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US Congressman Lantos Voices Support for UN Reform


A top Democratic lawmaker, California Congressman Tom Lantos, has praised U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his efforts to overhaul the world body. But Mr. Lantos says some of the U.N. chief's more controversial proposals, such as settling on a definition of terrorism, will likely meet resistance.

Congressman Lantos says Mr. Annan is the right person to deal with reforming the United Nations.

Mr. Lantos was speaking Tuesday at Voice of America headquarters in Washington, one day after the secretary-general unveiled his proposal to overhaul the 191-member United Nations. The proposal includes a reform package that would expand the 15-member Security Council to 24 nations.

The plan also restructures the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which has been criticized for admitting countries with poor human rights records, like Cuba and Sudan.

Mr. Lantos says the commission needs to be reformed.

"The human rights commission of the United Nations has become over the years, a disgrace," he said. "Some of its chairmen have been the most oppressive, totalitarian, non-human rights respecting governments on the face of this planet. And I believe that particular recommendation [of Mr. Annan's] will be received with a great deal of support and commendation."

Kofi Annan
Secretary-General Annan says the new, smaller council would be composed only of governments that adhere to the highest human rights standards.

Mr. Lantos also praised Mr. Annan for his efforts to get the United Nations to agree on the definition of terrorism.

"It's high time the United Nations, as an international body, spoke on the subject of terrorism," he said. "I applaud my friend Kofi Annan demanding at long last the United Nations speak out without equivocation, denouncing terrorism."

Mr. Lantos, who was born in Hungary, is serving his 13th term in the House of Representatives. He says the U.S. Congress will examine Mr. Annan's recommendations carefully.

The Bush administration, which has long been a proponent of U.N. reform, says it is looking forward to examining the secretary-general's proposal.

For his part, Mr. Annan says he plans to work closely with the United States on U.N. reform.

"I think the collective effort of all of us working together is in the national interest of individual member states, and an effective and functioning U.N. is in the interest of the United States and its people, as it is in the interest of other nations and peoples," he said.

Mr. Lantos adds that no matter how the United Nations is restructured, it will continue to face criticism because it reflects a flawed world community.

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