After 41 ballots, Venezuela and Guatemala fail to break deadlock on Security Council seat

Thursday, October 26th 2006, 6:34 am
By: News On 6

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Frustrated diplomats expressed hope that a meeting Thursday between the Guatamalan and Venezuelan foreign ministers would produce a compromise candidate for Latin America's seat on the U.N. Security Council.

On Wednesday General Assembly completed its 41st round of inconclusive balloting on the issue, one of the longest battles for a seat in U.N. history.

Once again U.S.-backed Guatemala was the leader but did not get the required two-thirds majority. Guatemala received between 100 and 109 votes while Venezuela, led by its fiercely anti-American President Hugo Chavez, got between 72 and 84 votes.

Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Enrique Berruga said he was ``hopeful more than optimistic'' that the foreign ministers will come up with a quick solution given ``their entrenched positions.''

He 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.

Ecuador's U.N. Ambassador Diego Cordovez, who chairs the 34-nation regional group and held talks with the Guatemalan and Venezuelan ambassadors on Wednesday, said Thurday's meeting of the ministers may not produce immediate results.

``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 a decision on a compromise candidate.

Many U.N. members _ not just the Latin Americans _ hope that proves to be true.

The Guatemala-Venezuela voting is already the third longest in the U.N.'s 61-year history.

The second highest number of ballots was 52, set in 1960. After that, the General Assembly agreed to allow Poland and Turkey to serve on the council for one year each.

The record number is 155 rounds of voting, set in 1980. The General Assembly gave up on Cuba and Colombia after 154 rounds, and chose Mexico on the 155th, in early January of that year.

Brazil's U.N. Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg said the message at the closed-door meeting was that the group needs to reach agreement on a candidate for the Security Council.

``We encouraged them to reach a solution quickly,'' he said, expressing hope that the Venezuelan and Guatemalan foreign ministers ``will achieve some kind of a consensus.''

Sardenberg said Brazil _ which has been mentioned along with Bolivia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Chile and others as a possible third option _ ``is not a candidate and we are ready to join any consensus.''

Venezuela proposed Bolivia as an alternative in hopes of breaking the deadlock.

That nation said it would agree to be a candidate if it helped reach a consensus. But it remains to be seen if other nations in the region would agree on Bolivia, whose President Evo Morales is among Chavez's closest allies.

Venezuela's Arias Cardenas told Venezuelan radio network FFF that he understood Guatemala has suggested Costa Rica as an option.

But Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal denied that, saying: ``We've never proposed an alternative country.''

Mexico's Berruga said Latin America needs to establish a system to avoid future diplomatic battles over seats on the U.N.'s most powerful body.

He said he also feels ``a little bit ashamed because ... we're paralyzing the work of the General Assembly with this exercise'' when there are pressing global issues to tackle.