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UN Calls 'Time-Out' in Guatemala-Venezuela Battle for Security Council Seat


The U.N. General Assembly has suspended voting until next week in a fiercely fought contest between Venezuela and Guatemala for a seat on the Security Council. Thirty-five rounds of balloting have produced a stalemate.

After three full days of inconclusive balloting, the General Assembly called a moratorium in the battle to replace Argentina as a Latin American representative on the Security Council. The voting will resume on Wednesday.

Delegates dragged through 12 more rounds of voting Thursday. Each time, Guatemala finished comfortably ahead of Venezuela. The margin was as high as 32 votes, 108 - 76.

But Venezuela refuses to give up, and has enough votes to prevent Guatemala from getting the two-thirds majority needed for election as a non-permanent Security Council member.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has waged a fierce campaign for the seat, using Venezuela's vast oil wealth to attract a solid support base. He has cast himself as the champion of voiceless developing countries waging a crusade against what he calls the "master of the universe," a reference to the United States.

Speaking in Spanish, Venezuela's U.N. ambassador, Francisco Arias Cardenas, charged Washington, and its U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, with trying to use its power to veto a country that will not bow to its will.

"This is not a fight between Venezuela and Guatemala, or between Venezuela and the United States," he said. "It's more than that. It is that, inside the U.N., one very big and powerful country, with its allies, can block a country from becoming a member of the Security Council, using its power and money to drive the boat in one direction."

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal says his country resents being portrayed as an American lackey, and has no intention of stepping down either. He says a country that finishes far behind in more than 30 rounds of voting should admit defeat and step aside.

"Right now, it's obvious we're at a stalemate, nothing has happened," he said. "The situation today is virtually the same as the first day of voting. If Venezuela elects to keep it going, we have no choice but to continue, because, for us, stepping down would offer the country who's behind by 30 votes to be elected."

American Ambassador Bolton Thursday urged Venezuela to concede defeat. He called it 'the decent thing to do'. Bolton rejected suggestions that the voting has reached a stalemate.

"I don't think it's a stalemate," he said. "I think Venezuela has lost, and we're still trying to find out under what circumstances Guatemala can win."

He said Venezuela's refusal to step down, and instead to tie up the General Assembly, is a preview of what the oil-rich South American country would do if elected to the Security Council.

"I think this is the kind of behavior that we worried about on the Security Council. It serves no purpose," Bolton said. "It's purely obstructionist. It's not constructive."

Bolton said the world body's tradition of rotating representation favors Guatemala's candidacy. He noted that Venezuela has previously served on the Security Council four times, while Guatemala, a founding member of the organization, has never been elected to its most powerful body.

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