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Inside File: Brazil's fancy footwork may all be in vain

IF NATIONS gained their global importance through their competence at international football, then Brazil should have been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council by now. It certainly thinks it should, for other reasons, but it is having trouble convincing the rest of the world. For that reason, it recently enlisted one of the world's leading international public relations consultants to help it argue its case.

The Brazilian offensive to become a global player off, as well as on, the football pitch started on the very day it won the World Cup: the Foreign Minister, Celso Luiz Nines Amorim, arrived in London on Sunday for a five-day visit. His arrival was heralded by a press pack the size of a novel manuscript; it was issued by Hill and Knowlton, one of the PR consultants who are increasingly acting on behalf of governments as well as private enterprise (the firm had a rocky experience when it was used by the Emir of Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion four years ago). The news release was headed: 'Confident Brazil calls for UN Security Council reform and greater trade liberalisation'.

The Hill and Knowlton remit, a source in the industry tells me, is to 'help promote political and press interest in the good news coming out of Brazil recently, because the Brazilian government feels there has been disproportionate emphasis on bad news, such as street kids, so far'.

Mr Amorim, who has over the years seen his country turned into an international basket-case by the avarice of Western banks, gave an upbeat speech to the Bank of England on Monday: he urged expansion of the Security Council because 'we have no doubt that a Security Council enlarged in a fair way would have more legitimacy, and would therefore be more effective in promoting peace and security'. (Not an analysis with which many existing members would agree).

When asked directly if Brazil was seeking a seat, Mr Amorim demurred (countries in the exploratory stages of seeking entry to any club tend to be coy about it). But he made the point that the developed world should not have a monopoly on the understanding of global problems (given Brazil's failure to stop the destruction of its own rain forests, many would question what its global understanding amounts to); he then proceeded to tear up what may be the only merit to Brazil's claim - that it is the most populous nation of an unrepresented continent. Seats should not be distributed, he said, on a quota basis. Mr Amorim would have to say that; the quota system would lump it in with another populous country from an unrepresented continent, Nigeria, the problems of which exceed those of his own country.

Now, the irony is that Mr Amorim's crusade plays right into the hands of those in the British Foreign Office who still wish to delay admitting the serious contenders - Germany and Japan - as permanent members (diluting the voice which Britain earned in the war amounts, in their view, to selling off the family silver). Although Britain, for economic reasons, has conceded that German and Japanese entry is ultimately inevitable, the FCO argument for spinning it out is precisely to point out that problematic nations such as Brazil and Nigeria would then also have to be admitted.

Hill and Knowlton have their work cut out for them; the Sisyphean task is reminiscent of that taken on by another PR giant, Saatchi and Saatchi, when it agreed to lobby for Turkish admission to the EC some years ago.

Ultimately, Brazil has no more convincing arguments for admission than anybody else; Mr Amorim's claim that 'the complexity and diversity of Brazil gives our diplomacy a marked capacity for dialogue with widely differing partners' could be said of any of the existing members. But he is not alone in clutching at straws in the name of national self-aggrandisement. After all, the reason given by Jacques Santer as to why his minute country should hold the presidency of the European Commission was, that 'Luxembourg produced four Holy Roman Emperors'.