NICE, France (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday Africa should be represented on the U.N. Security Council, promising to back reforms when France takes the helm of the G8 and G20 groups of big economies next year.
Speaking at the launch of the 25th Africa-France summit, he said it was time for the world to make a place for Africa on the global stage to discuss international crises and reforms.
“I am convinced that we can’t talk about big global questions without Africa any longer,” Sarkozy told about 800 delegates from 40 African states.
“The Security Council must be reformed and it’s not normal that Africa does not have a member of the Security Council.”
African nations have asked for two rotating permanent seats since 2005, given the continent has about 27 percent of members at the United Nations, its size and the involvement of global powers on its territory.
China, the United States, Russia, Britain and France are the permanent members of the Council. Nigeria, Gabon and Uganda are among 10 members that hold rotating seats.
Without saying exactly what France would favor, Sarkozy said: “France, when it takes over the G8 and G20 (next year), will push toward this (reform).”
The G8 is made up of leading rich nations, while the G20 also includes other big economies. South Africa is Africa’s only G20 member.
Security Council reform has been held up, with four countries in particular -- Brazil, Germany, Japan and Pakistan -- seeking new permanent seats.
A group called “Uniting for Consensus,” led by Italy, Argentina, Pakistan and Mexico, opposes those bids and wants the Council to add only additional non-permanent members.
In 2005, the African Union adopted the “Ezulwini consensus,” which advocates reserving two permanent seats with veto power as well as more non-permanent seats for Africa.
France is pushing for a reform proposed previously with the United Kingdom whereby non-permanent membership on the Security Council would be raised to 10 years instead of two now, without the right of veto, a French diplomatic source said.
President Sarkozy discussed this option with South African President Jacob Zuma at lunch Monday encouraging him to discuss the Franco-British proposal with his African colleagues, the source said.
“It’s the best way to move quickly toward a reform of the Security Council,” the diplomat said.
France is trying to claw back economic influence in Africa as it welcomes some 40 government leaders to a summit that for the first time includes heads of top French companies such as energy giant Total and nuclear firm Areva.
The two-day summit will feature a specific session among the leaders discussing Africa’s place in global governance.
Congo Republic’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso said earlier Monday he believed the world had to give Africa two seats as it could no longer manage crises under a system used since the Second World War.
“We agree that two permanent seats on the Security Council (are needed) for Africa and I am persuaded that the world cannot manage these sort of crises without Africa,” he told reporters.
Additional reporting by Yann Le Guernigou and Laurent Hamida; editing by Peter Graff