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South Africa Looks to Wield Influence as Non-Permanent Member of Security Council

For the first time, South Africa will attend a UN General Assembly session as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. President Thabo Mbeki is leading his country’s delegation in New York.

For a closer look at South Africa’s role at the UN, English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke with VOA reporter Delia Robertson in Johannesburg.

“I think that the main focus of South Africa’s attention is going to be reform of the United Nations. I think they’re seeking to increase the size of the Security Council and to give developing countries in particular more of a say in how the United Nations is run and in the decision-making of the body,” she says.

Mr. Mbeki is scheduled to meet with a number of world leaders, including Portuguese Prime Minster Jose Socrates and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“With these two countries in particular, there is a specific agenda. In the case of Portugal…Portugal will be hosting the summit of the Africa Union and the European Union later this year. And there’s a lot of debate going on at the moment about the attendance at that summit of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Just last week, the Prime Minister of Britain (Gordon Brown) said that he would not attend the summit if Mr. Mugabe was there. I’m sure that will be high on the discussion because the point of view of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is that Mr. Mugabe should be attending that summit. Because their point of view is that you don’t gain anything unless you talk to people,” Robertson says.”

As for Mr. Mbeki’s meeting with the Iranian leader, she says, “South Africa has for some time now been having a number of meetings with very senior levels in the Iranian government on the issue of nuclear armament and disarmament. And I think their goal is to persuade Iran to comply with the standards and rules of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) on disarmament, and so gradually bring Iran into the international fold on this issue.”