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UN Reform Unlikely Before Year's End

DW staff/AFP (jam)
August 13, 2005

Many countries think UN Security Council reform is needed, but disagree on how to do it. UN chief Kofi Annan now says finding a compromise will take longer than expected. The plan pushed by Germany is likely doomed.

UN head Annan wanted reform by September, but that won't happenImage: AP

Faced with an impasse over a proposed expansion of the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was this week forced to concede that the contentious issue is unlikely to be settled before a summit of world leaders here in September.

Annan had made Security Council expansion a key plank of a sweeping UN reform package to be ready for consideration by world leaders at a September 14-16 summit ahead of the General Assembly session. He had set a September deadline for agreement by member states.

"I'm one of those who believe that the reform of the United Nations will not be complete without the reform of the Security Council," the UN chief said Wednesday. "So I would urge the member states to find a solution to this issue as soon as possible."

But a day later, Annan appeared to bow to the political reality.

"Ideally, it should be done by September. That was my own initial recommendation," he said. "But if that were to slip, I think the member states should remain focused, determined, and engaged, and try and do it by the end of the year because it is urgent."

US: no "artificial deadline"

Thursday, the new US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, reaffirmed Washington's opposition to "an artificial deadline for possible changes to the Security Council."

Bush & Bolton
UN Ambassador John Bolton (right) with US President George W. BushImage: dpa

"If you're looking at the historical record, it would be hard to argue that putting any kind of deadline in place is necessarily conducive to success," he added.

The impasse over Security Council expansion is to a large extent due to the strong opposition by two veto-wielding permanent council members, China and the United States, to what had appeared to be the most promising proposal.

More broadly, the United States wants the UN to focus on management reform after a scandal over evidence of corruption in its oil-for-food program for Iraq and widespread criticism of its structure and management practices.

Washington also wants to establish a panel to oversee peacekeeping missions, to reform the UN human rights commission and exclude offending countries, and to set up a fund to promote democracy worldwide.

G4 plan losing steam

A draft resolution introduced in the General Assembly by the so-called G4 -- Brazil, Germany, India and Japan -- would boost council membership to 25, with six new permanent non-veto-wielding seats -- one for each of the so-called G4 members and two for Africa -- and four non-permanent seats.

Abstimmung im UN Sicherheitsrat
UN Security CouncilImage: UN Photos

Washington instead would like to see only two permanent seats, including one for Japan, and two or three non-permanent seats added to the council.

China for its part is adamantly opposed to Japan gaining a permanent seat, saying that Tokyo must do more to show it regrets its militarist past.

The G4 had hoped to enlist the backing of the 53-member African Union to have any chance of securing the two-thirds majority in the 191-member General Assembly for adoption of their draft.

But at a recent summit in Addis Ababa, the Africans refused to fall behind the G4 and instead stuck to their demand for veto power for the two seats to be allocated to Africa.

Although it is backed by 30 countries, including council permanent members Britain and France, the G4 proposal is now virtually doomed as it is also opposed by a group led by Italy and Canada that wants an enlarged council with 20 non-permanent members with no veto right along with the five veto-wielding permanent members.
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