Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Four Nations Seek Security Council Seats

Washington Post - Four countries seeking permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council - Brazil, Germany, India and Japan - want the General Assembly to adopt a resolution to that effect by this summer. But Pakistan, Italy and other mid-size countries are still pushing a rival plan to expand the U.N.'s most powerful body.

After 10 years of seemingly endless debate, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told U.N. member states Monday that he wants a decision on council expansion before September, when world leaders are due back in New York to consider restructuring the United Nations.

The proposed changes are the most sweeping in the 60-year history of the world body. And one of the boldest is the proposal to expand the Security Council to make it more representative of the world in the 21st century.

"This year, I sense a greater enthusiasm and interest on the part of member states," Annan told reporters after his presentation. "I would hope that the member states ... will work hard to come to an agreement on this so that, when they come here, heads of state can bless it."

The Security Council, the primary U.N. organ, currently has 15 members, 10 of which are chosen for two-year terms. The other five - France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States - are permanent and wield veto power.

Annan supports two options to enlarge the Security Council, both proposed by a high-level panel in December. But the U.N. chief left open the possibility of other "viable proposals."

One option would add six new permanent members and three non-permanent members. The likely candidates for permanent seats under this plan - called Model A - include Brazil, Germany, India, Japan and two African nations, with South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt the top contenders.

The other would create a new tier of eight semi-permanent members - two each from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas - who would serve for four years, subject to renewal, plus one non-permanent seat. This option - called Model B - is supported by Pakistan, Italy, South Korea and other middle powers.

In a joint statement, the four nations of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan welcomed Annan's report and said they would work with all member states to reach agreement on council reform based on Model A.

They noted that recent General Assembly debates have demonstrated that "a clear majority of states" favor adding permanent and non-permanent members from both developed and developing countries. A U.N. diplomat put the number of supporters at 120 states.

"It is the hope of the Group of 4 that, with the support of the overwhelming majority of the membership, it would be possible to adopt a resolution on Security Council reform by summer," the statement said.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said it was a realistic goal.

"My personal assessment as ambassador here, I think it's achievable," he said. "It's not given, but it's achievable."

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the four countries plan a meeting March 31 with member states to launch the reform effort and start building support and putting together a resolution.

U.N. diplomats said supporters of Model B are also planning a meeting with member states in April.

Usually, decisions on important issues like Security Council reform require consensus of all member states, and Annan said he hoped an agreement could be reached. But if "after healthy discussion" General Assembly President Jean Ping believes it can't, Annan said he should call for a vote.

Because an expansion of the Security Council would require a change in the U.N. Charter, a resolution would have to be approved by two-thirds of the 191-member General Assembly. It also must avoid veto by one of the five permanent council members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

While the Group of 4 would like veto power, Annan backed the high-level panel's recommendation that no new council members should have veto-power.

"I believe the general sense is that additional vetoes will not be acceptable to the membership," he said. "You have those who would want to take away the vetoes that exist today and are not willing to create new ones - and they are not going to be able to take away the existing ones."

"Therefore, the general sense is that we can have permanent members without a veto. But even if you get that, you are making the council more democratic and more representative and thus it will gain in greater legitimacy," Annan said.

Last year, Japan, Germany, Brazil and Indiaformed a lobbying group for permanent council seats, pledging to support one another's candidacy for new slots.

But North and South Korea have doubts about Japan, Italy opposes Germany for a seat, Pakistan is against India's candidacy and Mexico and Argentina frown on Brazil.

Liu said China was studying Annan's sweeping reform proposals and backed reform of the world body in general.

About 95 percent of Chinese who took part in an online poll last year opposed Japan's bid for a permanent council seat, reflecting residual anger over Japan's wartime aggression.

Tens of millions of Chinese were killed or wounded during Japan's often brutal occupation of China from 1931-45.