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Germany

Fischer Finds Few Backers for UN Seat

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer wrapped up his 10-day trip to Asia on Friday. Aside from India, his efforts to gain support for a permanent German seat on the UN Security Council met with a lukewarm reception.

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Kadirgamar and Fischer measure support for Berlin's UN bid

On his longest ever official trip, Fischer travelled to India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to discuss regional and bilateral issues, as well as Berlin's desire to get permanent seat on the Security Council.

However, only during Fischer's first stop in India, which also wants a Security Council seat, did he receive solid backing for Germany's own efforts. But Berlin's support for India caused trouble in Pakistan, New Delhi's archrival. Elsewhere, officials in China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka all remained reticent to commit on the issue.

"When it comes to the specifics of who is going to fill the seats we are not ready to take a position yet," Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said.

Earlier this year, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder declared Germany's desire to become a permanent member on the Security Council.

Garnering support

With the Security Council's five permanent veto-wielding members -- France, England, America, China and Russia -- still representing the world of 1945, there is broad agreement that an overhaul is overdue. But any reform will require a two-thirds majority of the 191-member UN General Assembly.

"We hope that if there is reform of the UN Security Council that we will get the support of our friends, what we need is an efficient multilateral system," Fischer said while in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

But the current permanent members can veto any vote, and Fischer may not have done Berlin's bid any favors in Beijing. While there he criticized China's human rights record. But perhaps getting Chinese support will be easier than convincing Germany's old ally the United States to back Berlin.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times Deutschland reported that Washington opposed Germany's efforts because of its opposition to the war against Iraq. The paper quoted an unnamed US administration official as saying Berlin had been a problem during its current stint on the Security Council.

"Now is not the time for Germany to apply for a permanent seat," the official told the paper. "When is the right time is hard to say. We will see."

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