Five countries have joined the U.N. Security Council as non-permanent members for two-year terms. Among them is Libya, which has also assumed the Security Council's rotating presidency for the month of January.  From U.N. Headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Libya moved deeper into the fold of the international community Thursday, taking up the helm of the very same body that had previously sanctioned it as a state-sponsor of terrorism.

Libya's ambassador to the U.N., Giadalla Ettalhi, told reporters Thursday that this reversal has great significance for his country.

"For us, you know, for a country that was for a decade under the sanctions of the Security Council, it is very important and very significant, I think, that to be back in the Security Council," he said.  "It means that we are back to normal, at least from the perspective of the others. We have considered ourselves always in the right way, but this is very, very important for us."

Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia and Vietnam joined Libya as new members. Unlike the five permanent members of the Security Council, non-permanent members do not have veto power.

Several high priority issues will be on the Council's agenda in January, including the deployment of a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force to Sudan's Darfur region and the continuing issue of Kosovo's future status.

Libya was elected to the Security Council in October, after the U.S. vetoed two previous bids. The United States did not block Libya's most recent effort.

Relations between the two nations have warmed since 2003, when Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. Earlier, Tripoli had turned over two suspects for trial in the case.

Relations further improved between the U.S. and Libya after Tripoli renounced weapons of mass destruction in late 2003.

The two countries resumed full diplomatic relations in 2006 after more than a two-decade break, and Libya's foreign minister was in Washington Thursday, meeting with U.S. officials.

Ambassador Ettalhi says his government is pleased relations have normalized.

"We have good relations with the United States," he added.  "At least they are back to normal and, I think, moving in the right direction. Perhaps, not at the desirable speed, but they are really going in the right direction. We are happy about that and I think that they are happy about that."

The rotating presidency of the Security Council is designated in alphabetical order, and Libya enters the body as president for the month of January, taking over from Italy