UN council Latin American seat still up for grabs

By The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS – Guatemala failed repeatedly to muster the necessary votes to beat out Venezuela for a Latin American seat on the U.N. Security Council, prompting diplomats on Tuesday to demand a compromise candidate.

Both have refused and the U.N. General Assembly scheduled more rounds of voting Thursday by its 192 member nations. That left a day off for Latin American nations to try to find a solution.

In the 22nd round of voting, Guatemala garnered 102 votes to Venezuela’s 77. That result, similar to that of many of the previous rounds during the last two days, was 23 votes short of the two-thirds needed to win, and it now appeared that neither would be able to bridge the gap.

“It’s obvious that the General Assembly is sharply divided and we are facing a deadlock in this election,” said the Arab League’s U.N. representative Yahya Mahmassani. “We look forward to the group of Latin American and Caribbean states to find a solution to this impasse, with the acquiescence and acceptance of the two candidates.”

Yet neither Venezuela nor Guatemala appeared willing to drop out of the election.

Venezuela’s U.N. Ambassador Francisco Arias Cardenas complained that the United States pressed countries worldwide to prevent Venezuela from winning a seat on the 15-nation council.

“We are fighting against the first power of the world, the owners of the universe,” Arias Cardenas said. “We’re happy, we’re strong and we will continue.”

Roy Chaderton, the Venezuelan diplomat who played a key role in his country’s campaign for the seat, said the results were only a minor setback in the long struggle against U.S. efforts to dominate international affairs.

“This battle will prepare us for another battle within the international community,” Chaderton told Venezuelan state television Sunday.

The results were seen as a setback for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who lobbied in capitals around the world, offering millions of petrodollars in aid.Diplomats said his bombastic speech to the General Assembly last month, when Chavez railed against the United States and called President Bush “the devil,” may have hurt Venezuela’s chances.

The vote, however, also reflected the ambivalence toward Guatemala, Washington’s preferred candidate. Even Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal had earlier expressed discomfort about the highly public U.S. campaign against Venezuela and in support of Guatemala.

After Monday’s balloting, Rosenthal said his nation was an “independent voice” that would vote according to its own policies.

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.

Possible other candidates include Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Venezuela has served four times on the Security Council. Guatemala has never had a seat but is a leading contributor of troops to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

The 10 non-permanent seats on the council are filled by the regional groups for two-year stretches. The other five are occupied by the veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.