July 26, 2005

Italy says seekers of Council seats use blackmail

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Italy's U.N. ambassador on
Tuesday said seekers of U.N. Security Council seats were
engaging in blackmail and financial threats to win support for
their resolution to enlarge the 15-member body.

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Ambassador
Marcello Spatafora accused Germany, Japan, India and Brazil,
aspirants for permanent council seats known as the Group of
Four, or G-4, of "blackmailing some sector of the membership."

He referred to G-4 as a unit without making it clear which
country or countries he meant.

"Enough is enough," Spatafora told the Assembly. "I am
referring to the G-4 resorting to financial leverage and to
financial pressures in order to induce a government to align or
not to align itself with a certain position..."

Spatafora spoke after Canada, backed by Pakistan and
Colombia, introduced a resolution, the third plan to date, to
expand the council by 10 new rotating seats and no permanent
seats, as the G-4 want. About a dozen countries are part of the
group backing this proposal, called "Uniting for Consensus."

The contentious struggle for Security Council reform has
been debated for a decade and given momentum this year by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who argues the council is
unrepresentative and reflects the balance of power at the end
of World War II.

Italy has long campaigned against adding new permanent
members to the council. A seat for Germany would leave Rome as
the only big Western European nation without one.

Spatafora gave one example of an unnamed G-4 donor country,
which allegedly had threatened a government co-sponsoring his
draft resolution, that it would "put an end" to a $460,000
development project for children.

Meanwhile, the G-4 members were struggling with the African
Union, without whose support they cannot achieve the 128 votes
or two-thirds of the 191-General Assembly needed to begin the
Security Council reform process.


Despite conciliatory comments at a London meeting of
foreign ministers on Monday, North African countries Egypt and
Algeria objected to suggested compromises by Nigeria, which
holds the AU presidency. Nigeria argued that a hard-line
position would doom any plan to give seats to Africa.

In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said
Nigeria's compromises were a ploy for its own ambitions to get
a permanent council seat. Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt are
contenders for two possible permanent African seats,

And at the United Nations, Algeria's U.N. ambassador,
Abdalla Baali, said no agreement was reached in London and
called for another African Union summit to reach a position.

"So I don't expect any vote to take place in the coming
days," Baali said. "The G-4 need Africa's support."

Germany, Japan, Brazil and India have called on the General
Assembly to enlarge the Security Council to 25 from 15. This
plan envisions six new permanent seats, including two for
Africa, but new members would not have veto power.

In contrast, the African Union's draft resolution asks for
the council to be enlarged to 26 seats, one more nonpermanent
seat than the G-4 proposal. Its proposal for six new permanent
seats is the same as the G-4, except that it would give the new
members veto privileges.

In a letter to African leaders last week, Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo urged the AU to give in on the
veto. He also urged bargaining over the extra temporary seat,
which Germany said could be rotated between Africa, Asia and
Latin America. But Egypt's Gheit rejected the compromise had
said Nigeria's position had caused a crisis in London.

The Security Council now has 15 seats, 10 rotating for
two-year terms and five permanent members with veto power: the
United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. The last step
in council reform would be approval by national legislatures
and here the five can use their veto.