U.N. Panel Issues Terror Recommendations

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In a highly awaited report spawned by the deep divide over the war in Iraq (search), an international panel makes over 100 recommendations on how to deal with global threats in the 21st century including the use of preemptive strikes (search), according to highlights obtained by The Associated Press.

The report by the 16-member panel, to be released on Thursday, also proposes how to expand the U.N. Security Council (search) to reflect modern realities.

It identifies the threats facing the world today — including internal and external wars, poverty and social upheavals, failed states, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and organized crime — and proposes ways to deal with them. It also defines terrorism, something the 191-member U.N. General Assembly has tried unsuccessfully to do for years, an official close to the panel said on condition of anonymity.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) appointed the panel a year ago in response to the deep split over the U.S.-led war on Iraq which the Security Council refused to authorize. The U.N. announcement said the debate had "shaken the foundations of collective security and undermined confidence in the possibility of collective responses to our common problems and challenges."

Whether the panel's wide-ranging recommendations attract substantial support remains to be seen. Its members include former prime ministers of Norway and Russia, former foreign ministers of Australia and China and former U.S. national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

"I fear that we are being looked at as Moses coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments," one panel member said recently, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Annan said he plans to spend his remaining two years as secretary-general focusing on reform of the United Nations and pushing the goals adopted by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in September 2000, including cutting in half the number of people living in dire poverty and ensuring that every child has an education, both by 2015.

At least two-thirds of the U.N. member states must approve any reform of the Security Council, which would require changing the U.N. Charter, and there can be no veto by a permanent member — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

The panel, chaired by former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, could not decide on a single proposal to reform the Security Council so it proposed two options to expand it from the current 15 members to 24 members. Neither would add any new veto-wielding members.

One would add six new permanent members — two from Asia, two from Africa, one from the Americas and one from Europe — as well as three nonpermanent members elected for two-year terms.

Seeking more influence over global decisions, Brazil, Germany, India and Japan joined forces in September to lobby for permanent seats saying the U.N.'s most powerful body must reflect the realities of the 21st century. South Africa and Nigeria are top candidates for one African seat and Egypt is lobbying for the other, insisting that Arab nations must be permanently represented on the council, diplomats said.

But there is plenty of opposition already: China isn't enthusiastic about Japan and Indonesia has also laid claim to an Asian seat. Pakistan doesn't want India, and Mexico and Argentina believe Latin America should be represented by a Spanish-speaking country, not Portuguese-speaking Brazil.

The other proposal would create a new tier of eight semi-permanent members chosen for four-year terms, and open to re-election — two each from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. It would also add one non-permanent seat.

"What will get headlines is the recommendation on Security Council reform, but the most important thing about this report ought to be what it says about the use of force, intervention and sovereignty, because governments themselves won't tackle these issues," said Lee Feinstein, who worked for former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and is now at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The report sets out benchmarks for the use of force whether in armed conflict, self-defense, or in case of major human rights violations like the 1994 Rwanda genocide, according to the official. The benchmarks range from a determination that the threat is serious to whether force is a last resort and whether the specific military actions is a proportional response.

The U.N. Charter now permits the use of force for self-defense only in case of an attack or if authorized by the Security Council, and the panel rejects any expansion. But it does urge the council to take early action to prevent, for example, terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons or mass killing — and it says preemptive military strikes for self-defense are legitimate if authorized by the council, according to the official.

"In the aftermath of the Iraq debate, which really served as a wake-up call, can all of these parties get back on the same page?" asked David Shorr of the Stanley Foundation, which organized a half-dozen programs on the panel's work.

"What the process is going to be about is to make sure that all threats are being confronted and all concerns and priorities are being met," he said.