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Competing Plans Threaten UN Reform

Germany, Brazil, India and Japan have submitted a draft resolution on a proposed expansion of the UN Security Council and want an early vote in the General Assembly. But rival plans are complicating matters.

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Security Council reform: Mission impossible?

Discussions are starting in earnest this week on expanding the United Nations Security Council. While almost everyone agrees that the body should be enlarged, there is much less agreement on how that should happen or what a new, improved council should look like.

Germany’s United Nations envoy Gunter Pleuger said last Wednesday that the so-called Group of Four (G-4) countries -- Germany, Brazil, India and Japan -- planned to call for a debate of their plan in the General Assembly this week. But a rival plan agreed on by African leaders at an African Union summit in Libya last week is likely to frustrate the G-4 bid.

The G-4 resolution, already delayed twice, would enlarge the council to 25 members. The proposal wants to add ten new seats. There would be six new permanent ones – two for Asia, two for Africa and one each for Western Europe and Latin America.

Joschka Fischer mit Gunter Pleuger in der UN

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer speaks with Gunter Pleuger, German Ambassador to the United Nations

In addition they want four new non-permanent seats, including one for Africa. The plan also includes a pledge by the four new permanent members not to use veto rights in the council. Envoy Pleuger (photo, right) has shown himself confident that the G-4 draft will find support in United Nations' General Assembly.

"We are in close contact with all United Nations members and with various national governments," he said. "And I can say that support is growing for our resolution."

Rival African plan

However, the hopes of the G-4 have been dented by the African Union, which has put forward a rival plan which aims to give Africa a greater say in the UN Security Council. African leaders will now ask the United Nations for Africa to be allocated two permanent seats with full veto powers and the number of new non-permanent members to be increased by six.

Treffen der Afrikanischen Union in Sirte Libyen

Participants attending the opening of the 5th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union at the African Union Summit Monday July 4, 2005 in Sirte, Libya

The African Union was unable to decide on the countries it wants to have permanent seats, but South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt are said to be leading candidates.

Thomas Steg, a spokesman for the German government, denies that the African Union plan will thwart the G-4's attempts to reach a vote in the world body quickly.

"The two plans match each other because the G-4 has always insisted on a greater role to be given to African countries," he said. "There is full agreement on this issue and I’m sure we will be able to work out the details in the near future."

Annan spricht zur Vollversammlung

The General Assembly at UN headquarters

Without Africa’s 53 votes in the General Assembly (photo), the G-4 draft resolution will not reach the 128 or two-thirds majority it needs. In addition the group faces strong opposition from the United States, Russia and China which would prefer to delay enlargement.

Yet another plan

Throwing another spanner in the works for the G-4 is the plan put forward by Italy, Spain Mexico and Pakistan. They want to expand the council, but only with non-permanent seats.

According to Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram, the Security Council is already flawed by having five permanent seats and his allies don't want to compound the problem by adding new permanent members. He says such a plan discriminates against those countries which do not have a permanent representation on the body.

Just a few hours before the debate in New York was to begin, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and his Italian counterpart Gianfranco Fini, meeting in Rome, said they could not come to an agreement on their countries' divergent Security Council wishes.

"As friends, we have very different positions," Fischer said.

It is an open secret that regional rivalries also play a part in this competing Security Council plan. Pakistan does not want India to get a permanent seat; Mexico is lobbying against Brazil; and Italy does not want Germany in a permanent chair.

Der indische Außenminister Natwar Singh

Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh

The Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh (photo) admitted on Monday that the competing plans could mean the G-4 fails in its goal to expand the council. Despite all efforts, he said, "the status quo could be maintained" in the Security Council, "and that would be tragic."

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