"We support the US," Mauritius's Foreign Minister, Anil Goyan, declared this week. "Our position is not neutral."

Mauritius's concern over solidarity with the US may well have an economic subtext. Some Mauritian officials fear that Mr Koonjul's equivocal stance on the resolution could cost them access to the US market under a recent trade deal that explicitly requires support for US foreign policy.

Although the program was a Clinton administration initiative, it illustrates a growing trend of linking economic issues with US foreign policy objectives.

Mauritius, an island off east Africa, is not the only Security Council member subject to the political requirements.

Cameroon and Guinea also receive trade benefits under the same act, putting these three Francophone nations in the midst of French and US lobbying efforts at the UN. While Mr Koonjul's stance had elevated Mauritius's status as a key swing vote in the council, it did not go down well at home.

"Our position on this issue is very clear," Mr Goyan said. "If there is consensus, we will go along. If there is no consensus, we will support the United States and the United Kingdom. The ambassador has been recalled for not following strictly the instructions that were given him."

The US was expected to introduce a revised resolution to the Security Council yesterday that gives Iraq a "final opportunity" to comply with its disarmament obligations and leaves the door open for a military strike.

The new text, which the US hopes will be adopted by the end of the week, offers a follow-up role to the Security Council, as France had insisted.

But the draft still makes military action possible if UN arms inspectors report a serious violation in accounting for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The text falls short of France's demand that only the council be able to authorise use of force.

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