African refusal to drop veto demand seen as setback

African leaders’ insistence at their summit on Thursday to drop demands for two permanent veto-wielding seats on an enlarged United Nations Security Council is a major setback for council aspirants Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, which had lobbied hard for African backing, diplomats said.

After a contentious debate at an emergency African Union summit on UN reform, 46 of the pan-African body’s 53 members reaffirmed a joint position on the continent’s Security Council representation adopted in July in Libya.

The AU agreed to set up a 10-strong committee, comprised of two leaders from each of Africa’s five regions, tasked with gaining support for the continent’s position and diplomats said that if it failed, the AU will try to forge a new consensus on the issue.

The outcome had been eagerly awaited by the so-called G4 — Brazil, India, Japan and Germany — which has been lobbying furiously for AU backing for its proposal to enlarge the council to 25 members, with six new permanent seats without veto power and four non-permanent seats.

The G4 plan envisions one permanent seat without veto power each for its members and two for Africa with Africa also getting one non-permanent seat and sharing a second with other developing nations.

G4 diplomats here, who had expressed guarded optimism about an AU nod for their draft resolution, were not immediately available for comment.

An enlargement resolution requires a two-third majority in the 191-member General Assembly for adoption and no veto from permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Algeria’s UN ambassador Abdallah Baali, one of the most forceful opponents of the G4 draft, felt clearly vindicated.

”We are pleased that the AU has maintained its unity, articulated around the position we adopted” in Libya last month, he added.

”We believe the African position is a realistic position, a legitimate position.”

”As far as we are concerned as Africans, our draft resolution is still alive, it is still on the table and now we are going to make every effort to campaign for it,” he added.

The AU blueprint insists on veto power for two permanent Security Council seats that would be allocated to Africa as well as five non-permanent council seats, including two for Africa.

Thursday’s summit outcome was also seen here as a defeat for Nigeria, the current AU chair which had urged flexibility and a compromise with the G4 to ensure African representation on the powerful council.

”We need to negotiate with other groups, unless our objective is to prevent any decision,” Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo said.

”If that happens, let us be under no illusion: Africa stands to lose more than any other region.”

But his call was rejected as a core group of nine nations — Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia — adamantly opposed to backing down on the demand for veto power for new permanent council members, diplomats said.

Zimbabwe’s UN envoy Boniface Chidyausiku said that the stance of the AU majority was based on principle and meant to correct a historical injustice that leaves Africa as the only continent not represented on the council.

”The question is not just to get in [the council], but to get in and be effective,” he said.

”The right of veto should be abolished but as long as it exists, we too should have it.”

China and the United States had lobbied hard separately against the G4 proposal.

Richard Grenell, a spokesperson for the US UN mission here, said on Thursday that while Washington opposed the G4 blueprint, it was doing so for reasons fundamentally different from those of China.

He reiterated US support for Japan’s entry into the council but said ”we don’t think the timing is right [for council expansion], we want to see other UN reforms first.”

Beijing, which had previously backed council seats for Brazil, Germany and India, is adamantly opposed to Japan’s being granted permanent status, due to its perceived refusal to face up to its wartime past.

”The UN is so divided [over the G4 proposal], it is regrettable,” said China’s UN delegate Yang Jarong. ”The UN reform has been hijacked.”

Meanwhile the Addis Ababa outcome was sure to welcomed by the so-called United for Consensus led by Canada and Italy, which is pushing a rival proposal to enlarge the council from 15 to 25 seats with 10 new non-permanent members that would be elected for two-year terms, with the possibility of immediate re-election. – Sapa-AFP

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Gerard Aziakou
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