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2 nations fail to gain open UN council seat

Venezuela won't drop bid; Chávez vows to fight on

UNITED NATIONS -- Venezuela refused to abandon its bid for a UN Security Council seat despite trailing Guatemala in a dozen rounds of voting yesterday, creating a deadlock that led to new calls for a compromise candidate.

In the day's last vote, the 22d over two days, Guatemala garnered 102 votes to Venezuela's 77. That result, similar to that of many of the previous rounds in the General Assembly, was short of the two-thirds majority of the 192-member body needed to win, and diplomats said it appeared that neither would be able to bridge the gap.

The UN General Assembly will take a day off from voting today to allow Latin American and Caribbean nations time to seek a way out of the standoff over their regional seat. The 23d ballot will be held tomorrow morning.

``It looks like things are frozen," Ghana's UN Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng said.

Usually, the 10 rotating seats on the council are filled quietly, with the regional groups they are reserved for agreeing on a candidate to take the two-year term. But Guatemala and Venezuela both covet the seat that will be vacated by Argentina on Dec. 31, and their standoff has split the 32-nation Latin American and Caribbean Group.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said yesterday that his country will not give up in its bid for the council seat, despite trailing Guatemala.

``Venezuela doesn't give up," Chávez said. ``I say it here to the whole world, Venezuela will continue waging this battle."

Venezuela's UN ambassador, Francisco Arias Cárdenas, said Venezuela would only leave the race if President Bush or US Ambassador John Bolton publicly agreed to stop what he claimed was a campaign of pressure on other nations to vote for Guatemala, its preferred candidate.

Chávez has waged a vehement anti-US campaign for the seat, and his nation's failure could cost him politically.

Bolton rejected Cárdenas' proposal, and denied pressuring anyone.

``We have made our position in a very low-key way," Bolton said. ``It's motivated by our concern for Venezuela's behavior."

Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala said that by tradition, Venezuela ought to withdraw because it trails in the vote count. He suggested that his nation might be willing to step down, but only if Venezuela does too.

Guatemala has led all but the sixth round, when it tied Venezuela with 93 votes each.

``We believe that the General Assembly should not be held hostage to the position of one country," Rosenthal said. ``So there are limits of how far we're going to try to carry this out, although I have to say that it isn't us that is holding the General Assembly hostage."

Earlier, staff from the Venezuelan mission passed out a photocopied article from the Spanish newspaper El Pais that included a photograph of Bolton speaking with Rosenthal in the General Assembly hall. Venezuelan diplomats said that was a sign of the US collusion with Guatemala. They have also suggested that any nation voting for Guatemala is doing so at the behest of the Americans.

The record number of rounds of voting for a Security Council seat is 155, set in 1979. The General Assembly was deadlocked between Cuba and Colombia after 154 rounds, and finally chose Mexico on the 155th.

The seat Venezuela seeks to fill is one of the 10 non-permanent seats on the council. The United States fears Venezuela could shatter the consensus that the council needs to pronounce itself on issues ranging from human rights abuses to violations of international law.

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