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 U.S. stance against Venezuela has dangers

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Localisation : Washington D.C.
Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

MessageU.S. stance against Venezuela has dangers

U.S. stance against Venezuela has dangers

By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press WriterWed Jul 19, 2:07 PM ET

The United States is lobbying hard to block Venezuela's bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, fearful that Hugo

Chavez, its fiercely anti-American president, will disrupt the body as it confronts hot issues such as Iran and Sudan.

But interviews with some 15 diplomats of member states reveal substantial wariness about the U.S. effort, with the critics

warning it could boomerang against the U.S. choice, Guatemala, when the General Assembly votes in October.

A European diplomat, refusing to be identified further saying he didn't want to anger the Americans, said lobbying against

Venezuela would only gain it votes.

Venezuela's U.N. ambassador, Francisco Arias Cardenas, agrees. "We're a smaller nation but nonetheless this campaign that

the U.S. has been taking against us works in our favor," he said in an interview. "We now are all over the news."

Washington argues that its campaign is pro-Guatemala, not anti-Venezuela. Venezuela has served four times on the Security

Council. Guatemala, emerging from years of brutal U.S.-backed dictatorship, has never had a seat but is a leading

contributor of troops to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Yet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton have singled out Venezuela's candidacy for

criticism, and Washington has outlined its objections in a position paper for its ambassadors worldwide to present to their

host governments.

The context is critical, it says, because of the important topics the council will likely face next year: suspect nuclear

programs in Iran and North Korea, peacekeeping in Sudan, and the launch of the Peacebuilding Commission that is meant to

help countries make the transition from conflict to peace.

"Unfortunately, Venezuela has shown that it is more concerned with disrupting international events than in working

constructively to achieve common goals," said the paper, obtained by The Associated Press.

Ten of the council's 15 seats are filled by the regional groups for two-year stretches. The other five are occupied by its

veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Normally, the Latin American group would fill the council seat with its own choice. But this year, because both Guatemala

and Venezuela want the seat, the vote will be by secret ballot. That means governments can promise one thing, and vote

otherwise. Guatemala and Venezuela both say they have a majority in the 192-state assembly.

Forecasting the vote is tricky and many member states say they have not decided which country to back.

The 50 European nations, which include the United States, are thought likely to support Guatemala. The 33-nation Latin

American bloc will probably support Venezuela, and the 53 countries in the African group are expected to tilt toward it as

well. Asia's 54 nations are said to be split.

Of the two nations not belonging to a group, Israel would likely vote for Guatemala, while Montenegro's position is not


In any case, the U.S. doesn't always get its way. In 2000 it blocked Sudan and Mauritius won the council seat. But in 2005

It backed Nicaragua and Peru won.

The topic of Venezuela's candidacy is so touchy that some governments which oppose it have ordered their officials not to

discuss it. But on-the-record comments that have come out reflect the ill feeling.

Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur is irked that the lobbying so far has been American, not Guatemalan. "They should

speak to us directly rather than send somebody to us to speak on their behalf," he said.

Guatemala's U.N. ambassador, Jorge Skinner-Klee, said the U.S.-Venezuela battle has "poisoned the atmosphere beyond


"We would have preferred that people look into why Guatemala is running and why we can make a good nonpermanent

member in the council," he said.

In an interview, Bolton joked that the United States could be for Guatemala or against it — whichever would help it win.

"I don't see anything wrong with stating your position," he said. "We're not throwing our weight around."

Chavez has campaigned energetically to raise Venezuela's profile and counter what he calls U.S. hegemony. The countries he

plans to visit this summer include Iran and Belarus, which are sharply at odds with the West, and Cardenas, the Venezuelan

ambassador, said a trip to North Korea is also in the works.

Chavez pushed his Security Council bid at a summit of African leaders early this month, and Venezuela has won observer

status in the Arab League, which has expressed support for its council bid.

Long before the U.S. opposed Venezuela's ambitions, Chavez began strengthening his international alliances through active

diplomacy and cut-price oil exports to Caribbean nations.

Venezuela denies it will be a spoiler in the council, but promises to stand up for poor countries.

"We are trying to look for a balance between the powers around the world," said Cardenas. "We are not only good for south

countries, we are also good for those countries that do not want "X" country to impose its views on them."

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