11 July 2005

G-4 favours U.N. vote "around July 20"

11 July 2005
The Hindu

G-4 favours U.N. vote "around July 20"

Siddharth Varadarajan

Africa could help garner the magic figure of 128 countries

NEW DELHI: After taking stock of the international support for their proposal to expand the United Nations Security Council, the G-4 Foreign Ministers, meeting in London over the weekend, have agreed to put their draft resolution to vote in the General Assembly "around July 20."

This deadline is elastic but not open-ended, a senior official told The Hindu on Sunday, with everything depending on the "magic figure of 128" — the number of countries required to pass the resolution with a two-thirds majority. "This in turn depends on Africa," he added.

Crucial meet on July 17

External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh will meet his counterparts from Brazil, Germany and Japan in New York on July 17 for a final assessment of whether to press ahead with a vote or not.

If a compromise is reached with the African countries, voting, in all likelihood, will proceed on schedule. But if not, the vote will be put off till an understanding is reached.

In the run-up to that meeting, the G-4 Ambassadors to the United Nations will seek to bridge the difference between the G-4's draft and the proposals endorsed by the African Union (A.U.) at its summit in Libya last week.

The A.U. proposals are also in the process of being tabled as a separate resolution in the General Assembly. And as if the waters were not muddy enough, the `Coffee Club' group of countries, opposed to the addition of new permanent members, will also be tabling its resolution.

Harmonised text

"In our negotiations with the African countries, every effort will now be made by us to produce a harmonised text," a senior official said.

Like India, Japan, Brazil and Germany, the A.U. also wants the addition of six new permanent members, including two from Africa, but insists they must have the right of veto.

The G-4 countries had originally sought veto rights but agreed to hold that demand in abeyance for 15 years in order to win wider support. The A.U. proposal also involves one extra non-permanent seat for Africa, which would take the proposed size of the Security Council up to 26 rather than 25.

The weakest link

The Africans may drop their insistence on the veto but their plan to have an extra non-permanent seat could be a deal-breaker.

"I don't think any of the G-4 minds Africa getting an additional seat but then that would open up a can of worms. Latin America or the Caribbean may insist on one more for their grouping. More African countries would vote for our resolution but we would lose support on the other side," the official said.

"Africa is the weakest link. If a compromise is reached on the two resolutions, fine. But if at the end of the day there are still two separate resolutions, we might just have to accept that expansion [of the Security Council] will not happen this year."

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