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IN THE NEWS - United Nations Reform Plan - 2004-12-04

Broadcast: December 4, 2004

I’m Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

A high-level United Nations committee has released a report about reforming the world organization. The committee presented the report to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Thursday.

Mister Annan appointed the sixteen-member group a year ago. He did so because of sharp divisions over the American-led war in Iraq, which the Security Council refused to approve. Former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun led the group.

The committee’s report contains one hundred one proposals. They call for several steps designed to make the Security Council more effective. The report is considered the biggest reform effort since the U.N. was founded in nineteen forty-five.

The report identified six areas as the greatest threats to worldwide security and proposed ways to deal with them. These are continued poverty and environmental destruction, terrorism, civil war, conflict between countries, the spread of nuclear weapons and organized crime.

The group also proposed a definition of terrorism. That is an effort the U.N. General Assembly has tried unsuccessfully to do for years.

The most divisive issue was the proposed enlargement of the U.N.’s most powerful group, the Security Council. The committee presented two proposals.

Both proposals would increase the size of the Council from fifteen to twenty-four members. One proposal would add six new permanent members -- two from Africa, two from Asia and one each from Europe and the Americas. Three additional members would be elected for two-year terms.

The other proposal would create eight temporary members chosen for four-year terms and open to re-election. They would include two each from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. An additional non-permanent seat would also be created.

Currently, the Security Council has five permanent members and ten temporary members with terms of two years each. The five permanent members are the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France. These countries can veto resolutions. Neither proposal would extend veto powers to any new Security Council members.

The report also proposed guidelines to establish when the use of force is necessary. The committee decided there is no need to change the U-N charter, which permits the use of force for self-defense to prevent an immediate threat. However, it said any good argument for preventive military action should be put to the Security Council in the future.

Secretary General Annan wants to use the report as a basis for a plan he will present to the General Assembly in March. But Mister Annan’s leadership is being questioned because of charges of dishonesty in the U.N. oil for food program in Iraq.

A United States senator has called for his resignation. President Bush on Thursday called for a full investigation into the program.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.