Panama elected to UN Security Council

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Tuesday November 7, 2006

New York- The UN General Assembly elected Panama on Tuesday to take over a Security Council seat for Latin America and the Caribbean, ending three weeks of diplomatic wrangling for the coveted political position. The assembly elected Panama with 164 votes. Venezuela received 11 votes and Guatemala got four. Panama will replace Argentina when it steps down on December 31.

Panama was the compromise choice to break a deadlocked race between Guatemala and Venezuela, which went through 47 ballots in the 192-nation assembly without either country gaining the required two- thirds majority of 124 votes.

In 2007 the 15-member UN Security Council will comprise the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - the five veto-wielding permanent members, and Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar, the Slovak Republic, South Africa, Indonesia, Italy, Belgium and Panama, as the 10 countries elected for two-year terms.

The Guatemala-Venezuela race was the second longest election in UN history for a council seat.

The longest election - also for a Latin American seat - took place in 1979 when the assembly conducted a total of 154 ballots over more than two months. Mexico won as the compromise choice after Colombia and Cuba dropped out of the race after failing to garner the two- thirds majority.

This year, the race became an instant political fight between Washington and Caracas, as the United States backed Guatemala in an effort to stop Venezuela from reaching the Security Council.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez coveted the council seat for the opportunity to launch more attacks against the US. He branded US President George W Bush "the devil" in a speech to the General Assembly in September.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency