Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Deadlock on UN Security Council spot

'OWNERS OF THE UNIVERSE' A US campaign to foil Venezuela's bid for the post awakened the ire of the Latin American state's ambassador to the world body


Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN Francisco Arias, left, and Deputy Foreign Minister Jorge Valero celebrate after gaining some votes during the fifth revote to choose a new non-permanent member of the Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday.


Venezuela and Guatemala were deadlocked in their battle for a spot on the UN Security Council, after 10 rounds of voting failed to anoint a winner to fill the spot reserved for Latin America on the powerful multinational body.

Guatemala led in nine of the 10 ballots but could not get the two-thirds majority necessary to win. Nonetheless, the results were a defeat for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had campaigned by railing against the US and promised to use his nation's voice on the 15-member council to counter Washington's influence.

The other four seats that will come open on the council were filled easily. South Africa, Indonesia, Italy and Belgium will start their terms on the council on Jan. 1, replacing Tanzania, Japan, Denmark and Greece.

Neither Venezuela nor Guatemala appeared willing to drop out of the election, which resumed yesterday with another round of balloting. Venezuela's UN Ambassador Francisco Arias Cardenas complained that the US had pressured countries worldwide to prevent Venezuela from winning the two-year rotating seat.

"Venezuela will not withdraw -- we're fighting until the end," Cardenas said on Monday. "We are fighting against the first power of the world, the owners of the universe. We're happy, we're strong and we will continue."

The voting pattern fluctuated through the day. In the early rounds, Guatemala obtained 116 votes and Venezuela just 70. Then, in the sixth round of voting, they tied at 93 each. On the last vote, Guatemala led again, with 110 to Guatemala's 77. That was still well short of the 125 needed to win.

Diplomats said Chavez may have hurt his nation's chances with a bombastic speech at the General Assembly debate last month, when he railed against the US and called US President George W. Bush "the devil" -- a speech criticized even by US politicians who had reached out to Chavez.

Yet the vote also reflected the ambivalence toward Guatemala, the preferred American candidate. Even Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal had earlier expressed discomfort about the highly public US campaign against Venezuela and in support of Guatemala.

After the voting ended on Monday, Rosenthal said his nation was an "independent voice" that would vote according to its own policies.

"We are an independent country and frankly we resent it a bit being told we are going to toe the line of not only the [US] but any other power," Rosenthal said. "We make our own decisions."

Diplomats said it was far too early to think of a compromise candidate to come forward to fill the seat that Argentina will vacate at the end of the year. Peru holds the other seat reserved for Latin America until Dec. 31 next year.

The record number of ballots for a Security Council seat occurred in 1979, when the General Assembly held 154 unsuccessful votes to choose between Cuba and Colombia. Mexico was then put forward and won in the 155th round.

"Experience here in New York has been that in some cases they've done over 100 ballots," US Ambassador John Bolton said.

"We've done 10 today, that's just really beginning to get your adrenaline going a little bit, we'll just see how it goes," he said.

After that, Latin American states could agree to a new candidate -- but only if the other two agree to step down. Rosenthal acknowledged that the deadlock could not last forever.

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