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UN's Ban Favors Expanded Security Council

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he approves of adding more nations to the UN Security Council.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he approves of adding more nations to the UN Security Council.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is in favor of adding more members to the UN Security Council.

Ban made his comments in a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

Ban said it was the prevailing view among UN members that the current format of 15 council countries -- including five permanent veto-wielding members -- needed to be reformed.

But he declined to specify if countries such as India should gain a permanent seat, as U.S. President Barack Obama recently suggested.

"As secretary-general, and also personally, I believe that the Security Council should be expanded to reflect the changing situation and to address all the challenges of the 21st century," Ban said.

Kazakh OSCE Summit

Ban was speaking in Astana ahead of a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Kazakhstan is hosting the summit in its position as this year's chairman of the security and rights body.

Ban praised what he called Kazakhstan's leadership in that role.

But he also said he had spoken to Kazakh leaders about human rights and hoped they would make improvements in line with recommendations made by a UN panel earlier this year.

Kazakhstan's chairmanship has been controversial because of Astana's questionable human rights record, which U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said today had only worsened during 2010.

The UN's Human Rights Council this year urged improvements in various areas including press freedom.

Iran, Nagorno-Karabakh

On Iran, Ban said the onus was on Tehran to prove its disputed nuclear program was for peaceful purposes and did not have a "military dimension."

Iran is under four sets of Security Council resolutions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment -- which Western powers fear could be aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

The UN chief also said the head of Iran's Council of Human Rights, Mohammad Larijani, had promised to give him clear answers on allegations of rights abuses including arbitrary arrests and torture.

Turning to another flashpoint, this time in the Caucasus, Ban again called for the withdrawal of snipers deployed along the line of contact separating ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces near the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ban also urged both sides to "refrain from making any provocative actions" in the area.

Ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan won control of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a war that ended with a cease-fire in 1994. Clashes along the cease-fire line this year have killed more than 20 soldiers on both sides.

written by Kathleen Moore, based on interview by Yedige Magauin of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service