By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The 193-member U.N. General Assembly elected Jordan to the U.N. Security Council on Friday to replace Saudi Arabia, which rejected its two-year term in protest at the council's failure to end the war in Syria and act on other Middle East issues.
Saudi Arabia was elected in October to join the 15-member council from January 1, but in an unprecedented move Riyadh declined the role a day after the vote. While unopposed as the replacement, Jordan still needed two-thirds approval by the General Assembly. It was elected with 178 votes on Friday.
"We are extremely honored," Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told reporters after the vote, adding that the election "recognizes the role of Jordanian diplomacy worldwide."
Jordan emerged last month as the alternative candidate for the traditional Arab seat after Amman dropped out of a race against Riyadh for a three-year U.N. Human Rights Council seat. Saudi won the position on the top U.N. rights body on November 12.
A week later Jordan, which closely follows regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia on most foreign policy issues, announced its plan to run for the Security Council, with officials saying it wanted to raise its international profile and win more recognition for accommodating Syrian refugees.
The officials made clear Jordan's bid to win one of the Security Council's 10 rotating seats had the blessing of Saudi Arabia, its biggest financial backer, and the United States. Jordan is expected to follow closely the Saudi line on Syria and other regional crises, diplomats say.
The United States, Russia, China, France and Britain are permanent veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council.
Jordan is now home to more than 600,000 refugees from the 2-1/2 year civil war in neighboring Syria, according to U.N. estimates, though Amman puts the figure as high as one million.
The refugees are posing a huge strain on the kingdom's creaking infrastructure and limited resources.
Saudi Arabia has warned of a shift away from the United States in part over what it sees as Washington's failure to take action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its policies on Iran.
Citing the Security Council's failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, take steps to end Syria's civil war and stop nuclear proliferation in the region, Riyadh said the body had instead perpetuated conflicts and grievances when it declined the council seat that it had won with 176 votes.
Russia and China have repeatedly blocked resolutions supported by Saudi Arabia to toughen action against Assad, whose government forces' assault on rebel-held areas has been described by the kingdom as genocide.
Jordan will now join Lithuania, Chile, Nigeria and Chad as new members of the council, replacing Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Pakistan, Morocco and Togo. The other five temporary council members that will remain next year are Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, South Korea and Rwanda.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Louis Charbonneau and Vicki Allen)