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G4 huddle on crucial Africa vote

New York, July 12: A historic resolution to change the composition of the UN’s most powerful arm was introduced in the General Assembly yesterday.

Voting on the resolution, which will pave the way for India’s permanent membership of the Security Council, is likely to take place between July 18 and 20.

The last time the Security Council was similarly expanded was four decades ago.

A victory for India, Brazil, Japan and Germany ' the Group of Four (G4) ' which have sponsored the resolution hinges on support from the 53-nation African Union, which is deeply divided on what the G4 is offering them as part of their package for the Security Council expansion.

The African Union wants new permanent members to have the veto, but the G4 has dropped this demand.

The Africans also want an additional non-permanent seat for themselves in addition to the two permanent and one non-permanent seats that are proposed in the resolution.

A number of African foreign ministers are arriving here today to negotiate with the G4 and to settle differences within the African Union. These ministers will try to persuade all African states to vote as a bloc of 53 states.

But many diplomats in the UN believe that if the G4 could muster 40 African votes, their resolution would go through the General Assembly with the required two-thirds majority.

Foreign minister K. Natwar Singh will arrive here during the weekend to hold a final strategy session with his G4 counterparts on Sunday and to take a final decision on whether to put the resolution to vote and when the vote should be called.

With so many foreign ministers arriving here to discuss the resolution this week, the UN is seeing diplomatic activity on a scale that is unusual except during the annual meeting of heads of state and government in September at the start of new General Assembly sessions.

Yesterday’s General Assembly session at which the G4 resolution was moved by Brazil’s ambassador to the UN, Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, saw almost the entire assembly in attendance, which is rare except for the September meetings.

As the debate on the resolution got under way, the General Assembly was once again in danger of seeing an epic clash between India and Pakistan, scenes which the UN has witnessed for half a century.

Pakistan’s UN ambassador Munir Akram was at his vituperative best yesterday, but he gripped the General Assembly’s attention with powerful arguments against India and the other members of the G4.

“To add insult to injury, self-interest has been portrayed as altruism,” Akram said of the G4 effort to reform the Security Council.

“The seekers of special privileges and power masquerade as the champions of the weak and disadvantaged' History has witnessed many such who proclaimed that they came ‘to bury, not to praise Caesar’.”

India’s UN ambassador, Nirupam Sen, who is more than Akram’s equal in crafting similar speeches, will reply on Wednesday. He has been unanimously chosen by the G4 to be one of the last speakers in the debate so that the group can effectively rebut its critics.

The Chinese ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, said his country “rejects the forcible vote on any formula on which there still exists significant differences”. Instead, Wang called for further consultations among UN members.

Last night, after the first round of debate, Japan’s UN envoy Kenzo Oshima, hosted a dinner for the 27 co-sponsors of the resolution. It is understood that many ambassadors, who attended the dinner ' including many Africans who are not co-sponsors ' urged the G4 to go for a vote next week.

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