Latin America fails to break UN seat deadlock

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS – Foreign ministers from Venezuela and US-backed Guatemala failed to break a deadlock on Thursday in their battle for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, diplomats from both countries said.

The goal is to find a nation

to fill an open Latin American seat on the council, the most powerful U.N. body, following 41 rounds of inconclusive voting and sharp divisions among the 35 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

In an attempt to resolve the impasse, Foreign Ministers Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala conferred on Thursday. Both have said they would withdraw providing they could agree on an acceptable substitute.

But they said no agreement was reached and Rosenthal said Guatemala was not ready to pull out of the race.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called the race one against what U.S. dominance over developing nations. His foe, Washington, has lobbied for Guatemala, a country that has never had a seat on the council.

No new talks have been set and voting will resume on Tuesday. In 41 ballots cast so far, Venezuela trailed Guatemala in all but one. But Guatemala was not able to get the required two-thirds majority in the 192-member General Assembly.

Venezuela, diplomats said, was supporting Bolivia as an alternative candidate but Guatemala refused.

In Washington, the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, said Maduro had offered to propose his nation as an alternate candidate for the seat. But diplomats said this did not arise at the talks.

Fernandez, speaking to reporters traveling with him, said he had not sought Venezuela’s backing for the council seat and would only accept it if Guatemala agreed.

“What’s being sought is a solution to the impasse,” said Fernandez, who met President George W. Bush on Wednesday.

The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China hold permanent seats on the Security Council. Ten other nations sit on the council for two-year terms, five elected each year.

Guatemala and Venezuela are vying for the Latin American seat that Argentina will vacate on Dec. 31. Peru stays on the council until the end of 2007. — Reuter