- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Despite the ambiguous results of the African summit in Addis Ababa on expanding the U.N. Security Council, the diplomatic obstacle course has not yet been run. Forty-six participants from the five African regions agreed to disagree on the London compromise designed to unite the African Union’s goals with those of the influential G-4 group — Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. The process remains alive.

By avoiding outright rejection of a compromise involving veto power for new permanent Security Council (SC) members and the number of seats for nonpermanent members, Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the Commission of the African Union, has quietly obtained a mandate to move ahead.

Strength in unity was the motivating factor for the earlier London meeting between the G-4 and the African Union. The G-4 advocates six new permanent SC members, including the Four plus two African states and four nonpermanent members. The A.U. favors six new unnamed permanent members including two from Africa with veto power and five nonpermanent seats representing each of Africa’s five regions.

Unlike the Aug. 4 Addis Ababa summit, the London compromise seems to have evaporated. Yet, using diplomatic “constructive ambiguity,” the commission at last decided send out 10 heads of state and government to advocate, “canvas” and support the African Draft Resolution around the world and submit a report to the Extraordinary Session of the Assembly to be held on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly next month.

Given this resolve to break up opposition to the African initiative, Mr. Konare set in motion a reform of the antiquated SC, which at present has no African nor Muslim states among its permanent members, said a diplomatic source close to both Mr. Konare and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Since three reform resolutions calling for a vote on Security Council expansion are tabled in the General Assembly, the African Union’s decisive involvement is the most relevant development. Though originally led by the G-4, reform momentum undoubtedly grew from the A.U.’s concerted effort.

After all, it was no surprise the “United for Consensus” group headed by Italy would throw a monkey wrench into Germany’s aspirations. Limiting its request to expanding the nonpermanent seats, Italy lost no time accusing “one of the G-4 members” of intimidating poor developing countries with aid withdrawal to force their vote in the General Assembly. That prompted Germany to add another 1 million euros to the previously allotted 1,5 million for relief of starvation in Niger.

A vote of two-thirds, or 128 member states, of the General Assembly’s 191 members is required to win. As of now, such a figure remains as unattainable for the 53 AU members as for members of the G-4, sponsored by about 40 countries ranging from France to Luxembourg and Portugal to Tuvalu.

However, the greatest blocks to current reform proposals include opposition from the United States and China.

Attaching U.N. reform priorities to management, budget and human rights, the State Department restricts its support to Japan and one developing nation with firm democratic credentials. But in diplomatic circles, Washington’s entente with China at the expense of democratic Germany and India is not the only concern. A closer examination of China’s relations with a newly energized Africa reveals a considerable dependence on African oil and favorable votes in the U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Commission that may not square for long with the Bush administration’s long-range interests.

Even if the African Union’s diplomatic initiative fails, Africa’s entry on the world scene opens a new perspective to the stately game played behind the scenes of a troubled world organization and its embattled lame duck secretary-general, who is fighting for more than mere political survival.

Viola Herms Drath is a member of the executive committee of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

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