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Panel proposes reforms of UN Security Council
Updated: 2004-11-30 14:26

A high-level panel on reforming the United Nations has proposed two models for enlarging the U.N. Security Council, according to a major report obtained by Reuters on Monday.

After a decade of failed approaches, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who appointed the panel of 16 men and women, wants U.N. members to act on one of the two proposals in 2005.

The report, due to be released on Thursday, suggests increasing members of the council -- the most powerful U.N. body, whose decisions can be mandatory -- from 15 to 24 members.

Formed on the ruins of World War II, the council has five permanent members with veto power -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, considered the war victors in 1945. Another 10 countries now rotate for two-year terms.

But colonial empires have vanished since 1945; one-time enemies, Germany and Japan, are active members of the United Nations, and the broader U.N. membership is dominated by developing countries.

The new report said the council's decision-making process had to be "more representative of the broader membership, especially of the developing world."

The report criticized the five permanent members for modest financial and military contributions compared to their special status. At the same time, it said the council was the body in the United Nations "most capable of organizing action and capable of responding rapidly to new threats."

The two proposals to revamp the council are:

-- Six new permanent members without veto power: two from Asia, two from Africa, one from Europe and one from the Americas, plus three new nonpermanent members for a two-year term for a total of 24 seats.

Germany, which has made common cause with Japan, Brazil and India for four of the seats, intends to introduce a resolution in the General Assembly for this plan within the next month or so, diplomats said. The contest for Africa's two seats is between Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, which argues that an Arab nation needs a permanent member.

-- The second recommendation is for eight seats in a new class of members, who would serve for four years, subject to renewal. They would include 2 each from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. In addition, this plan foresees one nonpermanent two-year seat for a total of 24.

This proposal is supported by countries which have little chance for permanent membership and oppose leading contenders.

Italy, which does not want to be the only large European country without a permanent council seat, opposes Germany; Pakistan opposes India; and Mexico and Argentina oppose Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country in a largely Spanish-speaking continent.

Any change of the council membership needs approval from two-thirds of the 191-member General Assembly and no veto from the council's permanent members.

Britain, France and Russia have indicated their support of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan. China has doubts about Japan, which pays nearly as much in dues as the United States.

The Bush administration has pointedly refrained from supporting Germany, which opposed the Iraq war, speaking only of support for Japan.

The 16-member panel, which has 100 proposals for reforming the world body, is chaired by Anand Panyarachun, a former Thai prime minister. It includes Brent Scowcroft, a former U.S. national security adviser; Yevgeni Primakov, a former Russian prime minister; Qian Qichen, a former Chinese foreign minister, and Amr Moussa, the Egyptian head of the Arab League.

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