Socialist accused of seeking to ditch French UN seat

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The front-runner in the race to become the next French president was under fire Friday from his political opponents who accuse him of wanting to ditch France's permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Socialist candidate Francois Hollande's party has made a pre-election deal with the Greens to seek major UN reform if he takes over from the right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy after next year's vote.

"The only weapon that enables France to take its place among the great powers is this weapon. And he wants to remove it," said the centrist candidate Francois Bayrou.

Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of Sarkozy's UMP party, warned that the "Socialists and the Greens are letting it be understood that a European seat, without veto rights, could replace the permanent seats currently held by France and the United Kingdom on the UN Security Council."

Interior Minister Claude Gueant on Wednesday accused Hollande, who is leading Sarkozy in the opinion polls, of "organising the downgrading of France in international institutions."

The text of the electoral deal states that "France will make precise proposals to reform and democratise the UN."

This would include "a European seat, the suppression of veto rights, better representation of the countries of the south on the Security Council," it said.

The Socialists emphasize that none of the reforms would be carried out unilaterally.

Hollande's election campaign director Pierre Moscovici told AFP that there was "no question of challenging France's status as a permanent member of the United Nations or its veto rights."

But the Greens on Friday insisted that they want the veto ditched.

"The veto right is an outdated privilege reserved for a few countries," said Eva Joly, national secretary of the Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) party.

"It is notably because of it that today the international community remains paralysed while (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad continues to massacre his people," she said in a statement.

France has called for an increase in the number of permanent members on the the Security Council, which currently has five, but is not seeking to abandon veto rights.

© 2011 AFP

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