U.S. supports Japan for UN council
WASHINGTON The United States announced Thursday that it would propose remaking the UN Security Council to include two new permanent members, one of which would be Japan.
It offered no recommendation for a second new member, but the Bush administration has given indications it wanted the other seat to represent the developing world.
While the United States has not openly opposed Germany's candidacy, the announcement Thursday was seen as a serious setback, confirming earlier negative signals.
German officials, who have been campaigning intensively for membership in the influential council, said that they had been informed last week that the United States would not support Berlin's bid.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, making the announcement, also said that when the United States introduces its proposal next week at the United Nations, it would oppose offering veto power to any new permanent members.
This would mitigate their powers, effectively creating a membership category less influential than that enjoyed by the five permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia - but more so than the rotating member states, which now number 10.
The proposal was also more modest than plans advanced by a UN commission appointed to propose far-reaching reforms for the world body, or from a group of the four leading prospective permanent members: Japan, Germany, India and Brazil.
Both plans proposed adding up to six new permanent members.
The world body is working to make the Security Council, unchanged since the 1960s, more responsive to the developing world and reflective of the dynamic economic growth of the prospective members.
But the U.S. idea risked straining relations with Germany by failing to give it the support offered to Japan. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met here last week with her German counterpart, Joschka Fischer. American and German officials later said she had told him that while the United States did not oppose German membership per se, it was wary of too large an enlargement.
Burns said Thursday that an expansion larger than two permanent seats could be "possibly injurious."
The U.S. stand came amid unusual ferment in Washington and New York over the future of the United Nations, battered for months by criticism here over charges of corruption and inefficiency, misconduct by peacekeepers, and other complaints. The Bush administration was particularly unhappy over what it considered UN resistance to its plans for the Iraq war.
The House of Representatives was poised to vote, perhaps Friday, on a bill to limit U.S. contributions to the world body unless it carried out specified reforms. President George W. Bush's nomination of John Bolton, a longtime UN critic, as American ambassador to the organization has been held up in the Senate amid heated debate.
The House bill, Burns said, "would undermine American credibility at the United Nations, it would undermine our effectiveness. It would call into question our reliability as the founder and host nation and leading contributor to the United Nations and it would also harm our image worldwide."
He praised those in Congress who took a "hard-nosed attitude toward the need for reform," but said the administration had serious concerns about the legislation. Bush has not, however, threatened to veto the bill if it does pass.
In defending Japanese membership, Burns noted that Japan trails only the United States in its financial contribution to the United Nations, and is a major provider of military supplies for peacekeeping operations.
Bush snubs UN celebration
Organizers of a celebration in San Francisco to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations had expressed concern for weeks that the Bush administration would shun the event as a snub to the world body, The New York Times reported.
On Wednesday, organizers learned that big-name invitees - among them, Bush and Rice - would not attend.
In their place, said an organizer spokeswoman, the administration indicated that it would send Ambassador Sichan Siv, the U.S. representative to the UN Economic and Social Council.