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S. Africa Sees Important New Role as Member of UN Security Council


South Africa is attending its first meeting of the U.N. Security Council as a one of its new non-permanent members. The government says Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is going to New York for a Council debate next week on threats to international peace and security. It is an indication of the importance the government is placing on its new role, as we hear from correspondent Scott Bobb in Johannesburg.

South Africa's Foreign Affairs ministry issued a statement Tuesday pledging to work with the U.N. Security Council and other regional organizations for peace and stability in all parts of the world.

It said the government is convinced that the multi-lateral system of global governance remains the only hope for the challenges facing humanity today. And it declared its readiness to serve what it called the peoples of Africa, the South [the developing world] and the World.

An analyst for Johannesburg's Center for Policy Studies, Francis Kornegay, says this is a timely opportunity.

"South Africa has a tremendous amount to offer," he said. "And given the critical nature of a lot of the African issues that need to be dealt with, I think it is the best timing for South Africa to be on the Security Council."

He says priorities are the conflicts in Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan, negotiating peace and elections in Ivory Coast, and consolidating stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.

South African leaders in recent years have mediated numerous crises on the continent, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and Ivory Coast.

But they say they want to voice African points of view on other disputes and in particular to present alternatives to what is seen as a world diplomacy dominated by a few major powers.

But Kornegay says South Africa is likely to take a less prominent approach in these areas.

"These are issues that can be dealt with in a manner that does not expose South Africa to the full light of media glare of how the cut and thrust of its diplomacy is going," he said.

Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, North Korea and Burma are some of these issues likely to appear on the Security Council agenda.

South Africa was among four other countries, Indonesia, Italy, Belgium and Panama, elected last October to two-year terms on the Security Council. They joined five other non-permanent members - Congo Republic, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia, which each have one year remaining in their terms.

The Council is dominated by its five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, which have the power to veto its resolutions.

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