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US Presents UN Reform Plan to General Assembly


The United States has presented the U.N. General Assembly a seven-point plan for reforming the world body. The proposal calls for a limited, criteria-based Security Council enlargement.

Anne Patterson
Speaking to an informal, closed-door meeting of the General Assembly Wednesday, acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson said "there should be no lingering doubts: The United States is open to Security Council reform and expansion."

The envoy formally endorsed Japan's bid for a permanent Council membership, but made no mention of other candidates. Japan has joined with Brazil, India and Germany in a combined push to expand the Council from 15 to 25 members, including six new permanent seats.

The G-4, as they are known, are seeking a vote on their expansion plan by next month. They would then put forward a second proposal to have themselves named permanent members, along with two African countries.

G-4 ambassadors say they have the necessary two-thirds vote of the 191-member General Assembly to win approval of their enlargement plan. But several powerful members have expressed opposition.

Veto-wielding China, which opposes Japan's membership, has been most outspoken, saying any move to rush a vote on Security Council expansion could doom chances for broader U.N. reforms. As he emerged from a closed-door Assembly meeting, Pakistan's Ambassador Munir Akram said many countries, including his own, share China's concern. "The question is of course, if any one party seeks to push its own position through a vote, then it will be very divisive and messy, and that is what we want to avoid because it will destroy the entire reform process," he said.

The United States is firmly opposed to the G-four plan.

Ambassador Patterson told the General Assembly Wednesday that Washington will stick to its formulation of "two or so" new permanent members and two or three additional non-permanent seats. She said new permanent members should be chosen on the basis of objective criteria.

General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon remains optimistic a compromise solution can be found. But he admits finding a middle ground will be difficult because people in various countries have vastly different expectations of what a reform package should contain.

"The public opinion of this country, because of the press, because of the Congress, is expecting a reform, if we don't have it, you can imagine the credibility, so we should have a reform, but if you see Japanese public opinion, they think Japan should be a permanent member. If you go to developing countries, they expect that they will mean to alleviate poverty, to cancel debt, so every public opinion is expecting something," he said.

The seven-point U.S. proposal introduced Wednesday calls for replacing the U.N. human rights commission with a smaller body that would bar membership to countries with poor human rights records.

In her speech, Ambassador Patterson also urged sweeping management reform. She pointed to failings in the U.N. administered Iraq oil-for-food program, and the world body's inability to prevent U.N. peacekeepers from sexually exploiting those they were sent to protect.

Earlier this year, Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the U.N. membership to be prepared to approve a series of reforms at a gathering of world leaders to mark the world body's 60th anniversary in September.

But sharp disagreements on key issues such as Security Council reform, plus a series of controversies surrounding the world body and Mr. Annan, have cast a shadow over prospects for any meaningful reform in the short term.

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