Security Council members with pivotal Iraq votes receive billions in aid from U.S.
By DAFNA LINZER, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS - Bulgaria, a supporter of the Bush administration's Iraq (news - web sites) stance, is about to be bestowed with the coveted economic status of "market economy."
Chile, a Security Council member which has not yet decided whether to support the U.S.-backed resolution to authorize war against Baghdad, is still waiting for congressional approval of a lucrative free trade agreement with the United States.
While officials and diplomats are loath to say that money may be on the line when countries cast their votes on Iraq, the economic might of the United States isn't far from anyone's minds.
In 1991, the United States withdrew $24 million in annual aid from Yemen, an impoverished U.N. member that failed to support the resolution authorizing the Persian Gulf War (news - web sites). At the time, U.S. diplomats told Yemen's ambassador that he had just cast the most expensive vote of his life.
The Bush administration, still lacking the nine votes it needs to get its latest Iraq resolution adopted by the Security Council, has sent mixed signals in recent days over whether and when it would seek a vote on the text.
Since France, Germany, Russia, China and Syria are unlikely to vote in favor of the resolution, the United States has been busy lobbying a handful of swing states — Mexico, Chile, Angola, Cameroon, Guinea and Pakistan.
The pressure has been intense and the stakes are high, even for non-council allies such as Turkey.
On Wednesday the House passed a trade bill that helps Pakistani rug-makers but pointedly leaves out provisions aiding Turkey.
Congressional aides said references to Turkey were removed so the administration would have a free hand in negotiating a deal package with Ankara. The United States has offered Turkey a $15 billion package if parliament approves the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops to Turkish soil for the development of a northern front against Iraq.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (news, bio, voting record), D-Texas, a critic of the administration's Iraq policy, suggested there was a link to the Turkish vote. "The Turkish provision ought to be considered on its merits rather than be unceremoniously dropped for reasons that have nothing to do with good trade policy."
For Mexico, which has come under the most intense U.S. pressure to go along with Washington on the vote, the accounting is more subtle. While Mexico doesn't receive any direct aid, the United States is its biggest trading partner as a result of the North American Free Trade Act. The accord has been a boon for Mexico, and current tariff negotiations could potentially boost Mexico's economy even further.
Pakistan, which has become a key U.S. partner in the war on terrorism, just received a major new loan from the International Monetary Fund (news - web sites) where the United States is the largest voting block. It is also slated to receive some $305 million in U.S. government aid this year.
Cameroon and Guinea, two poor African nations, are both eligible for preferential access to U.S. markets through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Enacted in 2000, the AGOC grants preferential treatment to sub-Saharan African countries that meet a list of eligibility criteria and do "not engage in activities that undermine U.S. national security of foreign policy interests."
Voting against a resolution authorizing the United States to restore international peace and security could certainly be construed as undermining national security.
But the two countries have also relied for years on assistance from France, which has been lobbying the same council members to reject the U.S. resolution.
France is Guinea's biggest individual money-lender. In addition, it provided Guinea with $5.2 million in aid in 2002. But that's far less than the $31.8 million that the United States gave the African nation last year.
In 2001, France gave Cameroon $126 million in development aid. Currently, 160 French companies are active in Cameroon, most notably in the oil sector where French subsidiaries won a third of all the subcontracts for the construction of an oil pipeline.
The U.S. aid agency doesn't have a program office in Cameroon but it provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid and runs programs there, including the Peace Corps, which benefit the country.
France is the second largest foreign investor in Angola, but the United States is first.
On Feb. 20, the U.S. Agency for International Development approved $15.4 million in annual aid for the country, which is rebuilding after decades of war.
Angola's U.N. Ambassador Ismael Gasper Martins has been the most candid about the benefits of his vote. He said recently: "For a long time now, we have been asking for help to rebuild our country after years of war. No one is tying the request to support on Iraq, but it is all happening at the same time."
But for the most part, council ambassadors have refused to talk about the financial implications of their votes.
The United States has support so far only from Britain, Spain and Bulgaria.
Bulgaria has received more than $420 million from the U.S. government in the last decade. The promised designation of "market economy" will protect Bulgarian companies from charges that they are selling products in the United States at an unfairly low price, a practice known as dumping.
When the Bush administration awarded Russia with the market economy designation last June, Russian officials estimated that the new status could boost Russian exports to the United States by $1.5 billion annually.
On Chile, the administration has said it will push later this spring for congressional approval of a free trade agreement that would give the South American nation the economic prize it has sought for more than a decade.
In addition to U.S. aid and market access, there is also the promise of lucrative cleanup and rebuilding contracts for a postwar Iraq.
During a visit to Bulgaria last month, Secretary of Commerce Don Evans was asked whether countries that support the war would be able to take part in the economic rebuilding in Iraq after the possible war. He replied: "I assure you we will remember our friends and those that were there alongside of us, and those that made sacrifices along with us."