Sanctioned Iran in Running for Seat on U.N. Security Council

Iceland and Iran are among several nations seeking member seats on the U.N. Security Council, the powerful world panel that can impose sanctions and dispatch peacekeepers.

Iceland, grappling with a financial crisis, and Iran, under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear program, will come up for a vote Friday at the 192-member General Assembly. Austria, Turkey, Japan, Uganda and Mexico are also candidates.

In the secret ballot, candidates must get a two-thirds majority of members voting to win one of five soon-to-be-open non-permanent member slots on the 15-seat council.

Iceland will battle Austria and Turkey for one of two European open council seats. Iceland was considered a strong candidate, until a financial crisis hit the Nordic country.

"There's no doubt the financial crisis has had an impact on Iceland's international standing," a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity because voting was on a secret ballot.

But the diplomat said all three have to defend themselves: Iceland on its financial crisis; Austria on the nearly 30-percent vote that right-wing parties got in recent elections; and Turkey on the role of military in the government.

Iceland's U.N. Ambassador Hjalmar Hannesson said he did not know whether his country's economic crisis will hurt its chances, but said that the problem was a global one.

Hannesson said he has received much support from colleagues, especially those from nations in the southern hemisphere.

Developing countries make up a majority of the member states, and he said "it is precisely these countries who are sympathetic and understand what a small country can go through because they are going through the same things."

While the U.N. has imposed sanctions on Iran, the Islamic republic can still compete against Japan for the Asian seat. Many expect Japan will be a clear winner, having already served nine terms on the council.

In September, the council unanimously approved a new resolution reaffirming previous sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program and offering Tehran incentives to do so.

Last year, Libya was the dark horse of the council member elections. The former pariah state once condemned by the U.S. as a sponsor of terrorism won a seat on the council because it ran uncontested.

Uganda is running for an uncontested African seat, and Mexico is doing the same for a Latin American seat.

Ten of the council's 15 seats are filled by the regional groups for two-year stretches. The other five are occupied by its veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

In January, the five countries will replace Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa.

Telephone messages left Thursday at the U.N. missions for Iran, Turkey and Austria were not immediately returned.