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Switzerland Soon to be UN's 190th Member - 2002-07-24

Switzerland could soon be a member of the United Nations. The Security Council has unanimously approved Switzerland's application for U.N. membership and sent its decision to the General Assembly for final action.

Switzerland is expected to become the 190th member of the United Nations on September 10, when the new session of the General Assembly opens. Approval by the assembly is virtually guaranteed once an application is accepted by the Security Council.

The Swiss decided in a referendum this year to give up their traditional reluctance to join the world organization, though the margin of approval was narrow. Switzerland has always maintained U.N. membership would compromise its neutrality.

The president of the Security Council, Jeremy Greenstock of Britain, delivered a congratulatory message on behalf of all 15 Council members, calling the occasion historic. "The Council notes with great satisfaction the Swiss Confederation's solemn commitment to uphold the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations and to fulfill all the obligations contained therein," he said.

While formally staying outside the United Nations, Switzerland has been a very active non-member since the 1950s, supporting the work of the various U.N. agencies. And just last year, it agreed to plans for allowing Swiss troops to join peacekeeping operations, provided the government decides it is safe to do so.

The admission of Switzerland in early September will be followed on September 27 by East Timor, which gained its independence from Indonesia in May with U.N. help.

New membership is always a cause for celebration at U.N. headquarters. Flags of the new member-states are raised in the U.N. courtyard in the presence of the respective national leaders. Toasts are made, parties are held around town and, for the moment, the newest member of the world community has its place in the sun.