Peculiar U.N.: New Security Council choices raise questions

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The United Nations General Assembly last week elected five new non-permanent members -- Argentina, Australia, Luxemburg, Rwanda and South Korea -- to the Security Council for two-year terms.

Leaving will be Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa. The council has five permanent, veto-bearing members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- and 10 non-permanent members with two-year terms. The five new members join Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo, which are beginning their second year.

The Security Council does the United Nations' heavy lifting, tackling such issues as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, North Korea and Syria. Severe international wrangling still surrounds the question of its membership. Some big, powerful countries such as Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Nigeria and South Africa are not satisfied with being rotated into the non-permanent slots. The United Nations' 54 African members are discontented at their lack of a permanent seat. One option that has been examined but not adopted is the status of non-veto-bearing permanent membership

The current lineup dates from the establishment of the United Nations after World War II, when the five permanent members were considered the world's prime movers. That is still true of China, Russia and the United States, but the British and French seats should probably be replaced by one European Union seat. Which country would then get the fifth?

In the meantime, the choice of Luxemburg and Rwanda ranges somewhere between ridiculous and insulting. Luxemburg, population 510,000, is smaller than Rhode Island. Rwanda is charged by the United Nations with aiding a rebellion in the Eastern Congo and fighting not only Congolese troops but also a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Such curious U.N. decisions make it difficult for its supporters to argue for U.S. dedication and financial support.

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