Addressing representatives of the 191 UN member states at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer underlined the need to reform the Security Council.
"If we really want the decision of the Security Council to be accepted as legitimate and effectively implemented, we have to reform the Council," Fischer said.
Reform of the Security Council, which currently has 15 members, five of them permanent (US, Britain, France, Russia and China), has been debated for years. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has set up an expert commission to propose changes.
The German foreign minister also named India, Brazil and Japan as the three other nations that like Germany are trying to get permanent seats on the Security Council.
"Just like them, Germany is ready to take on the responsibility associated with a permanent seat in the Security Council," Fischer said.
Adapting to "new global reality"
Fischer justified the demand by saying that a Council with more members would enjoy greater acceptance internationally as a basis for greater authority.
He added that an enlarged Council would lead all nations to better identify with the Council and would bolster the motivation of the new members to make a long-term contribution to realizing UN goals.
"It's high time to adapt the Security Council to the new global reality," Fischer said. "It is also especially important that the African continent be represented among the new permanent members."
Fischer further said that an expansion "must adequately reflect sea changes such as decolonization, the end of the Cold War and globalization. The composition of the Council must ultimately mirror the current geopolitical reality."
A rethink on the working of the UN
Fischer also said he was in favor of reforming the individual organizations subordinate to the UN and pleaded for a rethink on the working of the General Assembly.
"The General Assembly has to be more than an annual forum where we just go through the motions," Fischer said. "What we need to do firstly is focus our topics more carefully. We have to discuss the truly crucial issues."
Fischer also warned that the UN had to brace it for more, not less, conflicts in the world in the future and the demands on the organization were bound to grow.
"Against this backdrop, the question arises whether the structures of given to the United Nations on its foundation almost 60 years ago are still suited to this mandate, whether its work enjoys the international acceptance it needs," Fischer said. "In particular the disputes concerning the Iraq crisis highlighted this problem again."
"We, the member states, have to muster the political insight, the will and the creativity to adapt the organization to the global reality," Fischer said. "Germany is ready to make a committed contribution."
Italy rejects German bid
Italy on Thursday meanwhile spoke out strongly against Germany's hopes for a permanent seat on the Council.
"Some member states have advocated the addition of new permanent seats -- for themselves," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (photo) said in a speech to the UN General Assembly without mentioning Germany by name.
"We do not believe the council's difficulties can be resolved through new permanent, irrevocable appointments and national mandates," he said shortly after Fischer had made his case.
"Italy is in favour of a Security Council reform inspired by the principles of greater inclusiveness, effectiveness, democratic participation and geographic representation, starting with developing countries," Frattini said. "We are firmly convinced that the best way to pursue such a reform is to establish new non-permanent seats."
But according to news reports, a majority of EU member states supports the German call for a permanent seat.