YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

World View : More Faces at U.N. Table? : Security Council needs to grow, most agree--and nations are lobbying fiercely.


UNITED NATIONS — When President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped create the United Nations, he envisioned a Security Council with "five policemen" defending the world against aggression.

He certainly did not see Germany or Japan among the policemen. Far from candidates for police recruitment, they were the enemy states of World War II, and the Security Council was supposed to beat them down should they ever try to cause trouble again.

But now, as the United Nations approaches its 50th anniversary, there is a mood for reform, and many members, including the United States, agree that Germany and Japan should finally take a place alongside the Big Five--the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China--as permanent members of the Security Council, the international organization's most powerful and significant arm.

Yet despite the general agreement, change may not come for several years.

The U.N. member nations so far cannot decide whether to enlarge the council by designating other permanent members.

Even if that decision is made, there remains the question of which nations to choose, and whether any would have the veto powers of the Big Five. Approval of Germany and Japan may be withheld until other nations are chosen in the bargaining for a package deal. An amendment to the U.N. Charter requires approval by two-thirds of the General Assembly but can be killed by any member of the Big Five, each of which has veto power. Lobbying is now rampant, and suitors are tugging diplomats one way and another.

India, Nigeria and Brazil--because of their large populations--strike some as logical choices for an enlarged council.

But rival contenders--Pakistan, Indonesia, South Africa, Egypt, Argentina and Mexico--do not like the idea of being pushed aside. Nor does Italy, the third member of the World War II Axis powers, like the idea of giving way for Japan and Germany.

Pakistan has warned the United Nations against "creating new centers of privilege" while trying to fix the problem of an inequitable Security Council.

"The longer the discussion goes on, the more the blood heats up," a senior British official said. "But the question is not Germany and Japan. The rejected ones are the problem. Their intention is to avoid adding the extra permanent members because they won't be part of it.

"But it will be likely settled in 1996 or 1997. It's not easy to put it off."

More pessimistic analysts, however, predict no realignments will be made until the next century.

Yet some kind of reform of the Security Council seems inevitable. Looking to the 50th anniversary, which will be celebrated next October, U.N. diplomats started the process a couple of years ago, setting up a special committee on revamping the Security Council and asking every government to submit proposals to it. The committee has sifted through mounds of paper but is far from ready to reveal its recommendations.

The Security Council, which has the authority to order military action against a government that is threatening international peace and security, is now made up of the Big Five plus 10 other countries that serve for two-year terms. The 10 now are Brazil, Spain, Pakistan, Djibouti and New Zealand (whose terms expire at the end of this year) and Nigeria, Oman, Rwanda, the Czech Republic and Argentina (whose terms expire at the end of 1995).

For the 179 members of the United Nations who are not one of the Big Five, winning a stint on the Security Council is a meaningful moment in their national histories.

Depression descends upon ambassadors of non-permanent members once their terms are up. They are forced once again to devote most of their time and energy to U.N. bodies such as the General Assembly that talk a lot but produce very little.

Yet even to have served means membership in a select group. Eighty countries have never served on the Security Council. And 44 have been elected to only one two-year term in the last 49 years.

Italy has provoked a good deal of discussion with a plan that would keep Japan and Germany from a permanent seat. Italy's per-capita gross domestic product, a measure of national wealth, is greater than that of three permanent members--Britain, Russia and China--and the Italians see no reason for Japan and Germany to join the charmed circle if they cannot.

Italy, in fact, fears that Germany and Japan may scavenge enough votes for permanent seats on the council and then somehow kill the chances for anyone else.

An Italian diplomat, sure that the Germans and Japanese were wooing the Third World, said: "They need 108 votes to get a resolution accepted, and we fear that they will present it (the resolution) out of the blue as soon as they realize they have enough votes. We are therefore lobbying with those countries too to get votes against Germany and Japan and stop them."

Los Angeles Times Articles