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Guatemala, Venezuela Deadlocked Over UN Security Council Seat

Venezuela and Guatemala have fought to a standoff in a second day of voting at the United Nations for an open seat on the Security Council. After 22 rounds of balloting, neither country is close to the two-thirds majority needed for election.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez faced an embarrassing political defeat Tuesday, his attempt to gain admission to the U.N.'s most powerful body effectively stymied.

Two days of voting, 22 ballots in the General Assembly, left Venezuela 25 votes behind rival Guatemala in the race for the Latin American Council seat being vacated by Argentina. More importantly, Venezuela is more than 40 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed for election.

Guatemala is also short of the roughly 125 votes needed to win. Its highest total in Tuesday's balloting was 112.

The result is a stalemate, with each country having enough support to block the other from winning, but not enough to win itself. After Tuesday's voting, the meeting was adjourned until Thursday to allow negotiations on a possible compromise.

Venezuela has framed the contest as between a champion of the developing world and the world's superpower, and vowed not to give up.

Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas Tuesday accused the United States of trying to influence the outcome through the use of extortion and pressure. Speaking in Spanish, he said Venezuela would only quit the race if President Bush or U.S. Ambassador John Bolton publicly called of the pressure tactics.

"When Mr. Bolton stops at this microphone or publicly says 'I'm not pressuring you any more, and won't use any more money or power to influence the vote against one country or in favor of another', then we will accept a consensus," he said.

Bolton rejected charges of U.S. pressure, known as arm-twisting. He said Washington opposes Venezuela's candidacy because of its potential disruptive influence on the Security Council.

"Others can say whatever they want, but I've been in politics, international politics and American domestic politics for a long time, and I know arm-twisting and it is not happening here, by the United States," Bolton said.

Bolton said the 22 rounds of inconclusive balloting had doomed Venezuela's candidacy.

"You can draw one conclusion from the result so far, and that is, Venezuela is not going to win," he said.

Guatemala's Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal admitted his country probably cannot win either, since Venezuela has the support of one-third of the member states needed to block the Guatemalan candidacy. He accused Venezuela of holding the General Assembly hostage to its own demands.

"Under normal circumstances, our competitor would stand down graciously, but for reasons well known, he's not willing to do that," said Rosenthal. "We are interested in the integrity of the General Assembly, and we believe that the General Assembly should not be held hostage to the position of one country."

With the Assembly clearly deadlocked, the session was adjourned until Thursday to allow Latin American countries a chance to explore other options. Among them is the possibility of a compromise third candidate emerging.

The Latin American group scheduled a Wednesday meeting, but diplomats said both Venezuela and Guatemala had agreed to attend only if it was understood that neither would be asked to quit the race.