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Manmohan to address UN on September 15

The summit is expected to bring together at least 170 heads of state and Govts - out of a total UN membership of 191 countries.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2005 14:05 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the UN General Assembly on September 15, a day after he meets Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf who will be in New York at the same time to attend the Millennium Review Summit.

The summit, said to be the largest gathering of world leaders in history, is expected to bring together at least 170 heads of state and government - out of a total UN membership of 191 countries - to mull over global issues of poverty and development. On top of India's agenda is the reform of the Security Council to add more permanent seats, one of which New Delhi has long coveted.

Manmohan Singh arrives in New York on September 13 after a day's stopover in Paris where he held talks with French President Jacques Chirac.

The UN is calling this year's meetings a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to take bold decisions in the areas of development, security, human rights and reform of the UN.

But contrary to Secretary General Kofi Annan's and Washington's approach to UN reform, India's major demand is to be given a permanent seat on the Security Council, the wing that has most power.

However, the draft declaration which will be discussed and finally adopted at the assembly meetings unequivocally recognises the need to expand the Security Council when it says: "We support comprehensive reform of the Security Council to make it more broadly representative, more efficient and transparent so as to further enhance its effectiveness and the implementation of its decisions."

While Washington is willing to give Japan a permanent seat, it has refused to explicitly back India despite the support New Delhi has not just around the world but also in the US Congress.

Two models for expanding the council from 15 to 24 members are among those now on the table: one creates six new permanent seats and three new non-permanent ones, supported by India; the other creates nine new non-permanent seats.

"Although consensus is desirable, it is not mandatory as long as two-thirds of UN member states agree on the formula," says the UN.

Since March, governments have been discussing reform proposals for the entire UN structure, though India has focused its energy behind the Security Council overhaul.

Along with Germany, Japan and Brazil, it tried to bring other nations behind it, including the African group, hoping to muster enough votes to put it through despite Washington's efforts to prevent this.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and other US officials have argued that other reforms in the UN are far more pressing than those needed at the Security Council.

New Delhi has also signed on President Bush's Global Democracy Initiative and is contributing to its UN initiative, Democracy Fund, in a show of solidarity for building democratic infrastructures around the world.

Other major areas in this year's agenda are preventing catastrophic terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the UN hopes to get consensus on the definition of the word "terrorism".

India wants the situation in Jammu and Kashmir to be included in such a definition. Manmohan Singh held a meeting with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference this week to kickstart a dialogue with the more moderate wing.

Meanwhile, a comprehensive convention against nuclear terrorism has already been approved by the General Assembly and will be opened for signature at the Millennium Summit.

Another area under decision regards the establishment of a peace building commission that would support countries during their transitions from armed conflict to lasting peace and reduce the risks of war, a forum in which India is expected to play an active part, a follow-up of its work with Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

The 2005 World Summit will feature plenary meetings continuing over the three days, where heads of state or government and other senior officials will make statements. There will be a special meeting on financing for development September 14.

Four closed, interactive roundtables will also be held over the three days, each one covering the broad summit agenda and chaired by two heads of state or government selected by regional groupings.

At the September 16 closing plenary meeting, member states are expected to adopt a final outcome document containing a number of decisions and recommendations for action. Manmohan Singh will return to India on September 17.

First Published: Sep 14, 2005 11:50 IST