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Lebanon, Bosnia to join U.N. Security Council

Diplomats hope the inclusion of the politically divided nations will help shore up their government institutions.

October 16, 2009|Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — Politically divided Lebanon and Bosnia-Herzegovina were among five countries elected to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, in a move diplomats hoped would help strengthen the two countries' fragile institutions.

In an uncontested election, the United Nations General Assembly voted for Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria to serve on the council in the next two years. All five had been selected in advance by their regional groups.

On Jan. 1 they will replace Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam as non-veto-holding members of the 15-nation body, the powerhouse of the United Nations with the authority to impose sanctions and deploy peacekeeping forces.

Unresolved political and security issues have meant that both Lebanon and Bosnia are subject to Security Council scrutiny. Lebanon has about 12,500 U.N. peacekeeping troops in its south, stemming from past conflicts with Israel, while Bosnia, torn by war in the 1990s, has a European Union force.

"The experience of being on the council will help strengthen their national government systems to enable them to take decisions on international issues," British Ambassador John Sawers said of the two nations.

There are five veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- and 10 temporary elected members without vetoes.

But the elected members have some power because a council resolution needs nine votes in favor as well as no vetoes.

Diplomats said they expected Lebanon to be able to speak for Arab countries despite its sectarian divisions, but one said he expected it would abstain if the council decided to impose further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Three rounds of sanctions have already been passed.

Bosnian Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj said his the election of his country was a tribute to how far it had come since its 1992-95 ethnic war. The Balkan state remains politically divided between a Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation.

He said the government in Sarajevo, the capital, would favor a council policy of preventive diplomacy, "never to allow the crisis and loss of human lives to happen ever again as we experienced in Bosnia."

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