Rwanda vows to help on Congo at U.N., assails "blame game"

UNITED NATIONS Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:02pm EST

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Rwanda warned on Monday it will not tolerate attempts to blame it for a rebel insurgency in eastern Congo but vowed to use its two-year U.N. Security Council stint to help put an end to the conflict that has destabilized its much larger neighbor.

Rwanda - along with Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg and South Korea - was elected in October as a temporary member of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council for 2013-14.

Analysts say the new group will likely be more friendly to the West on crises like Syria or North Korea but lacks the power to force an end to the impasses on those issues.

The Security Council's "Group of Experts" has accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing so-called M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in their fight against the Congolese army. Uganda and Rwanda deny the group's allegations.

"Our role (on Congo) will be positive as it has always been," Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's deputy U.N. ambassador, told Reuters. "We will continue supporting the peaceful resolution of the conflict."

"We will also support (U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's) efforts in bringing together leaders of the region, in order to address the root causes of the conflict," he said.

But he made clear Kigali would not tolerate any further finger pointing regarding what he said were unfounded charges.

"Rwanda will not be part of and will not support any attempt to continue the blame game initiated by a politicized and discredited Group of Experts," Nduhungirehe said.

Security Council diplomats have told Reuters on condition of anonymity that they worry it will be more difficult to achieve consensus on Congo with Rwanda on the council. At the same time, they said, any solution for eastern Congo must include Rwanda, so having it on the council is not necessarily a bad thing.

Diplomats say that Rwanda's leverage is its influence over M23.

The last time Rwanda was on the council was in 1994-95. That coincided with a genocide in which 800,000 people were killed when Rwanda's Hutu-led government and ethnic militias went on a 100-day killing spree, massacring Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

DEADLOCKS

The council's new composition will not break the deadlocks on Syria or North Korea, council diplomats say. The Security Council has been at an impasse on Syria since that conflict began 21 months ago, with veto powers Russia and the United States unable to agree on whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be required to step down or not.

That deadlock will remain for now, as Russian President Vladimir Putin strives to "fight with the West for the sake of prestige, rather than on the basis of rational diplomatic calculations," said Richard Gowan of New York University.

Assad's ally Russia rejects Western and Syrian opposition calls for Assad to step down as a condition for peace talks.

On North Korea, the United States and China have been unable to agree on a formal council response to Pyongyang's December 12 missile launch. The Security Council issued a brief condemnation of the launch on the same day, but Western powers, Japan and South Korea want to see the existing U.N. sanctions on North Korea expanded.

China, North Korea's traditional protector, on the council has resisted such moves.

"South Korea's presence on the council will increase the visibility of the North Korean issue but it will not alter the fundamental dynamics," an envoy said. "It is ultimately a bilateral issue between Washington and Beijing at the U.N."

Even though the council rotates in five new temporary members every January 1 as five non-temporary members step down, the five permanent council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - hold the most of the power.

But the five veto powers always need at least nine votes to pass any resolution, which means they are forced to cultivate support among the 10 non-permanent council nations.

George Lopez, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, said that overall "the incoming five Security Council members will be more active and helpful to Western interests in matters like Syria." But he added that none of them has any substantial influence over Russia that could affect the dynamics on Syria.

The loss of India and South Africa will change the atmosphere on the council, diplomats say. Both are influential non-aligned nations that often supported the non-interventionist philosophy of Russia and China, which are loathe to back any council action they see as violating national sovereignty.

It is unclear if Argentina will use its council stint to raise its long-standing dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands, envoys said. When Argentina was last on the Security Council in 2005-06, it generally kept quiet about the dispute.

But President Cristina Fernandez has launched a wide-ranging diplomatic offensive to re-assert Argentina's claims to the British-ruled islands 30 years after the Falkland war. She has accused London of maintaining colonial enclaves and demanded sovereignty talks - which Britain has rejected.

In addition to India and South Africa, Colombia, Germany and Portugal are leaving the Security Council. Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Pakistan, Togo and Morocco will remain through 2013.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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