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Annan Drafts Changes For U.N.

Use of Force, Terrorism Among Issues Targeted

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page A01

UNITED NATIONS, March 19 -- Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday will propose establishing new rules for the use of military force, adopting a tough anti-terrorism treaty that would punish suicide bombers, and overhauling the United Nation's discredited human rights commission, according to a confidential draft of a report on U.N. reform.

The 63-page draft report represents Annan's most ambitious effort to restore international confidence in an organization that has been traumatized by divisions over the Iraq war and battered by revelations of financial impropriety and sexual misconduct by its personnel. But he faces an uphill battle to secure backing for some of his more controversial proposals from key members, including the United States, which opposes Annan's advocacy of the International Criminal Court.


The U.N. General Assembly will have Annan's proposals before it when it convenes in the fall at U.N. headquarters. (Mario Tama -- Getty Images)

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Annan said his proposal provides a unique opportunity to update the 60-year-old organization to address today's most serious challenges. And he said promoting it would be one of his "highest priorities" in the run-up to a September summit at the opening of the General Assembly session.

"These are reforms that are within reach," Annan wrote. "If we act boldly -- and if we act together -- we can make people everywhere more secure, more prosperous, and better able to enjoy their fundamental rights." he wrote.

Annan's report, titled "In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security, and Human Rights For All," calls for expanding the 15-nation Security Council before year's end to ensure more democratic representation on the United Nations' most powerful institution. Its findings were first reported in today's Los Angeles Times.

"A change in the council's commission is needed to make it more broadly representative of the international community as a whole," Annan wrote.

While Annan said he would leave it to governments to determine the structure of an enlarged council, he backed efforts by India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, which are seeking permanent Security Council seats, to ensure that an agreement cannot be blocked by a single member that opposes their candidacies.

"It would be far preferable for member states to take this vital decision by consensus," Annan wrote. "But if they are unable to reach consensus, this must not be an excuse for postponing action."

Two proposals are under consideration by states that would increase the membership from 15 to 24.

Annan cast his report as an attempt to reconcile the security interests of wealthy countries, which want the world body to focus on combating terrorism and stemming weapons proliferation, and poor nations, which are more concerned with the consequences of poverty and disease. He noted that a catastrophic terrorist act in a major Western city could cripple the economies of poor nations on the other side of the world while an outbreak of disease in a poor region could spread to the developed world.

"The rich are vulnerable to the threats that attack the poor, and the strong are vulnerable to the threats that accost the poor," he wrote. "Whatever threatens one threatens all."

Annan said that wealthy countries must dramatically increase development aid and debt relief to poor countries that govern responsibly. He also pressed poorer countries to combat corruption aggressively and to promote private-sector investment. "In an era of global abundance, our world has the resources to reduce dramatically the massive divides that persist between rich and poor."

The contentious international debate that preceded the Iraq war led to "declining public confidence in the United Nations" by supporters of the war, who believed the organization had failed to enforce its own resolutions, and opponents, who faulted it for failing to stop the war.

Annan urged that the Security Council forge agreement on "when and how force can be used." He proposed that it adopt a resolution setting out principles -- including a determination whether the military option is proportional to the threat -- that would guide it in making the decision whether to go to war.

U.N. officials said they expected stiff resistance to the proposal from the Bush administration, which has reserved the right to use force unilaterally for national security interests.

But they say that Washington appreciates Annan's support in the report for the Bush administration's Proliferation Security Initiative, which was established to halt illicit trafficking of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The United States is also amenable to Annan's call for an anti-terrorism convention that would define terrorism as any act that is "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants" to intimidate a community, government or international organization. Annan wants such a convention to complete its work next year.

Richard Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, declined to discuss specifics, saying, "We are looking at the report, and we will give it every consideration."

Efforts to adopt an anti-terrorism convention have been stymied by Arab governments, which have resisted labeling anti-Israeli militants, including Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, that have targeted civilians as terrorists.

Annan also called for strengthening the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. But he said that the Commission on Human Rights, which has recently included countries such as Sudan, Cuba and Libya with histories of rights violations, has "been increasingly undermined by its declining credibility and professionalism." He said that some states have sought membership on the commission "not to strengthen human rights, but to protect themselves against criticism, or to criticize others." In its place, Annan proposed creating a smaller Human Rights Council, whose members would be appointed by the General Assembly. But he said the members "should undertake to abide by the highest human rights standards."


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