United Nations, March 10 (IANS) New permanent members of the Security Council too must get the veto power, India has said, adding it is ready to "compromise" for a temporary period.
India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told a negotiating session on Council reforms on Wednesday: "Our own national position has been and remains that the veto should, as long as it exists, be extended to new permanent members."
But he added: "As a measure of flexibility and willingness for compromise, the use of the veto can be deferred till the Review Conference."
The UN Charter provides for a conference to review and amend the veto rights but such a meeting has never taken place. If such a conference takes place, it would decide whether to retain, amend or abolish the veto provisions taking into account the contemporary situation.
Executing a delicate manoeuvre to straddle seemingly contradictory positions, Akbaruddin joined the wave of opposition to anyone on the Council having veto powers. He marshalled historical facts on its abuse by the permanent members.
He pointed out that vetoes had been invoked 317 times, affecting 230 or 10 percent of all Council resolutions.
Cataloguing what he said was a shameful record of veto use, he said it was invoked 56 times to support the apartheid regimes in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, and 130 times over proxy wars in developing countries, 22 of them in Namibia.
Membership of several countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Jordan and even Italy and Austria had at one time been blocked by vetoes.
"We cannot also allow the veto to have a veto over the process of Council reform itself," he added.
Akbaruddin said veto powers were now also creeping into other bodies like the terrorism sanctions committee.
Last year China blocked action against Pakistan for releasing Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
Non-permanent members overwhelmingly supported abolishing the veto power of the permanent members, even as four of the five veto-wielding powers stood firm on maintaining their privilege.
France called for placing limits on veto rights in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and serious war crimes.
Most of the countries favouring expansion of the Council's permanent membership insisted that if the the veto powers were retained, the new permanent members should also have them.
Menissa Rambally, the Permanent Representative of St. Lucia, said: "We note that a majority of members states, including two largest groups, Africa and L.69, together with several CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries and Cuba are of the view that the veto should be abolished, but so long as it exists, it should be extended to all the members of the permanent category."
She was speaking on behalf of a group of 42 countries including India that is known as L.69 that advocates Council reform and expansion.
This was the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reforms (IGN) after the General Assembly overcame stiff opposition last year to adopt a text to base the discussions.
IANS put together this account of the closed door meeting from conversations with sources who attended the meeting and speeches released by some countries.
Of the permanent members, the US and Russia put aside their other differences to present the stiffest opposition to abolishing or limiting their veto rights.
The US also opposed giving veto power to any new permanent member.
China wanted the veto right preserved, while Britain said that it wanted to retain it to be used in instances of utmost importance, but opposed giving it to new permanent members.
Five other countries, including Australia and Singapore, also have opposed extending veto right to new permanent members.
France, however, said it had no problem with new permanent members having veto power.
United for Consens (UfC), a 13-member group headed by Italy and to which Pakistan belongs, used the opportunity to air its primary objective of opposing adding permanent members to the Council.
Italy's Deputy Permanent Representative, Inigo Lambertini, said: "The UfC supports expanding the Council only in the non-permanent category, which makes the question of extension of veto to additional members irrelevant."
UfC appeared on Wednesday to water down its earlier unequivocal stand against veto powers.
"So strong has been the sentiment against the existing veto mechanism that some have advocated its outright abolition," Lambertini said. "While this is a legitimate aspiration, we recognize the need to take a gradual and pragmatic approach, including exploring intermediate steps."
(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians. (IANS)