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Germany

Last Chance Talks for G4 UN Hopefuls

Diplomats from Germany, India, Japan, Brazil and the African Union meet in London on Monday to thrash out what could be their last chance at agreeing a common strategy for expanding the UN Security Council by September.

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After cosy but ultimately failed talks in New York, the G4 head to London

It is being billed as a "make-or-break" meeting for the four United Nations Security Council hopefuls.

Foreign ministers from Germany, India, Japan and Brazil meet with their African Union counterparts in London on Monday to thrash out what could be their last chance at agreeing a common strategy for expansion of the UN Security Council by September.

While the common goal is a seat at the powerful table alongside the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China, there is no certainty that the G4 hopefuls will be successful in their negotiations as last week's failure in New York to achieve a joint position showed. The onus is now on the African Union (AU) to help make a breakthrough.

The G4 aspirants are proposing an expansion of the 15-member Security Council to 25, including six new permanent seats and have been working towards a vote in the General Assembly this month and a decision before a summit of world leaders in September. But they have come up hard against opposition form the US and China.

African Union ministers hold the key

G4 Außenminister in New York

From left to right, Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Japan's Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, United Nations General Assembly President Jean Ping, India's Foreign Minister Natwar Singh (not visible), and Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

Germany, India, Japan and Brazil all know that their bids cannot succeed without African support. "We have exhausted our discussion. It is now up to African ministers to take a decision," Kenzo Oshima, Japan's UN ambassador, wearily told reporters on Monday.

But while AU backing would be a major boost in getting the two-thirds support in the 191-member General Assembly needed to push through any reforms -- the AU has 53 members -- it is not a guarantee for success.

AU has own agenda and inner conflict

The AU has its own demands which do not fit in with the G4's current plans. It wants the Security Council to be expanded to 26, and says the new permanent seats should have veto rights -- a position the G4 already abandoned for lack of support.

As well as these conflicting demands, some UN diplomats suggest the AU is itself ready to split over its own position due to internal arguments over tactics.

All in all, the job of ensuring support for a G4 bid from an allegedly fractious and divided AU at odds with the ideas of Germany, India, Japan and Brazil is a difficult one.

German diplomats have admitted efforts to find a common position could drag on beyond the self-imposed September deadline. They have warned that those in opposition to Security Council reform were using "all the spoiling tactics available to them."

Aggressive German campaign

Gerhard Schröder in Afrika bei AU in Addis Ababa

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

It could be the last throw of the dice for Germany, whose incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has targeted Security Council membership as imperative.

The Germans have waged an aggressive campaign involving shuttle diplomacy and global lobbying but have found themselves accused of promising increased aid to poor African, Asian and Latin American countries in exchange for support.

Kazakh ambassador to the UN Yerzham Kazykhanov has claimed that a German envoy asked for support for permanent council membership and proposed greater investment in tapping Kazakhstan's 13.8 billion barrels of oil reserves in return.

G4 powers accused of financial incentives

And the Germans aren't alone. The prestige and power that comes with a council seat has apparently driven other members of the G4 to offer incentives. Japan invited Afghanistan's foreign minister to Tokyo in May to hear its case for a permanent seat and the war-damaged nation was offered an increase in aid, according to UN Ambassador Ravan Farhadi.

The campaign has led other envoys at the United Nations to voice concerns. Lobbying by the G4 would be "judged as unethical or worse'' if it occurred in a national election, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram said in a July 11 speech to the UN General Assembly.

Germany, Japan deny any wrong-doing

UN Generalversammlung Joschka Fischer und Yoriko Kawaguchi

Yoriko Kawaguchi, left, foreign minister of Japan, and Joschka Fischer, foreign minister of Germany.

Japanese and German envoys deny any explicit offers to trade aid for votes. Dirk Rotenberg, spokesman for the German mission, told Bloomberg that investment in Kazakhstan or other developing nations has "nothing to do'' with the outcome of the G4 proposal. Yoshifumo Okamura, special UN envoy for Japan, added in the same article that there was no direct connection between Japanese aid to Afghanistan and Security Council membership.

With the stakes so evidently high for those involved in the talks in London on Monday, nothing less than successful negotiations will do.

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