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U.S. in Face-Off With U.N. Hopefuls

Times Staff Writer

The United States, China and Russia are trying to delay a vote to expand the Security Council before a summit here in September, diplomats say, but four countries aspiring to proposed new permanent seats declared Wednesday that they would defy U.S. pressure and push for a key resolution this month.

In a conference call Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told foreign ministers from the other countries with permanent seats on the Security Council -- China, Russia, Britain and France -- that the U.S. wanted to postpone this month’s vote, possibly until after the summit in September, ambassadors from two of the countries said.

But the hopefuls known as the G-4 -- Germany, Japan, India and Brazil -- said U.S. resistance would not deter them.

“Possibly it may hasten the vote,” said Indian Ambassador Nirupam Sen. “I don’t think it will delay it.”

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Japan’s U.N. ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, fought to correct media reports that Japan had agreed to push back the vote.

“The United States is an important member, but it is only one member,” Oshima said.

On Wednesday, the group circulated a new draft of a resolution that would change the United Nations Charter to allow six more countries to become permanent members of the Security Council -- including two unnamed African countries -- and add 10 rotating seats. The council now has five veto-holding permanent members and 10 members elected to two-year terms.

The new draft does not spell out whether the new members would have veto power -- which the five permanent Security Council members oppose -- but implies that they would forgo the veto for at least 15 years, when the decision would be reviewed.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended restructuring the council to make the U.N. better reflect new “political realities” and better able to cope with new security threats in a world that has changed dramatically since the organization’s creation 60 years ago. He expressed a preference for consensus, but if arguments threatened to delay action, he said, the matter should be put to a vote so that world leaders can decide in September.

Two-thirds of the 191-member General Assembly must first vote to amend the charter to expand the council, a public ballot tentatively scheduled for the end of June. Then they must select the six new permanent members, ideally in July, before ambassadors leave for the August holiday.

Then two-thirds of U.N. member nations -- and all five permanent members of the council -- must ratify the amendment for it to take effect. Even if the General Assembly overwhelmingly approves the change, the U.S. or China could kill the amendment simply by refusing to approve it.

That threat hangs over the intense lobbying that is preceding this month’s vote. China has made it known that it does not want to see Japan, its regional rival, gain a stronger diplomatic voice. Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya has called the G-4’s push for a vote “divisive” and “dangerous” and said China would do everything it could to block it.

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Russia has sided with China and wants to keep the Security Council as is, fearing a diminution of its power.

The United States has endorsed only Japan for a permanent seat, noting that the nation gives more money to the world body than Britain, France, Russia and China combined. Rice, after meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, declined to endorse Germany’s bid but said the U.S. had made “no determination or decision” about it.

Rice also said the U.S. needed more time to sort out the implications of a larger Security Council for the global balance of power and reforms at the U.N.

France broke with the rest of the permanent members Tuesday, lending its weight to Germany’s goals by cosponsoring the G-4 resolution. Britain supports the resolution but has not decided whether to sponsor it.

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That puts the Americans in the uncomfortable position of siding with the Chinese and Russians. The fight over Security Council expansion also threatens to derail essential reforms under negotiation.

“It’s not that we don’t want change. We are very much for U.N. reform,” said Richard A. Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the world body. “We just have to figure out the best way to do it. Security Council reform is just one piece of the puzzle.”


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