UN official slams world powers as reform talks begin

February 20th, 2009 - 3:18 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Feb 20 (DPA) The UN General Assembly president took yet another shot Thursday at some world powers for what he called disrespect of the UN Charter, while intergovernmental negotiations began on reforming the UN Security Council.
Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, a former Sandinista foreign minister in Nicaragua in the 1980s, has been picking on the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - the so-called P5 veto-wielding permanent members of the 15-nation council - since he became leader of the 192-nation last September.

He described the first day of negotiations to reform the council as a “historic day” because reform discussions began 16 years ago, but serious negotiations only began this week.

“There is a total lack of respect of the letter and spirit of the UN Charter by some permanent members,” Miguel d’Escoto said without naming the countries. But his remarks were clearly directed at the US.

“We cannot have another Iraq,” he said. “We cannot accept that some members are above the law. Let’s democratise the UN.”

A committee for the so-called equitable representation of the UN Security Council, under the leadership of Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin, met behind closed doors to start the process of reforming the council. The committee can also take votes on reform provisions.

Miguel d’Escoto and UN diplomats said Thursday’s session was to allow members to acquaint themselves with each other. But they said negotiations in March will take up five key issues, including categories of members; the question of the veto, now enjoyed only by the 5P; regional representation and the size of an enlarged council.

Italy’s UN Ambassador Giulio Terzi told reporters that the issue of under-representation by Africa and small countries in the council was already raised in the first session.

“I believe that we are on the right track,” Terzi said.

Italy had joined years ago with Pakistan and China to oppose Germany and Japan when they demanded permanent seats on the council.

The council has been strongly criticised for monopolising the peace and security issues and for the lack of transparency in its decision-making process. A majority of UN members resent the veto power of the five permanent members, which are the victors of World War II, and often referred to in UN parlance as the P5.

Ten of the council’s 15 nations are elected to serve two-year terms, representing the world’s five regions.

Developing countries have been demanding more say in matters of global peace and security, rejecting the political dominance of the P5. They have called for enlarging the council from the current 15 to 21 or 25 members, to include the emerging nations.

On the other hand, developed countries like Germany and Japan have demanded permanent seats and respect on a par with the current five permanent members.

During discussions in the late 1990s, Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria demanded permanent seats on a reformed council.

But countries like South Korea, Italy, Pakistan and China are opposed to the candidates for permanent seats. South Korea and China are opposed to Japan becoming a permanent member because of its role during World War II. Italy is opposed to Germany and Pakistan is opposed to India.

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