Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez vowed that Venezuela would win a seat on the UN Security Council in a tightly contested vote yesterday despite months of US lobbying against his country's bid.
A rotating Security Council seat would give the leftist Chavez a higher profile and a platform on the world stage to challenge what he calls US "imperialism" in regions from the Middle East to Latin America.
Yesterday's vote by the UN General Assembly was set to be an important diplomatic test for Chavez, gauging his ability to lobby head-to-head against the US, which has actively backed rival challenger Guatemala.
"Go forth with the bayonet! Venezuela is going to the Security Council," Chavez said on Sunday, encouraging Venezuela's Ambassador to the UN Francisco Arias Cardenas.
He accused the US of waging "a dirty war" against his country in a last-ditch effort to prevent it from defeating Guatemala.
Venezuela and Guatemala both say they have a majority of votes in the 192-member General Assembly. If neither side is able to muster the two-thirds majority, however, the 33-nation Latin American group could decide to nominate another candidate.
The rotating seat, one of 10 on the council, is decided by a secret vote and countries aren't obliged to make known their preference, though much of the Caribbean and South America have voiced support for Venezuela. The 53 countries in the African group are expected to lean toward Venezuela, while Asia's 54 nations appear to be split.
Guatemala has the support of Colombia, apparently most of Central America, Europe and other countries.
In recent months, Chavez has collected pledges of support as he visited about a dozen countries. Top Guatemalan officials and US diplomats also have been busy with their own international lobbying efforts.