By Amber HenshawAssociated Press
August 5, 2005
African leaders are sticking with their demand for two veto-wielding permanent seats on the UN Security Council, rejecting a compromise some had hoped would ensure the success of proposed UN reforms. "Africa has come together with a consensus, which is to push Africa's case," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said after the decision was made at an extraordinary African Union summit Thursday. "Africa's case is to get two permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council with veto power."
The so-called Group of Four - Japan, Brazil, Germany and India - had proposed instead that Africa get two permanent seats on the council, but no veto power. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said it would be unfair to have three kinds of council members and that African countries deserved the same powers as wealthy countries.
The rejection may scuttle years of work toward expanding the Security Council. There is widespread support for enlarging the council to reflect the world today rather than after World War II when the United Nations was formed. But all previous attempts have failed because of national and regional rivalries. AU delegates said the leaders formed a special commission of heads of state from 10 African countries to pursue the African Union's agenda in UN reforms.
An Egyptian diplomat and another North African delegate said that the representatives from 53 African nations voted 90 percent in favor of sticking to the group's original decision not to accept any Security Council reforms that did not expand the number of seats capable of vetoing resolutions brought before the council. The Security Council currently has 15 members, 10 elected for two-year terms and five permanent members who have veto power.
At least eight presidents, eight prime ministers, one vice president and 19 Cabinet ministers attended the extraordinary meeting, with representatives from all 53 African nations to take part, an AU statement said. The Group of Four also sent representatives, lobbying to reach an agreement with the AU to win the two-thirds support of UN member states needed to change the Security Council.
The Group of Four has proposed a 25-member council, adding six permanent seats without a veto and four non-permanent seats. Group of Four members hope to win four of the permanent seats with the other two earmarked for Africa. One of the non-permanent seats would also be set aside for Africa. South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt are the leading African contenders for the permanent seats. The African Union proposes expanding the council to 26 members - adding six permanent seats with veto power and five non-permanent seats. A third proposal by a group called Uniting for Consensus would add 10 non-permanent seats.
Earlier, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had advised his fellow African leaders to compromise to advance reforms. "The main issue before us is to decide either that Africa will join the rest of the world, or the majority of the rest of the world, in bringing to a conclusion a demand for UN reform," Obasanjo said. "Or if Africa will stand on a nonnegotiable position which will certainly frustrate the reform efforts."
"Issues relating to Africa's conflicts occupy about 70 percent of Security Council agenda and time," Obasanjo said, in recommending the Group of Four position. "To have Africa's representation on that council to be increased from three to six will be a quantum leap forward."
Even if a compromise had been reached in Addis, it would have faced trouble at the UN At the United Nations on Tuesday, China's ambassador announced his country and the United States and China would work together to block the Group of Four's plan. China opposes a permanent seat for Group of Four member Japan and wants more developing countries on the council. The United States, meanwhile, supports Japan's bid but only wants "two or so" new permanent council members.
Anne Patterson, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, urged the Group of Four, the African Union and Uniting for Consensus on Tuesday to hold off on council expansion and focus first "on more urgently needed" reforms.
More Information on Security Council Reform: Membership
More Information on Security Council Reform
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