US to oppose veto power for 4 seeking Security Council permanent seats
US to India plus 3: want seat, forget veto
Posted online: Monday, May 16, 2005 at 0131 hours IST
WASHINGTON, MAY 15: The United States has warned four
nations campaigning jointly for permanent seats on the
UN Security Council that Washington will not support
their cause unless they agree not to ask for the veto
power that the five current permanent council members
hold, senior diplomats and administration officials
The four nations�Brazil, India, Germany and Japan�are
unhappy about that position. ��The Security Council is
not like an aircraft, with first-class, business and
economy seats,�� said Ryozo Kato, Japan�s Ambassador
to the United States.
The four are plunging ahead with an ambitious
worldwide lobbying campaign. Japan has summoned more
than 100 ambassadors and chiefs of mission from its
embassies around the world to a rally of sorts next
week in Tokyo, where Foreign Minister Nobutaka
Machimura will press them to lobby their host
governments for support.
Wolfgang Ischinger, the German Ambassador to
Washington, said, �I�m sure we are doing the same
thing, making sure every one of us knows how we can
move this forward.�
Ronaldo Sardenberg, the Brazilian Ambassador to the
United Nations, said, �Our whole diplomatic
establishment is mobilised for this.�
Speaking to reporters on his flight home from Moscow
last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was
�very important for the United States, given its
importance in world affairs, to be supportive of
Brazil�s Sardenberg said his country would propose
that the four nations be granted veto power that they
could not use for 15 years. In 2020, he said, the
United Nations could hold a conference to decide
whether to lift the ban on the use of veto power.
The four need the support of 128 nations, two-thirds
of the United Nations� 191 members, to amend the UN
charter. They plan to make their case in the capitals
of virtually every nation before the issue is
scheduled to come up for a vote during the September
meeting of the General Assembly, which will attract
more than 100 world leaders.
Besides the four countries pooling their efforts,
three African nations�Egypt, Nigeria and South
Africa�are conducting vigorous individual campaigns
for some of the six new permanent seats proposed in
March by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The purpose of
the change is to have the council reflect the current
balance of global power better than is the case with
the original five permanent members�Britain, China,
France, Russia and the United States�and 10 members
elected to two-year terms.
The proposal Annan offered the General Assembly would
expand the 15-member council to 24 members, with the
six new permanent members not having vetoes, and three
new two-year spots for rotating members.
As part of the four nations� campaign, presidents,
prime ministers, foreign ministers and other senior
officials are travelling the world, visiting nations
and regions far outside their normal orbits�sometimes
seeming to make bargains.
A Brazilian delegation, asking for support during a
visit to Sudan in February, told Foreign Minister
Mustafa Osman Ismail that Brazil opposed the
imposition of UN sanctions on his country, where the
United States says genocide is under way.
A senior Japanese envoy was in Ethiopia last month.
Joschka Fisher, the German Foreign Minister, visited
Central America in November and East Timor in
In Yemen in March, Gerhard Schroeder, the German
Chancellor, offered support for Yemen�s application
for membership in the World Trade Organisation. Ali
Abdullah Saleh, the Yemen President, said he supported
Germany�s campaign for a seat on the Security Council.
Shyam Saran, the Indian Foreign Secretary, plans to
visit Washington next week, in part to lobby for
support, ahead of Prime Minister Singh�s visit in
July. A senior Indian diplomat just returned from
One reason these leaders and diplomats may be
campaigning on the other side of the world is that, in
this effort, no nation can count on its neighbours.
Argentina and Mexico oppose Brazil. Japan is facing
serious opposition from North and South Korea, as well
as from China, where tens of thousands of protesters
took part in angry anti-Japan demonstrations last
Italy opposes Germany, while Pakistan is trying to
block India. And those two countries in opposition,
along with South Korea, are leading a counter-lobby
pushing a proposal that would not award new permanent
seats to anyone.
Still, the four nations have found distant friends.
Guinea and Ukraine have offered support for Brazil.
Vietnam and China appear to support Germany.
So far, by some estimates, the group has recruited the
support of as many as 100 nations�though ambassadors
and others say the number is soft.
The United States� view on the group�s effort remains
uncertain, leading some diplomats to worry that
Washington may actually oppose expanding the Security
Council because it would dilute American power.
Fuelling that view, Shirin Tahir-Kheli, a special
advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on UN
reform, told the General Assembly last month that the
United States �would like to move forward on the basis
of broad consensus.� But predicating anything at the
United Nations on such a consensus can be read as a
formula for inaction.
The one clear statement to come from Washington is the
warning about veto power. Administration officials
said they were opposed to giving new members veto
power, out of concern that it might paralyse the
Ambassador Ischinger of Germany said he was told of
the American demand and added, �My country would like
to have equal status; that would be preferred. But if
there is to be a different status, we would certainly
look at it.�
On the broader question of US support, Rice has sent
conflicting signals. On one hand, during a visit to
Tokyo in March she said, �the United States
unambiguously supports a permanent seat for Japan on
the United Nations Security Council.� But when asked
about seats for India and Brazil during visits there,
she offered statements nearly identical to each other
in their evasiveness.
�We will look at the issue of Security Council reform,
but it should not get separated out from broad UN
reform, because we want this institution to be as
strong as possible, and you are not going to get as
strong as possible an institution unless you
restrengthen all parts of it,� she said in Brasilia
The Bush administration�s ability to block the four
nations is indirect. If 128 Assembly members vote to
allow them to join the Security Council, council
members must accept that decision. But then they must
submit the revised charter to their governments for
ratification. The Bush administration could simply
withhold the treaty from the Senate, meaning it would
not take effect.
Most of the diplomats say they think none of the five
permanent Security Council members would be willing to
defy the view of two-thirds of the world. Still,
leaders of the four nations say they remain only
cautiously optimistic of their ultimate success.
�There are many problems on the way,� Manmohan Singh
said. �I think I would not minimise the difficulties.�
�NEW YORK TIMES