French, African ministers clash in talks on UN, climate

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African ministers clashed with the French delegation at a meeting ahead of Monday's Franco-African summit, during which they discussed the continent's representation on the UN Security Council.

African diplomats also put their views forcefully on the issue of climate change.

"It was a lively debate, fairly long, animated," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told Radio France International and AFP after the six-hour meeting Sunday.

But it had been a sincere one, between friends, he added.

The African ministers had advanced the line adopted by the African Union, that the continent should have two permanent, veto-wielding seats in the Security Council, the heart of the UN's decision making apparatus.

They also wanted at least two more non-permanent members' places on the Council, to add to the three currently allocated to Africa.

France argued that it would be more realistic to argue first for one permanent seat on the Security Council, said Kouchner.

A number of African diplomats said the meeting was a stormy one.

"The talks started very badly," one Gabonese diplomat told AFP, with some of those present questioning France's right to even raise the issue.

The most outspoken comments had come from the Tanzanian and South African delegations, said another African diplomat.

Africa currently represents 27 percent of the United Nations' member states: but the five permanent members of the Security Council are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

The talks also covered the issue of climate change, said the Gabonese diplomat.

African delegates denounced a situation in which they said the West was the main offender but Africa, the victim, was expected to make more an effort to solve the problem.

Several delegates pointed out that Africa's 200 million hectares of forest in the Congo region meant it was one of the "lungs" of the planet.

Amd they denounced as disappointing the result of the 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate change, making it clear they were not impressed by the 30 billion dollars that wealthy countries had pledged in aid from 2010-2012.

The money was pledged to help poor countries deal with climate change.

But earlier this month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who represents the African Union on climate issues, expressed doubt over the capacity of developed nations to honour those financial commitments.

© 2010 AFP

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