GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Guatemala and Venezuela remained deadlocked in their battle for a seat on the U.N. Security Council on the 43rd ballot Tuesday but diplomats held out hope that a possible meeting of their foreign ministers could break the impasse.
Chile's U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz said there is a "strong possibility" the foreign ministers of Venezuela and Guatemala, which is backed by the United States, will meet in New York on Wednesday and he said Latin American and Caribbean nations hope they will come up with a political solution and compromise candidate.
The Dominican Republic appeared to be emerging as the leading alternative to serve a two-year term on the U.N.'s most powerful body.
"So long as they're talking, there's a possibility that we may arrive at a solution of consensus. That's what we hope — but in the meantime we're voting," Munoz said.
The results of Tuesday morning's first vote mirrored the voting in all but one of the previous ballots where both countries tied: Guatemala led Venezuela by a substantial margin but could not muster the two-thirds majority in the 192-member U.N. General Assembly to win the seat.
On the 42nd ballot, Guatemala received 105 votes, Venezuela got 75 votes and Uruguay, which has been mentioned as a possible compromise candidate, received one vote. On the 43rd ballot, Guatemala received 106 votes, Venezuela got 78, Ecuador 2 and Jamaica 1.
The United States backs Guatemala over leftist Venezuela, which is led by the fiercely anti-American President Hugo Chavez.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters before heading into the assembly to vote that he would not describe the current situation "as an impasse."
"Guatemala has led consistently on vote after vote and we'll vote again today and see what happens," he said."The traditional U.S. posture is we don't get involved in regional group deliberations over Security Council candidacies, and as long as Guatemala's in the race, we support Guatemala."
"We think they've got good substantive arguments for their candidacy and we've expressed our concerns about Venezuela, but it's not for us to determine this. This is an extraordinary decision we've taken because of the extraordinary circumstances," Bolton said.
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said Monday that while the country has offered close ally Bolivia as an alternative, it is also open to others. Guatemala said it, too, would consider backing a third country.
"We are going to search for an alternative option," Rangel said in a statement released by his office. "And now the name of the Dominican Republic emerges — a friendly country that has constantly expressed friendship with Venezuela and the process that President Chavez leads."
The Dominican Republic enjoys warm relations with both Caracas and Washington — which Chavez has accused of using coercive measures to try to block him from the seat.
In Guatemala, Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal said he would discuss with the president the possibility of offering an alternative candidate.
"A third candidate is a possibility that we have resisted considering until today," Rosenthal told The Associated Press, without elaborating on which country Guatemala might back as an alternative.
Dominican President Leonel Fernandez said last week that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro called him proposing a Dominican candidacy and that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not dismiss the idea during a subsequent meeting.
"I should say that in diplomatic circles in Washington, it is thought that the Dominican Republic would be an excellent consensus option in the case that neither of the two countries (Venezuela and Guatemala) succeed," the Dominican ambassador to the United States, Flavio Dario Espinal, told the online newspaper Clave Digital on Monday.
Espinal stressed that the Caribbean nation was not currently a candidate.