April 20, 2005

Qatar seeks Israel's support for UN Security Council seat

By URIEL HEILMAN
NEW YORK

In an unusual move for an Arab state, Qatar is asking for Israel's help to secure a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.

Qatar's ambassador to the United Nations, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, met several days ago with Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, to petition Israel to support its candidacy to the 15-member Security Council. Qatar is one of two candidates to take over the Asia seat on council, currently occupied by Pakistan. Pakistan's two-year term on the Security Council expires in January 2006.

Israel is considering Qatar's request.

"We did not give an answer. We have to check this," said a spokeswoman for Gillerman, who declined to speak publicly on the matter. "We have warming ties" with Qatar, she added.

Israel has no diplomatic ties with Qatar, but it does have a trade mission in the Persian Gulf state. Support for Qatar in the UN could win Israel reciprocal support for its own causes in the UN, which often face solid opposition from the world body's Arab bloc.

Qatar's UN mission and embassy in Washington did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The Security Council currently has five permanent and 10 rotating members. Five of the rotating members are elected each January 1 by the UN General Assembly to serve two-year terms, and the members are chosen from several regional groups.

Several weeks ago, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed expanding the permanent membership of the Security Council beyond the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France and China to include world powers that have emerged over the last half-century. Among the most talked-about candidates are India, Japan, Germany and Brazil. The proposal, one of several Annan suggested to reform the beleaguered world body, currently is under preliminary discussion.

The UN has been the subject of intense criticism in recent months, both for its handling of the oil-for-food scandal, in which deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was able to siphon billions from a UN aid program, and for its general lack of effectiveness. Critics cite the organization's inability to halt the bloodshed in the Darfur region of Sudan or prevent its human rights commission from being hijacked by terrorist-sponsoring states as evidence of the world body's ineffectiveness.

Qatar's candidacy for the 2006-07 term likely would not be affected by any potential reforms at the UN. Its primary competitor for the Asia seat on the Security Council is Cambodia, according to UN sources.