Libya among five elected to UN Security Council

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 (Reuters) Libya, Vietnam, Croatia, Costa Rica and Burkina Faso were elected to nonpermanent seats on the United Nations Security Council for the years 2008-09 today.

In the voting for African and Asian seats, Libya, Vietnam and Burkina Faso were unopposed from the start and obtained the required two-thirds majority of votes in favor on the first ballot by the 192-member U N General Assembly.

In contested races for single seats for Eastern Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean, Croatia and Costa Rica squared off against the Czech Republic and the Dominican Republic respectively. But they were voted in after their rivals faded in the second ballot and pulled out.

Winners will take seats on the 15-member council on Jan. 1 for a two-year period. Nonpermanent members have no veto.

Libya's election to the council is another big step in its journey back to international respectability after years in which the West accused it of sponsoring terrorism.

But human rights groups that call Libya and Vietnam undemocratic have already expressed dismay at the prospect of them sitting on the council, which can dispatch peacekeeping forces or impose sanctions.

The contest between Croatia, a former Yugoslav republic never on the council before, and the Czech Republic, which served from 1994-95, was expected to be close. Both campaigned hard and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek held separate eve-of-the-vote meetings on Monday with U N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Costa Rica, by contrast, quickly took a strong lead over the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica has sat on the council twice before, while the Dominican Republic never has.

Dominican officials said Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso had held more than 45 bilateral meetings with other U N delegations to seek support. But Costa Rica also waged a vigorous campaign, The withdrawal of the Czech Republic and Dominican Republic drew applause from the assembly mixed with relief that there would be no repeat of last year's Latin American epic between Venezuela and U.S.-backed Guatemala.

Then, 47 rounds of balloting failed to give the required two-thirds majority. After three weeks, both withdrew and Panama was elected as a compromise candidate.

Countries that will leave the Security Council on Dec. 31 are Congo Republic, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia. Remaining on it are Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa, along with the veto-holding permanent members the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.

REUTERS RSA RN2350

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