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UN Reform Sparks Heavy Debate

Tensions ran high during the first day of debates at the United Nations on Security Council enlargement. Diplomatic niceties are expected to remain scarce as talks resume Tuesday.

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A cold wind is blowing at the UN

The UN General Assembly opened a divisive debate Monday on a controversial draft resolution by the so-called Group of Four (G-4) countries -- Brazil, Germany, India and Japan -- to expand the powerful Security Council. But some of their regional rivals are bitterly opposing the initiative.

Brazil's UN envoy Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg introduced the G-4 draft on Monday. It calls for enlarging the council from the current 15 members to 25 by creating six new permanent seats without veto power and four non-permanent seats.

Sardenberg said the security structure established in 1945 when the UN was created was "now glaringly outdated."

"The Security Council needs to undergo a thorough reform, which includes an expansion of the category of permanent members in order to bring it in line with the contemporary world," Sardenberg told the assembly.

A Security Council with three speeds

Sardenberg said that a more balanced membership of the council was needed to reflect "new realities" and to be responsive to the views and needs of all member states, in particular developing countries.

Kandidaten für UN Sicherheitsrat

India, Japan, Brazil and Germany want permanent membership in the UN Security Council

The G-4 believe new permanent seats would allow them to pit themselves against the five veto powers even without their own veto right. Speaking on behalf of the African group at the UN, Algeria's ambassador Abdallah Baali said this was nonsense.

"That would mean a Security Council with three speeds: with veto power, permanent members and non-permanent," said Baali. Africa would not accept this for its members. He said there should either be veto power for all permanent members or not at all.

The draft does not spell out which countries would secure the new council seats. But diplomats said the six new permanent seats would go to the G-4 and two African countries yet to be selected.

G-4 are masquerading as champions of the weak

Other opponents of the resolution said the G-4's bid was nothing but a power play and would divert from other reforms.

"The seekers of special privileges and power are masquerading as the champions of the weak and disadvantaged, asserting that the special privileges they seek would make the council more representative," Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram said.

"We will not choose to anoint six states with special privileges and stamp ourselves as second class members in this organization," said Akram. He added that the G-4 proposal would leave six winners but 180 losers.

UN Logo Glastür Symbolbild Reform

Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on the UN's 190 member nations to help redraw priorities

"It will enlarge the 'club of the privileged' who will have a vested interest in addressing most issues in the Security Council, further draining the oxygen out of the General Assembly, and enhancing the domination of the Security Council," he said.

Argentina, a leading member of the so-called "United for Consensus" group, along with Italy, Pakistan and Mexico, also criticized the G-4 draft for creating "discrimination and artificial hegemonies throughout the regions, which will be detrimental for the work of the Security Council," said Argentina's UN envoy Cesar Mayoral.

Skeptical US to address UN on Tuesday

At present, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the only permanent and veto-wielding members of the powerful UN body, which also has 10 rotating non-permanent members without veto power.

The proposed expansion of the Security Council is part of a broader plan to overhaul the United Nations, which world leaders will discuss at a summit in September ahead of the annual general assembly.

The assembly debate is set to resume Tuesday afternoon with an address by the United States. It has voiced skepticism about the G-4 plan, fearing that enlarging the council beyond 20 members would hurt the body's effectiveness.

Washington favors adding only two new permanent seats with no veto power, including one for Japan.

The G-4 countries are pressing for an early vote on the draft, which is co-sponsored by 23 countries including France, possibly as early as late this week.

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