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Japan to negotiate with US in new UN bid
Updated: 2006-01-07 11:11

Japan has refused to join Germany, India and Brazil in a new bid to get permanent seats on an expanded U.N. Security Council, deciding instead to negotiate with the United States to try to come up with a proposal that Washington won't oppose.

Japan's decision not to co-sponsor the same General Assembly resolution it wholeheartedly supported last year with the three other countries was the latest twist in the bitterly divisive debate on reshaping the powerful Security Council to reflect the realities of the 21st century.

The decision by Japan to strike out on its own left the so-called Group of Four reform partners looking more like a Group of Three, though Japan, Germany, India and Brazil all denied any break-up.

"The G-4 is a group of strong aspirants for new permanent members of the council, and its primary driving force for council reform," Japanese diplomat Shiniichi Iida said Friday. "So whatever the new plan can be, we need support of India, Germany and Brazil. From that perspective, we have no intention whatsoever to leave the framework of G-4. We will certainly and firmly maintain the cooperation in the G-4."

In March 2005, the Group of Four was optimistically hoping the General Assembly would adopt a resolution by summer that would give them permanent seats on the U.N.'s most powerful body. But their plan to expand the council from 15 to 25 members, including six new permanent members without veto power, ran into strong opposition.

The General Assembly shelved the Group of Four proposal and two rival resolutions on council reform in late summer because none drew the necessary support from two-thirds of the 191 U.N. member states.

But several African countries and India, Brazil and Germany weren't dissuaded.

After the new General Assembly session started in September, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa introduced a resolution to expand the council to 26 members, including six new permanent seats with veto power. It was the same resolution the African Union was pushing last year.

India, Brazil and Germany followed on Thursday by reintroducing the Group of Four proposal with an explanatory note saying they "will maintain the cooperative framework of the G-4 with Japan."

The Security Council currently has 10 members elected for two-year terms and five permanent members with veto power who reflect the global power structure after World War II when the United Nations was created _ the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

There is strong support for enlarging the council to reflect the world today but all previous attempts have failed because national and regional rivalries blocked agreement on the size and composition of an expanded council _ and last year's effort fell into the same trap.

Japan's Iida said Tokyo decided not to join Germany, India and Brazil because it didn't want to interfere with any effort by the African Union to unite behind a single plan. The Africans can't agree on who would get permanent seats _ and some smaller and mid-size countries favor only additional nonpermanent seats, which they would have a greater chance of winning.

"The second reason is that we are in serious dialogue with the Americans, whose opposition was one of the main impediments against passage of the G-4 resolution last year," he said.

"Our negotiations haven't produced concrete results yet," Iida said. "However, we will continue to do our best to come up with a possible plan that will be able to garner a two-thirds majority vote of member states."

The United States has repeatedly said it wants "a modest expansion" of the council with just two or so additional permanent seats, including one for Japan.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States sees no point in discussing the drafts that were on the table last year again.

"Because we have long supported a permanent seat for the Japanese, we are consulting with them on possible options. As of now, we have not settled on any one fixed plan," he said.

But China vehemently opposes Japan becoming a permanent council member. China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Friday he still believes none of the proposals on the table "would unify the whole U.N. membership."

"I believe that still the U.N. members are highly divided," he said. "We need more time to consult to find the best solution for all of us."

Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Konstantin Dolgov agreed.

"We think that any initiative taken now by members (must) aim at broadening ... the degree of consensus," he said.

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