Wednesday, July 13, 2005

US opposes UN Council reform plan

US opposes UN Council reform plan

The US has rejected a draft resolution by four countries asking for radical changes to the UN Security Council.

Brazil, Germany, Japan and India want to add 10 more seats to the 15-member Council, six of them permanent. These would go to the four states and Africa.

But Washington said 191 members of the UN General Assembly were too divided on the issue to vote for such a move.

"We urge you to oppose this resolution," top US State Department adviser Shirin Tahir-Kheli said.

"We will work with you to achieve enlargement of the Security Council, but only in the right way and at the right time," she said.

A vote on the proposal by the so-called Group of Four (G4) has not yet been scheduled.

The debate, which began on Monday, shows a majority in the General Assembly in favour of the resolution although not the required two-thirds majority needed for it to be passed.

Rival proposals

To come into effect, the G4's proposal also needs to be ratified by all existing permanent Council members.

At present, the US, the UK, France, Russia and China are the only permanent members of the UN body, with the power to veto. Ten other nations rotate in two-year terms.

Brazilian ambassador to the UN, Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, said earlier the Council needed to become more balanced.

He said the realities of power had changed since 1945, when the UN was founded.

But critics argued that the G4 plan was a bid for power.

"The seekers of special privileges and power masquerade as the champions of the weak and disadvantaged," Pakistani UN ambassador Munir Akram said.

Pakistan backs a different plan from a group known as Uniting for Consensus, which proposes adding 10 new non-permanent members who would face re-election.

For its part, the African Union would like to see six new permanent seats - but the organisation wants them to have the veto, whereas the G4 has dropped this demand.

Washington is calling for two new permanent seats with no veto power, including one for Japan.

Sweeping reform

The BBC's Susannah Price at the UN says the debate has overshadowed other discussions on reform.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says he would like a decision on Council expansion before the UN summit of world leaders in September.

In March, he set out proposals for a number of sweeping reforms to the organisation, which he said were needed to meet "today's realities".

Other ideas include an agreed definition of terrorism, new guidelines for authorising military action and the streamlining of the General Assembly agenda.

Story from BBC NEWS: