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African heads of state to meet over UN reforms

African Union (AU) leaders are to meet on Monday in a bid to break the deadlock over the stalled enlargement and reform of the United Nations Security Council, the AU said.

"The meeting is to address the stalemate over the reform," Adam Thiam, spokesman for the AU commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said at the organisation's headquarters in Addis Ababa.

African nations hold the key to the expansion of the Security Council, whose mandate addresses war, peace, sanctions and peacekeeping across the globe.

Without support from the 53-member AU it is unlikely that any enlargement is possible for the 15-member council.

The Council is currently composed of 10 non-permanent members elected for a two-year term. Just five countries - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - hold a permanent seat with veto power - a legacy from World War II.

The AU wants to add at least 10 seats to the Council, with African countries holding five non-permanent seats and two permanent seats with veto power.

Africa bases its claim largely on population - which is around 850 million people - and the number of countries that make up the continent.

Senior AU officials told IRIN that it was unlikely that the current permanent members would grant veto-wielding powers to Africa.

"Once we start asking for veto-wielding powers they will shoot us down," said one AU official involved in the talks. "Countries like Britain and France have indicated that we could have this debate in 15 years but at the moment we should drop the veto. So we feel it will be politically pragmatic to drop the veto so that we can secure seats on the Security Council," the official added.

A commission of 10 African heads of state or government, led by Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah will present a progress report on the reform.

Any changes on the Security Council composition have to be agreed by the UN General Assembly and can only be effected with a two-thirds majority of the 191 member-states.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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