Japan wins seat at UN Security Council; Iran rejected

Japan, Turkey, Austria, Mexico and Uganda have been elected to the UN Security Council for 2009-10. Bids by Iran and Iceland were rejected.


Japan was elected Friday to a seat at the UN Security Council for 2009-2010, displacing a bid by Iran for a place at the head table of international diplomacy.

In a vote in the UN General Assembly, which includes all member nations of the world body, Japan took 158 votes against 32 for Iran, the assembly's president Miguel d'Escoto of Nicaragua said.

Asia has two non-permanent seats on the 15-nation Security Council, on top of the permanent seat held by China. Indonesia's term is ending; Vietnam's stint continues through the end of 2009.

Among nations in the European group at the United Nations, Austria and Turkey won non-permanent places on the Security Council, leaving Iceland defeated.

Mexico and Uganda took the seats available for Latin America and Africa respectively without contest.

It will be Japan's tenth turn on the Security Council since the founding of the United Nations more than 50 years ago. It is a major contributor to the UN budget and contends it should have a permanent place on a reformed council.

Its bid to join the Security Council was a near certainty, given Japan's status as an economic powerhouse and the support it enjoyed from around the world, notably in Western countries.

Iran, meanwhile, is under UN sanctions for refusing to comply with Security Council demands to suspend nuclear enrichment, amid fears -- denied by Tehran -- that it is developing nuclear weapons.

"It's a comprehensive defeat, a thrashing, and it's an important signal from the United Nations membership," said John Sawers, the British ambassador to the United Nations.

"Had Iran, by some massive error or misjudgment... come on the Security Council, it would have obstructed the effective work of the council."

Deputy US ambassador Alejandro Wolff said: "It's important for Iran to understand that its refusal to comply with its obligations is reflected in its very poor showing."

"The simple fact that Iran was able to present its candidature was unacceptable," said Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni through a spokesman in Jerusalem. "By rejecting it, the United Nations spared itself embarrassment."

Turkey and Austria won Security Council seats with 151 and 133 votes respectively, with Iceland -- badly shaken, by coincidence, by the global financial crisis that brought it near bankruptcy -- getting only 87 votes.

"Turkey... has demonstrated through its own development that democracy thrives in the Islamic world," Sawers said, "and Turkey is also in a region where there are many issues before the Security Council."

"It's going to bring real weight to the Security Council's considerations."

In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called his nation's accession to the Security Council "a reflection of our increasing weight in international politics and the confidence that the international community has in us".

Mexico and Uganda secured 185 and 181 votes each, but as they were the only candidates from their respective regions, the outcome represented a show of support from their neighbors.

There are a total 192 countries in the United Nations.

The Security Council is the most important UN decision-making body, with its five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- each having a power of veto over its decisions.

The 10 non-permanent seats are filled by the General Assembly, with five countries elected each year to two-year non-renewable mandates. To secure a seat, a candidate nation has to win two-thirds of votes cast in a secret ballot.

The newly-elected countries will replace Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa from January 1. Remaining on the Security Council until the end of 2009 will be Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning