January 16, 2009 / 12:34 PM / 11 years ago

France, UK want quick change to top U.N. body - Sarkozy

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday his country and Britain would push next month for a temporary reform of the U.N. Security Council that would broaden its membership.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy gestures as he delivers his New Year wishes to the members of the French Diplomatic Corps during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris January 16, 2009. REUTERS/Jacques Brinon/Pool

Sarkozy said the United Nations General Assembly was due next month to examine the long-stalled issue of reforming the world’s top security body, whose composition largely reflects the balance of power shortly after World War Two.

“With the United Kingdom, France will plead for an interim solution which in my view is the only one capable of unblocking this issue, which is not only not moving forward but is moving backwards,” Sarkozy said in a speech to foreign diplomats.

The Council has five permanent members — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.

Sarkozy said the permanent members should include an African and Latin American state and India, adding that the membership of Germany and Japan could be discussed. A temporary reform would make it possible to test options, he said.

“It does not seem very reasonable to me either that there is not a single Arab country that is a permanent member of this body,” said Sarkozy, who had a private dinner with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Paris on Wednesday.

Sarkozy also repeated his call for the Group of Eight industrialised nations (G8) to be expanded to include emerging states such as China and India.

REGULATED OIL PRICE

In a wide-ranging speech, Sarkozy touched on many sensitive issues but largely maintained an unusually diplomatic tone.

He said it was in the world’s interest to regulate the price of commodities including oil and said that developed countries that have benefited from a sharp drop in oil prices should agree ways to guarantee producer nations “acceptable” average prices.

The price of U.S. light crude oil has tumbled to less than a third of its summer peak of over $147 a barrel.

Sarkozy repeated his call for a truce between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. He tried earlier this month to broker an agreement on a ceasefire between the two sides.

Officials said Sarkozy would be prepared to travel back to the region if needed to help find a deal, and Sarkozy said he hoped U.S. President-elect Barack Obama would get involved immediately after his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Sarkozy maintained his tough rhetoric against Iran, which the West has accused of seeking nuclear weapons behind the cover of its civilian atomic programme. Iran says it only wants to master nuclear technology to generate electricity.

“The moment is approaching where the Iranian leaders have to make a choice. Either they set off a serious confrontation with the international community, or — and this is what France hopes for — we reach a solution through negotiations,” he said.

Obama has said he will seek much broader diplomatic engagement with Iran. Sarkozy said he was confident Washington would work closely with the other powers that have sought talks with Iran — France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany.

He said western countries including the United States were ready to seek a deal through direct and open negotiation. “It is possible and the Iranian leadership now has to decide,” he said.

Additional reporting by James Mackenzie

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