EU rejects call for oil embargo on Nigeria

SARAH HELM

Brussels

and STEVE CRAWSHAW

The European Union yesterday rejected calls for an oil embargo against Nigeria - even while South Africa pressed for a stronger penalties against the regime.

European foreign ministers agreed to an arms embargo and a series of less drastic penalties in response to the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others this month. Germany joined Sweden in supporting the imposition of an oil blockade but other member states called for a more cautious approach, deciding that further measures needed more examination.

In a statement, the 15 member states confirmed their commitment to maintain measures taken against Nigeria in 1993, including a suspension of military cooperation and visa restrictions for members of military and security forces.

Strengthening the 1993 sanctions, the EU yesterday agreed to add new visa restrictions against civilian leaders in the Nigerian ruling council and federal executive committee and their families. The arms embargo covers all weapons designed to kill, and ammunition, weapon platforms and equipment. It also covers spare parts, repairs, maintenance and transfer of military technology.

In South Africa, the secretary-general of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa, claimed that Britain was planning a freeze on assets and was "considering" an oil embargo. British officials were keen to downplay these possibilities, however, saying that "we are not on to that yet".

At yesterday's meeting in Brussels, Klaus Kinkel, the German Foreign Minister. expressed support for tougher measures. "I favour an oil embargo and a freeze of assets because these are the measures that would probably impress Nigeria," he said.

The Swedish Foreign Minister, Lena Hjelm-Wallen, also expressed support for the oil embargo - but acknowledged that there was little support for the idea. "We are not satisfied, and want to go further," she said after the meeting.

South Africa, whose moral voice now perhaps counts for most of all, has notably toughened its stance from President Nelson Mandela's softly-softly approach, when the death sentence on Saro-Wiwa and the eight others was first announced, last month. Mr Mandela yesterday called for a regional summit of southern African leaders to discuss further measures to be taken against the military regime.

Carl Niehaus, a member of the ANC national executive, said that Shell's decision to press on with its huge new natural-gas project in Nigeria was "deeply disappointing". Mr Ramaphosa said that he was "disgusted and terribly unhappy" at Shell's decision.

President Mandela yesterday met the chairman of Shell South Africa, John Drake. Mr Niehaus said that Mr Mandela had "raised very strongly the need for Shell to show its outrage about what was happening in Nigeria and then to place pressure on the Nigerian regime because of the economic power that it holds."

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