Iran's Ahmadinejad cancels AU Summit visit - Sudan's Bashir and Zimbabwe's Mugabe attending AU Summit in Libya
Lord Malloch-Brown discusses African Union Summit on 5 Live (01/07/2009)
SPEAKER Lord Malloch-Brown
DATE 01 July 2009
Foreign Office Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, discussed the objectives of the African Union Summit during an interview with 5 Live. He is attending the Summit from 1-2 July 2009.
Read the transcriptHat tip: ISRIA
Shelagh Fogarty (SF): The Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch Brown will meet world leaders later at an African Union summit in Libya.
Robert Mugabe and Omar al-Bashir, the indicted President of Sudan, are among the guests, though the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has just announced that he is cancelling his trip. He was due to be there. Lord Malloch Brown joins us now. Good morning.
Lord Mark Malloch Brown (LMMB): Good morning.
SF: I suppose the difficult question in, when it comes to Africa is, is where do you begin? Is Somalia high on the agenda I imagine?
LMMB: Yes, Somalia’s really high on the agenda. The Government there is under real pressure from rebels. It’s fighting going on as we speak and we’re all racing to do what we can to support it, because if you remember a few years ago the country had really slumped under the control of hard line Islamist elements. And we’re just anxious to see a decent Government there that represents everybody, that protects people’s human rights and just offers a decent living to people. And that hangs in the balance at the moment.
SF: What about the cancellation by President Ahmadinejad? Was that to be expected as things are, are at the moment?
LMMB: Well I’m not sure. I mean I think it would have been typical of him to have shown up here and in a sense flaunted his success to the world, or at least here to an audience where there would have been some sympathy for his position. But I think red faces are saved all round by the fact he’s not coming. I mean I think probably to the majority of people here it’s a relief.
SF: What’s the latest from the Foreign Office on those remaining British Embassy employees? Iranian employees, but of the British Embassy, who were arrested?
LMMB: Well look, as you would expect I’m going to be very careful what I say about them. We’ve still got four who are being held and we just are being very, very sensitive about what we say publicly about them. But we’re making every effort inside Iran to secure their release. We consider they’ve done nothing wrong and this is a terrible breach of normal diplomatic protocols and laws.
SF: Away from that, Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, is going to be at this, at this summit meeting. It’s out of the headlines in the UK papers at the moment, but how far has it come down the line since this degree of co-operation between the Mugabe regime and Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition?
LMMB: Well we had Morgan Tsvangirai in London just recently with people from Robert Mugabe’s party, Zanu PF, in his delegation. We allowed them in, we treated them with full respect. We’re giving an increasing amount of humanitarian assistance to the Government. I’ve been meeting with people on both sides of the Government. I met with Robert Mugabe’s Vice President last week in New York, met with his Foreign Minister in South Africa a week or two before that.
So we’re really trying to increase the tempo of contact while continually saying in every encounter that we’re going to judge them by their deeds and actions. If this Government really can do the reforms it’s promised to do and can secure the reconciliation that it’s committed to, then the amount of support from the UK, Europe and the US will grow to reflect that.
SF: It was interesting and revealing in a way to see you mention that visit by Morgan Tsvangirai to London recently. He was heckled angrily by ex-pat Zimbabweans at an event in the UK wasn’t it who seemed to think that he was no more than a puppet of the Mugabe regime now that he had come from the outside to the inner circle.
LMMB: I think it was a little bit more complicated than it was reported because I think people inside Zimbabwe share some of that frustration and worry, is his good nature getting the better of him, is he being out manoeuvred by Mugabe. But equally they understand that the country was at such a low point that he had to do something, he had to engage, because so many people were going without food, there was the cholera crisis, basic services were breaking down, the schools were closed. And he’s been remarkably successful in turning a lot of that around.
I think the protesters at Southwark Cathedral were also in part motivated by the fact that there are quite a few so called illegal asylum seekers, those who’ve had their asylum seeking requests refused in the UK who once things are normal in Zimbabwe would have to go home. So I think there was a lot going on in that church meeting and it wasn’t just a commentary on Morgan Tsvangirai’s performance in Zimbabwe. It had a lot to do with asylum and refugee issues as well.
SF: Thank you Lord Malloch Brown, Foreign Office Minister, for talking to us this morning.
See AFP news report - Iran leader eclipses agenda of African summit - by Griffin Shea, 01 July 2009 (via The Sydney Morning Herald)