- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

BUENOS AIRES — While Iran and North Korea grabbed the headlines at last week’s summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Cuba, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was busy rounding up support for his country’s bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council next year.

His pitch included a promise that if elected, Venezuela would use its seat to oppose U.S. policies and support countries such as Iran, which faces the threat of U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged about 50 national leaders in attendance in Havana to back Venezuela’s bid.

“The U.S. is turning the Security Council into a base for imposing its politics,” said Mr. Ahmadinejad, who arrives in New York today for the annual General Assembly session opening. “Why should people live under the nuclear threat of the U.S.?”

At stake is a rotating council seat now held by Argentina, whose two-year term expires at the end of the year. The United States would like to see the seat — which is reserved for a country from Latin America or the Caribbean — go to Guatemala, the only other declared candidate.

If the Latin American and Caribbean nations reach an agreement by Oct. 16, it will be ratified in a pro forma vote by the U.N. General Assembly. If the region can’t reach a consensus, the General Assembly will vote by secret ballot, with a two-thirds majority of the 192 members needed to select the winner.

Mr. Chavez has traveled widely in recent months, taking his promise to resist U.S. domination of the world body to countries such as Russia, Belarus and Vietnam.

“We accept this challenge against the empire,” Mr. Chavez said during the summer at a Venezuelan military event. “The United States says Venezuela will not go to the Security Council, and we say Venezuela will.”

It is not clear whether Venezuela or Guatemala has enough votes to secure the U.N. seat, which does not have veto power.

Several of Washington’s strongest allies in the region, including Colombia and most of the Central American nations, support Guatemala’s bid.

But Mr. Chavez has the backing of the four other full members of South America’s largest trading bloc, Mercosur — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet also has been reported to be leaning toward Venezuela.

Peru, whose new president, Alan Garcia, is at odds with Mr. Chavez over the latter’s backing of an election rival, reportedly is undecided, as is Ecuador, which is negotiating free-trade deals with the U.S. while facing a pivotal presidential election.

If the regional countries fail to reach consensus, Mr. Chavez is expected to receive support from several countries with influence in the General Assembly, including China, Russia, Malaysia and India.

The Venezuelan leader gave a taste in Havana of what to expect if his government gets the seat, proposing to give “a new face” to the Non-Aligned Movement by shifting its headquarters out of the U.N. headquarters in New York.

“I propose Syria, Brasilia, whatever city in the south, Havana or Caracas,” Mr. Chavez said. “But not in a city where an empire applies irresponsible actions.”

Mr. Chavez, who repeatedly has advocated Iran’s right to develop civilian-use nuclear energy, also said that Iran was “under threat” of U.S. invasion.

“We are with you just like we are with Cuba,” Mr. Chavez said, adding: “If the United States invades Cuba, blood will run.”



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