Germany to hold fast on UNreform course despite US

14th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

14 July 2005, NEW YORK - A top German official on Wednesday signalled his country's intent to push on for expansion of the U.N. Security Council despite clear opposition expressed by the United States.

14 July 2005

NEW YORK - A top German official on Wednesday signalled his country's intent to push on for expansion of the U.N. Security Council despite clear opposition expressed by the United States.

"If we do not push through this reform now, the United Nations will suffer a heavy loss of standing" in the world, said Volker Ruehe, chairman of the foreign relations committee in the German parliament, the Bundestag.

Debate has heated up this week in the U.N. General Assembly over a proposal from Germany, India, Brazil and Japan that they join an expanded Security Council as permanent members - a role now held only by the World War II victors, the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France.

A U.S. representative, Shirin Tahir-Kheli, a senior adviser on U.N. reform for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, urged the General Assembly on Tuesday to reject the proposal from the so-called G4 because it was premature and having a divisive effect on the U.N. membership.

Washington supports overhauling the U.N.'s management and bureaucracy before making changes in the Security Council. Any changes in the U.N. structure need two-thirds approval from the 191- member assembly.

Ruehe told reporters he was optimistic that the five current veto- powers on the Security Council would not be able to hold back a two- thirds majority will of the assembly.

The debate was to continue later this week in the General Assembly. The G4 proposal is also running into opposition from a group, Uniting for Consensus, headed by Pakistan, Italy and China; and from a counter proposal yet to be offered by the Africa Union.

The G4 proposal was presented to the assembly on Monday, when the assembly opened its first debate on Security Council reform after 12 years of fruitless closed-door negotiations.

The Security Council currently has 15 members - the five permanent, veto-privileged members plus 10 members elected for two- year terms.

The G4 wants to enlarge the council to 25 with the addition of six new permanent seats without veto power, and four on rotating terms. The new permanent members would also include two African countries alongside the G4 countries.

The G4's bid for permanent membership is supported by Britain and France, two of the current five permanent members. But the other three - the United States, Russia and China - have made clear that they would challenge some of the prospective permanent members.

The African Union has called for enlarging the Security Council to 26 members, with six new permanent members and five on short terms.

Uniting for Consensus is opposed to new permanent members, calling only for the addition of 10 new members elected for limited terms.

On Tuesday, Tahir-Kheli promised the U.S. would "work" with enlargement designs "only in the right way and at the right time". She also cited several other reasons for Washington's opposition, including the difficulty of getting the U.S. Senate to ratify changes to the U.N. Charter that will be necessary to alter the composition of the currently 15-nation Security Council.

German Ambassador to the U.N. Gunter Pleuger, who took up the podium after Tahir-Kheli, replied that the G4 draft resolution would be the lynchpin for comprehensive reform of the U.N. system.

"The G4 proposal is not directed against anybody but offers something to everybody," Pleuger said.

"If this resolution is adopted, it will give a strong political impulse to achieving substantive results in the September summit on the important other issues like development, human rights, security and institutional reform."

The United States is not part of any groups and has not offered any resolution to reform the Security Council, but has said it would back the addition of Japan as a permanent member.

The African Union planned to present its own draft resolution on reform this week.

The heated debate prompted U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to call on governments to "calm down".

"We are at an early stage of discussion, and one day of discussion will not make a General Assembly session," Annan told reporters. "We should calm down and not get excited about it. These are mature men and women."


Subject: German news

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