Venezuela, Guatemala vie for hotly contested UN council seat

As Venezuela defies U.S. opposition to try to get on the UN Security Council, a closely fought ballot with Guatemala is producing no clear winner, making more voting necessary.

A tightly contested vote for a seat on the United Nations Security Council looked set to continue as Guatemalaheld a narrow lead Monday over Venezuela after several rounds of balloting.

A two-thirds majority of the 192 countries in the General Assembly is needed. So far, neither country has come close to that.

The United States opposes Venezuela's presence on the Security Council and diplomats say the Americans are actively supporting Guatemala.

More rounds of voting are expected and a third Latin American country could emerge as a compromise selection.

Ten non-permanent seats on the Security Council are filled by regional groups in the Assembly for two-year stretches. Five other non-permanent seats are elected every year.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavezspent millions trying to secure the position, which was vacated by Argentina this year.

CBC News was told that Canada was going to give its support to Guatemala.

U.S. opposition

The U.S.opposed the bid by Chavez because it said he would be a disruptive force on the Security Council. His government is said to have friendly relations with Iran and North Korea.

Chavez, for his part,pledged tobe a voice for developing nations.

In a report carried by La Prensa Latina, a Latin American news agency, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro was quoted as sayingthe countryhad toovercome opposition from the U.S. government to win the seat.

"Our debate is not with Guatemala but with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is bent on impeding our entrance in the Security Council," Maduro told reporters before the vote on Monday.

Last month in a speech to the UN General Assembly, Chavez called U.S. President George W.Bush a "devil."He was sharply criticizedfor having lowered the tone of speeches to the Assembly.

Human rights groups in Guatemala, meanwhile, have accused Guatemala of supporting death squads.

With files from the Associated Press