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2902Syria likely to capture UN Security Council seat

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  • Islamic News and Information Network
    Oct 5, 2001

      Syria likely to capture UN Security Council seat

      By Reuters


      WASHINGTON - The United States should fight Syria's
      bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council next week
      as incompatible with its war on terrorism, a member of
      the House of Representatives International Relations
      Committee said on Thursday.

      But diplomats said regardless of any U.S. opposition,
      Syria -- which Washington calls a "state sponsor of
      terrorism" -- is expected to take a seat at the table.

      "The election of Syria to the UN Security Council
      would be an outrage, making a mockery of the council's
      recent counter-terrorism resolutions," Rep. Tom
      Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House of
      Representatives International Relations Committee,
      said in a statement.

      "As the United States and the world prepares to wage
      war on terrorism, a state sponsor of terror such as
      Syria has no place on the U.N.'s leading forum for
      defending international security," the California
      Democrat said.

      Syria is a candidate for one of five seats on the
      council which change in the new year and was the
      unanimous choice of Arab states for an Arab seat. It
      was then endorsed by the larger Asian group of
      countries at the United Nations. The 189-member UN
      General Assembly votes on Monday.

      Despite an outcry from Lantos and the pro-Israeli
      lobbying group AIPAC, Syria is considered the
      consensus candidate for the Middle East seat and
      diplomats think the United States has no chance of
      keeping it off the council.

      State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, asked how
      the United States would vote, said it was standard
      practice not to say because many countries sought its

      But in the case of Sudan's candidacy last year, the
      United States lobbied vigorously and publicly to split
      the African vote. The move helped to win the seat for
      rival candidate Mauritius.

      The United States opposed Sudan on the grounds that it
      was under UN sanctions and had attacked UN relief
      planes in the south.

      Syrian case is different
      The case of Syria is different because the Asia group
      agreed months ago to give the slot to Damascus and no
      alternative Middle East candidate is ready to
      challenge the consensus.

      Syria's candidacy is especially sensitive in
      Washington as the Bush administration tries to build
      up an international alliance against terrorism
      following the Sept. 11 attacks.

      U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke by phone
      with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara after the
      attacks to sound out Syria's willingness to cooperate
      with the United States against extremist groups. Syria
      condemned the attacks, but in subsequent statements it
      has drawn a distinction, unwelcome to the United
      States and Israel, between terrorist groups and groups
      which fight to end Israeli occupation of Arab

      Syria supports or protects a wide range of Palestinian
      and Lebanese groups which attack Israelis, including
      Hezbollah, Hamas and the Popular Front for the
      Liberation of Palestine.

      The pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC said in early
      September, before the attacks, that the United States
      must continue to oppose efforts to give Syria a seat.

      "Given Syria's decades-long destructive conduct in the
      international arena, its coming election to the
      Security Council is truly shocking," it said in a

      The Security Council has 15 members, five with
      permanent seats and 10 with nonpermanent seats. The 10
      nonpermanent members serve two-year terms, with five
      changing each year.

      Also running unopposed on Monday are Cameroon and
      Guinea, representing two vacant African slots. In
      eastern Europe, Belarus and Bulgaria are competing for
      one seat. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the
      Dominican Republic is challenging Mexico for the same

      The five new members would replace Bangladesh,
      Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine.

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