Germany, Portugal and Canada in race for UN seats

AP News
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Posted: Oct 11, 2010 6:33 PM

Germany, Portugal and Canada are in a heated race for two seats on the U.N. Security Council, and in U.N. corridors diplomats are predicting a close vote.

The 192-member General Assembly meets Tuesday to elect five countries to serve two-year terms on the U.N.'s most powerful body starting Jan. 1.

The African, Asian and Latin American seats are uncontested this year so South Africa, India and Colombia have no opposition and are expected to win easily on the first ballot.

But the race for two seats in the Western allied bloc is hotly contested, with intense lobbying by Germany, Portugal and Canada expected to continue until diplomats start casting their votes Tuesday morning in the assembly.

South Africa's foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, is hosting a pre-vote reception Monday night and Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon has scheduled a press conference after Tuesday's election. Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Portugal's deputy foreign minister, Joao Cravinho, are also in New York meeting diplomats to seek votes.

Ten of the Security Council's 15 seats are filled by the regional groups for two-year stretches, with five elected each year. The other five seats are occupied by the council's veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

In the secret ballot election, candidates need to get a two-thirds majority of members voting to win.

The five new nonpermanent council members will replace Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda whose terms end on Dec. 31. The five members elected last year _ Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria _ will remain on the council until the end of 2011.

Germany, Portugal and Canada have all been on the council previously _ Germany most recently in 2003-2004, Portugal in 1997-98, and Canada in 1999-2000.

Council members are supposed to be chosen on the basis of their contributions to international peace and security, and all three have highlighted their contributions to U.N. peacekeeping.

Canada has also stressed its long commitment to multilateralism and to English and French as national languages. Germany has stressed its broad approach to international security and trying to resolve threats peacefully, and Portugal has stressed the value of smaller countries being represented on the council and its role as a maritime nation.

All three are considered qualified, and diplomats say the race could come down to a variety of issues including economic clout, big country vs. smaller country, and whether two European Union countries should win or whether one seat should go to a non-EU nation.

Security Council Report, a nonprofit organization that tracks the U.N. body, said that with South Africa and India likely winners and Nigeria and Brazil already members, the council next year would include major regional and emerging global powers in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

If Germany wins one of the seats for the Western European and Others Group _ as the pro-Western bloc is called _ the council would also have Europe's major economic power and the world's fourth largest economic power on the council.

Germany, South Africa, India, Nigeria and Brazil are also campaigning for permanent membership on the Security Council, along with Japan.

"By any standards, the council in 2011 could be the strongest group of U.N. and global stakeholders ever assembled on the council," Security Council Report said.

"This could create a unique dynamic," the September report said. "However, it is difficult to predict whether this will in fact foster a more proactive and effective Security Council."