The African Union has formally submitted a proposal at the United Nations that would dramatically upgrade Africa's strength on the Security Council. The plan calls for creation of two permanent African seats at the Council table, with full veto powers.
Introducing the African Union draft resolution Monday, Nigeria's U.N. Ambassador, Aminu Wali, said it was aimed at correcting a fundamental imbalance on the Security Council.
"Africa considers now is time most opportune to take a decision on this matter, on which there have been several debates over the years. The issues are clear, the challenge obvious and the opportunities enormous," Mr. Wali says.
The A.U. plan calls for increasing the Council membership from 15 to 26 members. Of the 11 new seats, five would be occupied by permanent members with full veto powers, including two from Africa.
Two of the six additional non-permanent seats would also be reserved for countries selected by the African group.
The plan is similar in many respects to one submitted last week by Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, the so-called G-four group of aspiring permanent Council members. The main difference is the African demand that new permanent members be given full veto powers.
The G-four countries know their proposal cannot win the necessary two-thirds support in the General Assembly without support from the 53-nation African bloc. Negotiations on a compromise are to begin Tuesday in hopes of bringing the matter to a vote by next week.
But initial reaction has been cool from several quarters. Only five African nations spoke in support of the measure at Monday's General Assembly session, and Ambassador Abdallah Baali of A.U. member, Algeria, said many countries are concerned about what they see as a rush to vote.
"We would like to see Security Council reform before September, this is our aim, it is in nobody's interest to have the status quo in the Security Council, so we need to do it, and we still have time. What I believe is not right is to put pressure on us to do it during the days to come," Mr. Baali says.
Other ambassadors also urged a go-slow approach. China's U.N. representative Wang Guangya emerged from Monday's meeting repeating his concern that trying to rush a decision on Council enlargement could split the membership, and damage the chances for approval of a broad package of reforms endorsed by a high-level panel earlier this year.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging the General Assembly to vote on the reform package when world leaders gather in New York in September to mark the world body's 60th anniversary.