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UN Security Council Candidates Drop Demand for Veto Power

Four countries campaigning for permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council have dropped their demand for veto power. The General Assembly could vote this month to add ten new members to the world body's most powerful organ.

Japan, Germany, India and Brazil Wednesday revised a draft General Assembly resolution that would increase the size of the U.N. Security Council from 15 to 25 members.

An earlier draft called for six new permanent members with the same veto rights as the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain.

But in a cover letter submitted with the revised version, the four candidate countries say they would drop the veto demand for at least 15 years.

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the concession was made in the face of strong opposition, both from the permanent five, or P-five Council members, as well as from other countries that would prefer to do away with the veto altogether.

"We have tried to seek a formula that takes care of differing interests, of the interests of the P-5, not to be touched in their status, the interests of the new permanent members not to be discriminated against, and we also take care of the opinion of more than 100 delegations that the veto is undemocratic and outdated, and therefore we as good new permanent members have said 'allright, let's wait and see, we can do without it," Mr. Pleuger says.

Ambassador Pleuger said one member of the P-five, France, had agreed to co-sponsor the enlargement measure after the veto demand was withdrawn. Others have expressed reservations, including China, which has called the plan "dangerous", and warned that it could split the membership.

A U.S. official Wednesday said Washington needs more time to study the proposal. The official said there is a flurry of activity in Washington aimed at determining how best to reform the most powerful U.N. body.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday said the United States has not decided which nations to back for Security Council seats, except for Japan.

Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said Washington and Tokyo are working closely on the issue of Security Council reform.

Japan and the United States are discussing the issue very closely and they support us, and the rest the U.S. is still considering the matter, we have not heard any formal decision taken by the United States yet, we've been told they're actively looking at it," says Mr. Oshima.

The Japanese envoy said the backers of the expansion resolution hope to bring it to a vote in the 191-member General Assembly this month.

"We'll try to get a decision if possible in June, but we have not made our final decision on that as yet," he added.

India's Ambassador Nirupam Sen said more than 10 countries have agreed to co-sponsor the revised expansion proposal. He said a poll of member states had shown the measure would receive more than the 128 votes needed for adoption.

"Absolutely, we have done it, and we are confident that we have at present well above a two-thirds majority," Mr. Sen says.

Other diplomats, however, say the number of countries committed to support the proposal is still short of the two-thirds required.

If the measure does pass, a second resolution naming the new permanent members would also have to win a two-third majority. In addition to Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, two as-yet-unselected African countries would be named.

After that, another vote would be needed to amend the U.N. Charter. Charter amendments also require ratification by the legislatures of all five permanent Council members.

Sponsors say they hope to have the first two stages completed in time for world leaders to consider Charter amendments when they gather for a summit in New York in September.