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UN Debates Security Council Enlargement

The United Nations has begun debate on a controversial proposal to add 10 new seats to the powerful Security Council, six of them permanent. The measure is encountering stiff opposition.

Brazil formally introduced what is called the G-four proposal in the General Assembly Monday, touching off a heated debate.

Brazilian Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg opened the discussion. He called the current Security Council membership "glaringly outdated".

"The Security Council needs to undergo a thorough reform, which includes an expansion of the category of permanent members, in order to bring it in line with the contemporary world," Mr. Sardenberg says.

Brazil, along with India, Germany and Japan, the so-called G-four, have been actively campaigning for permanent seats on an expanded council. Their proposal has garnered 23 co-sponsors, including current permanent council member, France.

But it has also encountered furious opposition from several quarters. At least two competing plans have emerged in recent days, raising strong doubts whether it or any other plan can receive the necessary two-thirds support of the U.N. membership.

Among the most outspoken critics of the proposal have been Pakistan, Italy, and Mexico, each of which opposes one of the G-four candidate countries. They have put forward an alternative calling for adding only non-permanent members.

In a hard-hitting speech to the assembly, Pakistan's U.N. ambassador, Munir Akram, called the G-four plan a "zero sum proposal" that would increase tensions and divisions within the world body. He ridiculed the G-four campaign for permanent seats, saying the tactics used would be judged "unethical or worse" if used in a national election campaign.

"To add insult to injury, self-interest has been portrayed as altruism," Mr. Akram says. "The seekers of special privileges and power masquerade as the champions of the weak and disadvantaged, asserting that the special privileges they seek will make the Council more representative and neutralize the power of the present permanent members. History has witnessed many such who proclaimed that they came to bury Ceasar, not to praise him."

Chinese ambassador Wang Guangya was also harsh in his criticism of the G-four plan. Calling Security Council reform an "extremely sensitive and complicated" matter, he said most member states want more time to search for a compromise.

He spoke through an interpreter.

"Forcing through an immature formula by means of a vote is bound to split member states and regional groups, and thus weaken the authority and role of the U.N. To do so would also defeat totally the original purpose of Security Council reform," he says.

A U.S. representative is scheduled to address the assembly during Tuesday's debate. U.S. officials have publicly avoided taking any position on the G-four proposal, but U.N. diplomats confirmed Monday that Washington has privately informed governments it would vote against the measure if brought to a vote.

Sponsors of the measure had originally said they would push for a vote by the end of this week. But the pending arrival of high-level ministers from several countries has raised the possibility of further negotiations, and pushed back the likely date of any vote until at least the middle of next week.