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U.N. lists 101 ways to tackle threats

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

UNITED NATIONS -- In a highly awaited report prompted by the deep divide over the war in Iraq, an international panel made 101 recommendations Tuesday on how to deal with global threats in the 21st century including the use of pre-emptive and preventive military strikes with approval from the U.N. Security Council.

The report by the 16-member panel offered two proposals on expanding the Security Council to reflect modern realities. Both would increase the United Nations' most powerful body from 15 to 24 countries and give much broader global representation.

The 95-page report identified the modern threats facing the world -- including internal and external wars, poverty and social upheavals, failed states, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and organized crime -- and proposed ways to deal with them.

It also defined terrorism, something the 191-member U.N. General Assembly has tried unsuccessfully to do for years and rejected the argument of those who say people under foreign occupation have a right to resist. "There is nothing in the fact of occupation that justifies the targeting and killing of civilians," the report said.

Terrorism was described as "any action ... that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants, when the purpose of such an act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act."

Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed the panel a year ago in response to the bitter divisions over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which the Security Council refused to authorize.

In a letter to Annan, former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, who chaired the panel, said "the report puts forward a new vision of collective security" to deal with the major threats to global peace and security.

"Our research and consultations revealed that ours is an age of unparalleled interconnection among threats to international peace and security, and mutual vulnerability between weak and strong," he said.

Whether the panel's wide-ranging recommendations attract substantial support remains to be seen. Its members included former prime ministers of Norway and Russia, former foreign ministers of Australia and China, and former U.S. national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

Annan said he plans to spend his remaining two years as secretary-general focusing on reform of the United Nations and pushing the goals adopted by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in September 2000, including cutting in half the number of people living in dire poverty and ensuring that every child has an education, both by 2015.

Panyarachun said the panel was divided over U.N. reform -- an issue that has challenged the world body's 191 member states for more than a decade -- and therefore presented two options.

One would add six new permanent members -- two from Asia, two from Africa, one from the Americas and one from Europe -- as well as three nonpermanent members elected for two-year terms.

Seeking more influence over global decisions, Brazil, Germany, India and Japan joined forces in September to lobby for permanent seats. South Africa and Nigeria are the top candidates for one African seat and Egypt is pushing for the other, insisting that Arab nations must be permanently represented on the council, diplomats said.

But there is plenty of opposition already as nations jockey to gain a seat or to block rivals from getting one.

The other proposal would create a new tier of eight semi-permanent members chosen for four-year terms and open to re-election -- two each from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. It also would add one non-permanent seat.

The issue of veto power -- currently limited to permanent Security Council members the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- was not addressed.

The report also set out new benchmarks that should be addressed in considering whether to authorize or use military force, including a determination that the threat is serious, whether force is a last resort and whether the specific military action is proportional.

"What will get headlines is the recommendation on Security Council reform, but the most important thing about this report ought to be what it says about the use of force, intervention and sovereignty, because governments themselves won't tackle these issues," Lee Feinstein of the Council on Foreign Relations said.


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