Cyprus and Germany have circulated a draft text that proposes adding seven new members to the UN Security Council, the latest attempt to try to break a deadlock on the issue of expanding the council.
For more than a decade, the U.N. General Assembly has been struggling with ways to expand the Security Council, the most powerful UN body.
Among the top candidates for permanent seats are Germany, Japan, India, Brazil and an undetermined African state.
Critics say the composition of the world's 15-nation watchdog of international peace and security is outdated and must adapt to a much-changed world in the 21st century. Now diplomats say there is new momentum for council expansion.
Recent attempts to launch formal negotiations on expanding the council have failed. But last year the president of the U.N. General Assembly said it was time to try again to break the deadlock and help jump-start formal negotiations.
Germany, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Great Britain worked on a compromise proposal that attempts to link the many seemingly irreconcilable positions on reforming the council.
The result was a confidential draft proposal, obtained by Reuters, that calls for an expansion of the Security Council to 22 from the present 15.
The draft says two of the new seats would go to Africa, two to Asia, one to Latin America and the Caribbean, one to western Europe and one to eastern Europe. But the membership terms are left open, with possibilities ranging from permanent to semi permanent membership to standard two-year elected membership.
The council currently has five permanent veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, considered World War II victors. Ten nonpermanent members are elected for 2-year terms based on regions.
The size of the council has only increased once since the United Nations was created in 1945 -- in 1965, when the number of elected members rose from six to 10.
The text, which diplomats said was drafted by Cyprus with help from Germany, says the proposal's goal is "to improve representation on the Security Council, without sacrificing its effectiveness, as opposed to its current ... form."
Janos Tisovszky, a spokesman for the president of the General Assembly, Ambassador Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia, confirmed receipt of the proposal, along with two other letters related to Security Council reform -- one from Italy and another from the bloc of African U.N. member states.
He said Kerim and his "task force" of envoys from Bangladesh, Chile and Portugal would study all three reform proposals and then decide on how to proceed.
"It is our understanding that there will be no unilateral proposal or initiative" on expanding the council, said the letter from Italy, also obtained by Reuters.
Diplomats said the Italians and others saw the German-led initiative as "unilateral".
Italy has long opposed the idea of giving Germany a permanent seat on the council, similar to the way Pakistan has opposed India's ambitions for a permanent council seat.
Diplomats said there were other influential countries which had reservations about the Cyprus-Germany draft, including the United States and Russia.
Any successful council reform plan would need consensus among the 192 U.N. members and ratification would take years.