- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NEW YORK — A high-level U.N. panel yesterday laid out criteria for determining when the use of force is legitimate in the face of international threats.

The 16-member panel was convened by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year, when the divided world body found itself sidelined during the crisis.

However, officials connected with the U.N. effort refuse to say whether the “forward-looking” 87-page report would support the Bush administration’s contention that force was justified against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

U.S. officials declined to comment until they have studied the report, which had been so widely leaked that U.N. officials released it yesterday, two days earlier than planned. Copies were circulated to diplomats last week.

The panel suggests that the Security Council should consider five criteria when deciding whether force is legitimate — the seriousness of the threat, the purpose of such force, whether it comes as a last resort, whether it is proportional to the threat, and the likely consequences.

These considerations “should significantly improve the chances of reaching international consensus on what have been in recent years deeply divisive issues,” the panel said, adding that “it would be valuable” if nations considering military force applied the same guidelines.

The panel also found no need to change or expand Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which guarantees every nation the right to self-defense.

“If there are good arguments for preventive military action, with good evidence to support them, they should be put to the Security Council, which can authorize such action if it chooses to,” the report said.

The panel — comprising former world leaders and advisers, retired U.N. officials and academics — generally concurred on the 101 recommendations in the report, which covers everything from enlargement of the Security Council to the changing nature of global threats to buyouts for the organization’s aging civil service.

The recommendations are likely to be debated in think tanks, world capitals and the U.N. smoking lounges, but panel members and staff don’t seem to expect immediate action on anything substantive.

Mr. Annan is to issue his own reflections and priorities on U.N. reform in March, and an international conference will be convened shortly before the General Assembly debate in September.

The overriding theme of the report is that the world faces threats that were unimaginable when the United Nations was founded in 1945. Instead of attacks by one state on another, threats are posed today by terrorists, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime syndicates, environmental degradation and infectious diseases.

“Today’s threats know no international boundaries, are connected, and must be addressed at the global and regional, as well as national levels,” the panel said. “No state, no matter how powerful, can by its own efforts alone make itself invulnerable to today’s threats.”

To give the Security Council greater legitimacy and resources to deal with such threats, the panel members suggest expanding the membership from 15 to as many as 24, to give Asia, Africa and the Americas more representation.

The panel also waded into the political swamp of trying to define terrorism — a goal that has eluded diplomats for more than a decade. The group rejected the assertion by many Arab and Islamic states that “freedom fighters” have the right to repel an occupation.

“The central point is that there is nothing in the fact of occupation that justifies the targeting and killing of civilians,” the panel said.

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