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Security Council Reform

DW staff (th)September 26, 2007

German Chancellor Angela Merkel used a speech before the United Nations General Assembly to bring up concerns about Iran and to push forward Germany's bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Angela Merkel addresses the United Nations General Assembly
Making her caseImage: AP

Countries have talked about reforming the UN's most important body for more than 24 years. Currently, only the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China have had permanent seats on the UN Security Council and the power to veto all resolutions.

Germany's most recent effort to get a permanent seat along with Brazil, India and Japan collapsed two years ago. Merkel said the time had come for action.

"With its current composition, the Security Council no longer reflects the world of today," Merkel said during her speech on Tuesday, Sept. 25. "Germany is prepared, with the adoption of a permanent Security Council seat, to take more responsibility."

Members of the Security Council of United Nations
A seat of one's ownImage: AP

Past efforts have been blocked by Italy and the United States. The German government is hopeful that the situation has changed. One possible compromise that has been suggested is that Germany could take a seat for 10 years.

In his speech to the assembly Tuesday, United States President George W. Bush said he was "open" to expanding the Security Council and felt that "emerging powers" should be considered. But he mentioned only Japan by name. Besides the permanent seats, the Security Council has 10 non-permanent seats, which rotate among member countries elected for two-year terms.

Merkel threatens tougher sanctions

Angela Merkel listens as President Bush, not pictured, addresses the United Nations General Assembly
Merkel before her moment in the spotlightImage: AP

By the time Merkel addressed the UN Security Council Tuesday evening, the audience had thinned. The two most-watched speakers, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bush, had spoken hours before.

Ahmadinejad insisted earlier Tuesday that the controversy over Iran's nuclear ambitions was a "closed" matter.

But Merkel didn't think so. She used her 16-minute speech to threaten tougher sanctions if Iran doesn't stop its nuclear program and continues to threaten Israel.

"If Iran were to acquire the nuclear bomb, the consequences would be disastrous -- first and foremost for the existence of Israel, secondly for the entire region and ultimately for all of us in Europe and the world," Merkel said.

A reactor building of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant
Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are peacefulImage: AP

Merkel spoke of Germany's historical responsibilities to Israel and said Germany will "firmly advocate" harsher sanctions if Iran doesn't comply.

"It is not the world which must prove that Iran is building an atomic bomb. Iran must convince the world that it does not want the atomic bomb," Merkel said.

Merkel said tougher sanctions would be necessary if Iran did not change its course, but did not specify what those penalties would include. German officials have said they are considering economic measures.

Germany will participate in talks about Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly
Ahmadinejad says the nuclear issue is "closed"Image: AP

Iran continues to insist that it has the right to develop a civil nuclear program. Ahmadinejad rejects the accusation that his country is trying to develop nuclear weapons and insisted in his speech before the assembly that the controversy "is closed as a political issue" and should be handled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United States is pushing for further UN sanctions against Iran and will hold talks later this week with Germany and the Security Council permanent members.

In his speech earlier Tuesday, President Bush encouraged the assembly to support freedom and democracy in countries with repressive regimes. He mentioned Iran on a list of "brutal regimes" that also included Syria, North Korea and Belarus. All of those countries "deny their people … fundamental rights," Bush said.

Climate change a security concern

A man walks with a dog along a dry cracked reservoir bed in Alcora, eastern Spain
Climate change could lead to conflictImage: AP

The chancellor also followed up comments from the previous day, where she addressed a United Nations summit on global warming. Climate change is a threat to global stability, Merkel said, which could cause "global conflict" if left unchecked.

"Never before was the understanding among scientists so high, the facts so clear, the need for action so undisputed," she said. "Every country is affected by the consequences of climate change."

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