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G-Four Group Seeks Support from African Nations

Brazil, India, Germany and Japan are negotiating with African nations in an effort to win permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. Backers of a council expansion proposal are hoping for an early vote in the General Assembly.

Foreign ministers from the so-called Group of Four nations will be in New York Sunday for critical talks on their bid to become permanent members of the most powerful U.N. Council. The G-four, as they are known, will meet representatives of the African Union (AU) in hopes of winning the 53-member bloc's backing for their plan to enlarge the Security Council from 15 to 25 members.

Under the G-four proposal, six of the new seats would be permanent, two of them reserved for African countries. The AU has countered with its own draft that would result in slightly more influence for Africa.

Foreign Minister Olu Adeniji of the current AU president Nigeria is already in New York for the talks. Speaking to reporters, he signaled the African bloc's willingness to negotiate.

"That goes without saying," he said. "You don't submit a draft to 191 member states and say take it or leave it. That is a prescription for killing the draft before it gets off.

Two days of debate on the G-four proposal in the General Assembly this week revealed significant opposition. Two of the five current permanent Council members, China and the United States, warned against moving too fast on expansion. A third, Russia, suggested the G-four proposal was "unacceptable."

There is also a question of African support. Diplomats from African countries acknowledge the 53-member body is far from unanimous in its views on Council enlargement.

G-four ambassadors, however, remain hopeful of garnering the 128 votes needed for approval of their plan. Germany's U.N. representative Gunter Pleuger says when faced with a decision, member states would have only two choices: the G-four plan, or the status quo.

"The member states who have to push a button in the General Assembly will realize that the G-four draft resolution is the only one that can carry a majority," he said. "And they will also realize that the alternative is zero. There is no alternative."

There is, however, a competing proposal being circulated, should the G-four proposal fail. A group of G-four opponents led by Pakistan, Italy, Mexico and South Korea has come up with a draft that would add 10 new Council seats, all of them non-permanent.

Italy, which opposes a permanent seat for Germany, has dispatched a senior foreign ministry official to New York to lead a lobbying effort

Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, which opposes India's candidacy, argues that pushing for an early vote on the G-four plan could spell disaster for the wider cause of U.N. reform.

"I certainly hope that the G-four will not rashly push on to a vote, because firstly I don't think it'll achieve the result, and secondly, it'll raise the temperature further and divide the whole place and put the rest of the reform exercise in jeopardy," said Mr. Akram.

Germany's Ambassador Pleuger, however, said the G-four would press for an early vote on their resolution. When asked if the coalition including his country, Brazil, India and Japan could pick up the necessary 128 votes, he beamed with confidence.

"We will. You wait. We will," he added.

Diplomats say the G-four proposal could come to a vote as early as next week.

After that, however, the issue of Council expansion still faces a long and difficult road. A second General Assembly resolution would be needed to decide which countries would be named to permanent Council seats.

The third step would require ratification by the legislatures of two-thirds of U.N. member states, including all five permanent Security Council members.