African countries in heated debate over UN reform
African countries taking part in a summit hosted by France have held heated discussions on UN Security Council reform, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday.
France is hoping to make headway in cementing a united African position on reshaping the world body's top decision-making council during the summit opening later Monday in the Riviera city of Nice.
"It was a lively debate, quite long and animated," Kouchner told reporters following a meeting with African foreign ministers late Sunday.
"France's position is very clear: We want Africa to be represented in all international institutions, including the UN, but we do not want to impose this," said Kouchner.
African countries agreed in 2005 to press demands for two veto-wielding permanent seats in an expanded Security Council as well as two non-permanent seats.
France is proposing that Africa press for one permanent seat with Kouchner stressing that it was important to be "realistic".
Among the 10 non-permanent countries that sit on the Security Council on a rotating basis, there are three African countries, alongside the five veto powers: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
Many see that structure as a holdover of the Cold War and argue that Africa needs stronger representation given that 27 percent of UN member-states are on the continent.
The UN Security Council has been reformed once, in 1963, when four non-permanent seats were added, but subsequent attempts to broaden the top body have failed.
Giving Africa a strong voice in world governance is one of the themes of the Africa-France summit hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and joined by 38 African leaders.
"When there is a serious economic crisis in the world, we cannot continue to hold meetings without Africa and make decisions without Africa on behalf of the entire world," Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso said.
"Africa cannot continue to be the fifth wheel and the Security Council cannot continue to be without Africa," he told France Info radio.
© 2010 AFP