- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

NEW YORK — U.N. members yesterday confirmed the selection of five new Security Council members for a two-year term, giving Algeria, the Philippines, Romania, Brazil and Benin a voice in maintaining international peace and stability.

The five new members will begin their terms Jan. 1, replacing Syria, Bulgaria, Mexico, Guinea and Cameroon.

The new council members are unlikely to make waves, said diplomats and observers, but the character of some of the debates will shift. Brazil, for example, is expected to stress the needs of the developing world. Algeria replaces Syria as the sole Arab voice on the Security Council.

“The United States is the 500-pound gorilla of the council,” said Simon Chesterman, a senior associate at the International Peace Academy in New York. He said that difficult issues, such as Iraq and the Middle East, likely will remain fractious.

The council’s 10 elected members are chosen by their own regional groups to represent them.

The largest single shift will come in the vast Asian group, which will be represented by the Philippines instead of Syria.

U.S. officials have made no secret of their unease with Syria’s membership, when their own intelligence suggests the country had been helping Saddam Hussein’s regime. Damascus also plays host to the public offices of anti-Israel terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

By contrast, the Philippines is a longtime U.S. ally and is hosting U.S. troops for joint training exercises against extremists.

Bulgaria never voted against the United States, and few expect its successor in the Eastern European seat, Romania, to show more independence.

Romania “is counting on [European Union] membership and a NATO vote,” said one diplomat. “I wouldn’t expect to see too much daylight” between Washington and Bucharest.

Brazil, which has been consolidating its role as the de facto spokesman of the developing world, could bring a host of development issues to the council’s horseshoe-shaped table.

But Brazil is desperate to take a permanent seat on the Security Council, and there are many who think it stands a good chance of edging out Argentina to do so. Council enlargement is still likely years away, but with those kinds of stakes, Brazil may be reluctant to be too passionate an advocate for the world’s poor.

“Economic and social rights aren’t really the [Security Councils] domain, but there are ways,” said Mr. Chesterman. “But when the subject is terrorism, Brazil could push the root-causes discussion,” in which poverty is considered a factor.

Observers say Iraq’s reconstruction will continue to be a power struggle inside the council. Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are likely to remain prominent themes, particularly if North Korea remains intransigent over its clandestine nuclear programs.

The five other elected members of the Security Council are Angola, Chile, Germany, Pakistan and Spain. Their two-year terms end Dec. 31, 2004.

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