ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43

Move to expand UNSC to 22

UNITED NATIONS, Saturday (AP) - An interim proposal to tackle the divisive issue of Security Council reform would expand the U.N.'s most powerful body from 15 to 22 members but leave it up to the 192 U.N. member states to decide what countries should fill them.

The proposal, obtained on Friday by The Associated Press, also leaves it up to U.N. members to decide how long the new seats should be held -- with suggestions of two years, five years and permanent seats as possible options. It leaves the contentious issue of veto power to future negotiations.

There is strong support for enlarging the Security Council to reflect the world today rather than the global power structure after World War II when the United Nations was created. But all previous attempts, starting in 1979, have failed because national and regional rivalries blocked agreement on the size and composition of an expanded council.

The deep divisions forced the General Assembly to shelve three rival resolutions to expand the council in 2005. The so-called Group of Four -- Germany, Japan, Brazil and India -- aspire to permanent seats without veto rights on a 25-member council. A group of middle-ranking countries, including Italy and Pakistan, who call themselves Uniting for Consensus, want a 25-member council with 10 new non-permanent seats. The African Union, whose 53 members argue that their continent is the only one without a permanent seat on the council, wants to add 11 new seats -- six permanent seats including two for Africa with veto power, and five non-permanent seats.

The new proposal says these groups maintain their positions, but the impossibility of achieving them now ''has pointed to an apparent willingness to negotiate on the basis of achieving intermediate reform, through the identification of the highest common denominator at this stage.''

More than 50 ambassadors representating all the major groups with a stake in reforming the council attended a meeting Tuesday hosted by Germany's U.N. Ambassador Thomas Matussek to discuss the new proposal. He told reporters afterwards that all the groups were represented, many had ideas on how to improve the proposal, and ''for the first time the Africans engaged in meaningful discussion.''

The proposal was submitted to General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim on Thursday, Germany's U.N. Mission said. He is expected to study it and have members of his task force on council reform consult groups with differing views. Kerim also received separate letters from Italy and the African Group.

''My ambition would be – and I don't know how realistic that is – that we, by the end of this (General) Assembly (session), will have a text that can be voted on,'' Matussek said. The current session ends in September. Of the seven new council seats in the proposal, two would be allocated to African countries, two to Asian countries, one to Latin America and the Caribbean, one to Western Europe and one to Eastern Europe.

The proposals also calls for a mandatory review of the reforms after a fixed period and sets out new working methods for the council, many to promote better communications and openness on its operations.

One proposal appeals to the five veto-wielding council members _ the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France _ to ensure that a veto would not be used to continue the commission of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The proposal was drafted by the ambassadors from the Netherlands, Romania, Malaysia, Britain, Cyprus and Germany, with support from the Bahamas and strong input from Italy, Matussek said. In 2005, he said, the different groups were competing to try to win support from two-thirds of the U.N. member states ''and that didn't work.''

What is different about the new proposal is that ''it came out of the membership and it started from scratch to bring everybody on board,'' Matussek said. The idea, he said, is to bring as many countries together ''at the base, and then in the negotiations the real tough talking and the dealing will go on. ... We expect the negotiations will be pretty tough. The various groups will try to get as much as they can, but it's already clear now, nobody will get 100 percent.''

Matussek stressed that the proposal did not reflect the views of any group or government. ''I hope that it will reflect the future position of my government, and that was the position for everybody concerned,'' Matussek said.

After examining the new proposal, he said, it was evident that ''the pain was spread because everybody was equally unhappy with the paper, or to turn it the other way around, everybody found a little bit.''

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