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Germany, India, Colombia, South Africa and Portugal Win UN Security Council Seats

Germany, India, Colombia, South Africa and Portugal have been elected to non-permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. Tuesday's vote in the U.N. General Assembly saw some drama as Canada withdrew in a third round of voting as Portugal appeared poised to defeat Ottawa’s bid.

The five new council members will start a two-year term on January first. They will participate in decisions ranging from deploying U.N. peacekeepers to imposing sanctions, as the council monitors international peace and security.

Council seats are divided on a regional basis. This year, the seats for Africa and Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean were uncontested and India, South Africa and Colombia had no trouble mustering the two-thirds majority support of the voting members.

The only suspense came in the group known as Western Europe and Others, which had Germany, Canada and Portugal competing for two seats.

A majority of 127 votes was required. Germany squeaked by in the first round with 128. But Portugal and Canada fell short and had to go to a second round of ballots. Portugal came out ahead in that round, but did not get the 127 required. As voting went to a third round, Canada said it was withdrawing its bid. In the final tally, Portugal came out with 150 votes and a seat on the council.

Speaking after the vote, Portuguese Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Joao Cravinho said the fact that Portugal is a smaller country appealed to other states of similar size and power.

"Our own campaign had enormous amounts of receptivity in the message that we brought about our willingness to engage closely - not just for the purposes of the campaign, but to engage closely over our tenure in the Security Council with different regional groups, with countries big and small. Our campaign was also based on the idea that countries of small or medium-sized dimension should have a voice, be present in Security Council, this message had a lot of echo and, in the end, was the basis for our success," said Cravinho.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters that his country's first round victory is a sign of international trust in Germany's role in global affairs.

India is among the countries seeking to expand the Security Council's permanent membership, and their U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said his country would use its two-year term to work towards a longer-term stay on the body. He also spoke about what India's presence will contribute to the council.

"We bring the voice of one-sixth of humanity. We have 63 years of experience in nation building, and I think that is what the U.N. can use. We have experience in peacekeeping. We would like to transcend that into peace building," said Puri.

South Africa has returned to the council after only a two-year absence. Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said her country would work with states both inside and outside the council to keep Africa as a zone of peace, security and development.

Of their failed bid, Canada's foreign minister Lawrence Cannon said his country has pursued a robust foreign policy, asserted its sovereignty in the north and focused its foreign aid on countries that need it most. He said that while right, these decisions were not always popular.

The composition of the Security Council for its 2011 term is one of the strongest. The new members join Brazil, Nigeria, Lebanon, Gabon and Bosnia-Herzegovina among the 10 non-permanent members. The five permanent veto-wielding members of the council are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.