U.N. council to vote on Yemen resolution on Friday

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2011 10:14 PM
U.N. council to vote on Yemen resolution on Friday

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council will vote on a British-drafted resolution on Yemen on Friday that condemns the government crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators and says those responsible should be held accountable, diplomats said.

The vote will take place at a council meeting scheduled for 3 p.m., council diplomats said on Thursday. The Nigerian mission, which holds the council presidency this month, confirmed the diplomats' remarks.

The resolution, which Western diplomats said they hoped would win unanimous approval from the 15-nation Security Council, comes more than half a year after the protests began in the Arab world's poorest country, inspired by "Arab Spring" uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, is less than what was demanded in New York on Tuesday by Yemeni protest leader Tawakul Karman, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with two Liberian women earlier this month.

Speaking at a demonstration, Karman made an impassioned plea to the United Nations to repudiate a Gulf Arab plan that would grant immunity to her country's "war criminal" president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. She also called for his assets to be frozen and his case to be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

She met on Wednesday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud and other top diplomats to reiterate her demands. Ban told Karman the United Nations had "a clear stance against impunity for gross human rights violations," the U.N. press office said in a statement.

Speaking privately, council diplomats acknowledged that the draft resolution fell far short of Karman's demands, but they rejected the suggestion that they had ignored the question of accountability altogether.

'NEED FOR A POLITICAL DEAL'

The draft resolution, if approved, would have the council declare that "all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuse should be held accountable."

But it does not refer the matter to the ICC as the council did in the case of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed on Thursday, nor does it provide details on how accountability could be achieved.

Although it does not formally endorse the Gulf Cooperation Council deal that would grant Saleh and people close to him immunity from prosecution, it calls for the immediate signature and implementation of an agreement based on that deal.

"Everyone on the council recognizes that there's a need for a political deal in Yemen," a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "Unfortunately, the GCC deal's the only game in town."

The situation in Yemen is getting worse. Dozens of protesters have been killed over the last few days, witnesses have said. A surge in attacks on Yemen's oil and gas infrastructure by tribesmen or al Qaeda militants threatens further disruptions or a complete cut in exports.

The United States and European members of the Security Council began pushing for a resolution on Yemen months ago, but the most they could persuade Russia and China to accept was a non-binding statement in June that condemned the crackdown and appealed for calm.

Earlier this month Russia and China, which are usually reluctant to condemn government violence, joined forces on what U.S. and European officials described as a "double veto" of a resolution condemning Syria's clampdown on anti-government protesters that the United Nations says has killed at least 3,000 people since March.

Western diplomats said they expected Russia and China to allow the Yemen resolution to pass, either by voting in favor of it or abstaining. They expect the same from the other "BRICS" countries -- Brazil, India and South Africa -- which are also on the council and withheld support for the Syria resolution.

"The situation in Yemen's different," a diplomat said. "The opposition in Yemen, unlike in Syria, is armed and dangerous. The situation needs to be dealt with and the Russians know it. A political solution is necessary."

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)