By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Pakistan hopes to win a seat on the U.N. Security Council as a temporary member alongside archrival India when the United Nations holds annual elections to the 15-nation body on Friday.
Elections for two-year terms -- this time running from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2013 -- on the Security Council are held on the basis of regional ballots. Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan are vying for a single seat available to the Asia-Pacific group.
India joined the council this year and will stay through 2012. India and Pakistan have fought three wars, mainly over Kashmir, since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
The last time the two nuclear-armed states served together on the council was in 1977. U.N. diplomats said they do not expect any regional tension if Pakistan joins.
The two countries' ambassadors are "best friends" and their positions on many issues are quite similar, a senior Western diplomat said on Wednesday.
Pakistan, a U.N. member state since 1947, has already served six terms on the council. Kyrgyzstan, which joined the United Nations in 1992, has never been on the council.
Both countries have been criticized by human rights advocates for rights abuses. Kyrgyzstan was embroiled in a major civil conflict last year.
There are five veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- and 10 temporary elected members without vetoes.
Diplomats said it was difficult to say what next year's council will look like due to uncertainty about Friday's election. It is possible that a new council member like Pakistan would join Russia and China in resisting renewed U.S. and European pressure to sanction nations like Syria and Iran.
This year all five "BRICS" emerging powers -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- are on the council. But that bloc will be broken in January when Brazil leaves the council, along with Gabon, Nigeria, Lebanon and Bosnia.
Council elections in the 193-nation General Assembly usually feature noncompetitive slates. This time all but one region -- Latin America and the Caribbean -- have contested ballots, making this the most unpredictable vote for years. Only Guatemala is assured a spot.
The most competitive slate is for Eastern Europe, where Azerbaijan takes on EU member states Hungary and Slovenia for a single seat.
On the African ballot two Arab League members -- Mauritania and Morocco -- are competing with Togo for two spots. Togo should be guaranteed a seat, but since the voting takes place in secret, it is possible both Arab states could win.
"The thing about secret ballots is that countries can lie about who they vote for," a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "It's possible that countries which promised Togo they would vote for it might vote for the two Arab states."
Usually there is only one Arab state on the council. The current holder of the Arab seat, Lebanon, comes off the council in January.
The four temporary members that will remain through 2012 besides India are Colombia, Germany, Portugal and South Africa.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)