Annan Seeks EU Support for U.N. Reforms

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) sought European support Friday for his plan to give regional heavyweights such as Brazil and Japan more clout at the United Nations.

Europeans, for their part, were eager to discuss the U.N. role in monitoring elections next month in Iraq, where Annan has been reluctant to reinforce his small team of experts.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) met Annan before the U.N. chief was to address a full session of 25 EU leaders.

A British official said the breakfast meeting avoided the summit's main topic, Turkey's bid for EU membership and its refusal to recognize the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

Annan pushed hard last year to resolve the Cyprus dispute, but his efforts were rebuffed when the Greek Cypriot government rejected his unification plan, even though it was embraced by Turkish Cypriots.

The European Union has been among Annan's staunchest supporters as he tries to ward off criticism from U.S. conservatives over Iraq's oil-for-food program. Saddam Hussein's regime skimmed billions of dollars from the U.N.-supervised program.

In Brussels, Annan wants firm support from Europe's leaders for a plan to expand and reshape the Security Council and to set clearer guidelines for its members to use pre-emptive force.

The U.N. chief commissioned the plan last year after the battle at the United Nations over U.S. policy in Iraq. The 16-member panel recently issued its report.

The commission agreed the Security Council (search) may need "to be more proactive in the future," but it said all states have an obligation to discuss distant threats at an early stage.

Annan believes the 15-nation council, with its exclusive five-nation club at its core, needs to be reviewed to reflect power shifts in the world since the United Nations was created in 1945.

The plan also outlined ways to deal with global threats - terrorism, poverty, infectious diseases and multinational crime.

A restructuring of the Security Council could fuel anger at Annan in the United States if the changes are seen as diluting U.S. authority. The United States shares veto powers with Britain, China, France and Russia.

The panel failed to reach a consensus on the Security Council's future shape and presented two options. One would add six new permanent members, but without veto powers. The other would create a new tier of eight semi-permanent members; two each from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Panel members agreed only that the current five permanent members should retain the veto.

Before the plan was released, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kim R. Holmes said any shake-up should be done "without making the Council any more unwieldy than it already is." Those responsible for funding and carrying out its decisions should have the most say, he said.

Brazil, Germany, India and Japan are among those countries that claim to have achieved regional superpower status and have been pressing for permanent seats.

In Washington on Thursday, Annan met outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell and his designated successor, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The U.S. administration has been asking the U.N. chief to reinforce the 25 election experts now in Iraq.

"We have enough people in there to do the work," Annan said, as he stood with Powell. "And if need be, we'll put in the staff we need to get the work done. It's not a question of numbers; it's a question of what you need to get the job done."