Vote for Security Council Seat Stalled

The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 25, 2006; 9:09 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- The vote has been repeated _ over and over, 41 times _ and with each count, there is no winner in the diplomatic battle over Latin America's seat on the U.N. Security Council.

The two contenders _ U.S.-backed Guatemala and Venezuela, led by its fiercely anti-American President Hugo Chavez _ refuse to budge, though it has been clear since the early ballots that neither can gain the needed two-thirds support in the 192-nation U.N. General Assembly.

Frustrated diplomats from Latin America and the Caribbean met Wednesday, hoping to find a solution that would avoid another fruitless confrontation in the General Assembly.

But Ecuador's U.N. Ambassador Diego Cordovez, who chairs the 34-nation regional group, reported there was no imminent solution. Wednesday afternoon's voting, he said, would have to go ahead.

It did, for six rounds, and mirrored previous results: Guatemala led Venezuela but couldn't win a two-thirds majority. Voting resumes on Thursday.

Cordovez said, however, there is hope a solution may be found.

He held talks with the Guatemalan and Venezuelan ambassadors "in a very good atmosphere," and he said negotiations will continue Thursday with the foreign ministers of both countries.

"My expectation is that we are going to have _ perhaps not tomorrow because these are very difficult things _ but that we are going to have an agreement," Cordovez said.

He said that agreement would indicate what both countries are going to do themselves and a decision on a compromise candidate.

Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Enrique Berruga said he was "hopeful more than optimistic" that the two foreign ministers will come up with a quick solution. That's because of "their entrenched positions," with each saying "no you quit first," he said.

"Our expectation is that they can come to an agreement _ and that that agreement is the way forward," he said after Wednesday's voting in which Guatemala received between 100 and 109 votes while Venezuela got between 72 and 84 votes.

Berruga outlined three scenarios: that one of the two countries withdraws in favor of the other, that both quit and recommend a compromise candidate be adopted by consensus, or that both agree to quit but pass the ball on choosing a third candidate to the Latin American and Caribbean Group.

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