Syria likely to capture UN Security Council seat
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
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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