- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 6 (UPI) — The U.N. Security Council held its first closed-door consultations of the new year Monday, with five new non-permanent members giving it an unusually strong European presence — and making a strong stance against Baghdad harder down the line for the 15-member panel.

Angola, Chile, Germany, Pakistan and Spain replaced Colombia, Ireland, Mauritius, Norway and Singapore as two-year members. In addition to the five new boys on the block Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico and Syria have another year to serve of their two-year mandates.

The permanent five, veto-wielding members are Britain, China, France Russia and the United States.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder strongly opposed any U.S.-led offensive against Iraq during his successful re-election campaign in September. The German government has continued to refuse to send troops to Iraq and observers speculate this could lead to complications when Germany assumes the presidency of the Security Council in February.

Berlin has not said whether it would vote for action against Iraq. During its February presidency may very well be when the Pentagon pushes for a military move on Baghdad.

But the council's first real challenge it its two sessions on Iraq in January. The first was slated for an interim report Thursday behind closed doors by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission on Iraq.

Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, executive director of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, are also mandated by the tough U.S.-led Nov. 8 council resolution authorizing the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq after a four-year hiatus to deliver a comprehensive report on the inspectors' findings by Jan. 27, or 60 days after the resumption of the inspections.

Blix was due to visit Iraq before delivering the month-end report.

Pakistan is the other new question mark that despite its support of Washington in the fight against terrorism, carries a lot of baggage that affect its way of voting. First, it is an Islamic country that may be unwilling to support action against fellow Muslims. It is also concerned about U.S. support for Israel.

Pakistan would be the second Muslim nation on board. While Syria, in its final year this time around, supported the latest Iraq resolution, but has demonstrated its willingness at acting independently.

With Pakistan, there is the decades-old feud with India over Kashmir and its assertion India has ignored U.N. mandates for a referendum on the disputed territory. There is resentment over that.

Also, with European Union members Germany and Spain replacing Ireland and Norway, a non-EU member, it now means four European Union nations have votes in the council, albeit only Britain and France have veto power. Still it gives the community a stronger voice.

As for other topics during the month, there were expected to be fairly-routine "roll-over" votes on continuing U.N. missions around the world and briefings on other hotspots, including the Middle East, Jan. 16. While North Korea, under threat of being reported to the council by the IAEA, has not yet been scheduled to be discussed, there is plenty of room it to be penciled onto the calendar.

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