Chavez: Venezuela's U.N. Bid Thriving

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 27, 2006; 1:38 AM

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country is gaining broad support in its bid for a U.N. Security Council seat, even as the United States tries to persuade governments to vote against Venezuela.

Speaking by phone from China on Sunday, Chavez told Venezuelan state television that his government is scoring "big victories" in its effort to obtain a rotating seat on the Security Council. He noted that Chinese President Hu Jintao endorsed Venezuela's campaign on Thursday, and said other countries in areas from the Caribbean to Africa have also pledged their backing.

"I am sure that support is going to continue growing," Chavez told state television, speaking from the eastern Chinese city of Jinan.

U.S. officials, alarmed by Chavez's deepening ties with countries like Iran and North Korea, are backing Guatemala for the U.N. seat instead. The race is expected to be decided by the General Assembly in a secret ballot in October.

Chavez rattled off a list of regional groups that he said were mostly backing Venezuela after two months of campaigning by diplomats.

"China, Russia, the majority of the countries of the African Union, the Arab League, Mercosur, Caricom _ and many countries don't say it," Chavez said. Caricom is made up of 15 Caribbean nations, while Mercosur is a trade bloc of five South American countries.

Chavez said the United States, in opposing Venezuela, "has turned this into a sort of battle for the world."

"The U.S. government has been sending letters to the majority of the countries in the world," opposing Venezuela, Chavez said. "Many governments ... react against the empire because they realize it's immoral for the U.S. empire to try to keep a small, modest country like Venezuela from entering a body, whatever it is."

Chavez said he was pleasantly surprised last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his support for Venezuela. "We hadn't even touched on the subject," until Putin mentioned Russia would back Venezuela, Chavez said.

Chavez often clashes with Washington and has warned his oil-rich country must be prepared to defend itself against a U.S. attack. American officials insist there are no such plans.

© 2006 The Associated Press