Bid for a permanent seat on UN Security Council reflects concern for world peace As a keen supporter of the United Nations, Germany has played an increasingly decisive role in international affairs in recent years, and the nation could be a step closer to gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for an expansion of the council for a more accurate representation of international opinion. Germany's supporters believe the country should be given a leading role. The debate over whether the security council should be expanded has been going on for years, but it has gained a fresh urgency from UN supporters who are keen to avoid more of the damaging splits that occurred over the Iraq war. All five permanent members are open to the idea of reforming the council. Germany and Japan are in the front running to gain permanent seats on the Security Council, in recognition of their economic strength. President Jacques Chirac of France has given the two nations his backing. Addressing the UN General assembly last week, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced his country's ambition for a permanent seat on the council, saying it should be expanded to make it more representative of national and regional interests. Mr Schroeder says Germany wants the power of veto, like the other permanent members, but will not insist upon it. 'On behalf of Germany, I repeat that we are prepared to take on more responsibility in the framework of such a reform,' Mr Schroeder says. Germany's profile within the UN has grown steadily over the years, culminating with its chairmanship of the UN Security Council, as a rotating member, earlier this year when the Iraq crisis boiled over. The nation is the third-largest financer of the global organisation, and its military contribution has grown. There are 9,000 German soldiers involved in various UN peace-keeping missions overseas, mostly in Afghanistan. Germany has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the UN since West Germany joined in 1973. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer believes the UN should have a bigger role in world affairs. 'A focus of the debate relating to German foreign policy is the question of how to organise the world of tomorrow,' Mr Fischer says. 'In our view, and that of our European partners, a world of six billion people and almost 200 sovereign states will only be able to organise itself within a multilateral framework. 'It is also our view that the future of the United Nations is not behind it but, under such conditions, is very much still before it - as the deciding instance for an effective multilateralism like this.' In the short-term, the Germans want to see the UN more heavily involved in the reconstruction of Iraq. 'The highest priority must be given to reconstructing Iraqi sovereignty and authority as fast as possible,' Mr Fischer says. 'Before that, there needs to be a period of transition. We believe that the United Nations should play the central role during this transitional period.' The German government has promised to help in the humanitarian and economic reconstruction of Iraq, and in training the country's police officers. Germany believes institution-building at the national and supra-national levels is at the core of bringing peace and stability to world affairs. In view of the damage to transatlantic relations caused by division over the Iraq war, Germany believes it is essential the United States and the European Union find a way to work together as equal partners, in recognition of Europe's sizeable economic and political clout. 'Transatlantic relations are a cornerstone of peace and stability - this is crucially important to me,' Mr Fischer says. 'This means that we must treat each other as partners. Yet it also means that we must take account of the new conditions, the new challenges and the new dangers. 'For our friends in the United States it means that a Europe which is growing together is, on the one hand, raising concerns, but, as we have seen in the Balkans, is also bringing an increase in partnership. 'We have to learn how to deal with this dynamic aspect. Thus we need a new strategic debate, a debate about basic policy issues in the transatlantic relationship.' Mr Fischer says it is vital the EU integrates further so it can act more decisively on the world stage. 'If you had asked me before September 11, 2001, what was driving European integration, I would have listed three factors: enlargement; the pressure for further integration resulting from the introduction of the euro; and international crises. Today, international crises are almost at the top of the agenda, alongside enlargement. 'Here too, we must acknowledge that the challenge is for all Europeans to make their contribution towards the fight against international terrorism,' the German foreign minister says.