United Nations, Oct. 17 (Reuters): The UN General Assembly today elected Japan, Turkey, Austria, Mexico and Uganda to seats on the powerful Security Council for 2009-10, rejecting bids by Iran and Iceland.
As expected, heavyweight Japan defeated Iran, which is under Security Council sanctions because of its nuclear programme, for an Asian seat coming vacant on January 1. Japan got 158 votes from the 192-member Assembly and Iran only 32.
In a three-way contest for two European seats, Iceland — an apparent victim of its grave financial crisis — scored 87 votes, well short of the two-thirds majority required. Turkey went through easily and Austria by a narrower margin. The election of Mexico and Uganda had been virtually assured since they were unopposed in their regional groupings.
The General Assembly votes once a year for five of the 10 non-permanent seats on the 15-nation council, the powerhouse of the UN with the ability to impose sanctions and dispatch peacekeepers. The permanent members, which have veto power, are the US, Russia, Britain, France and China.
US and British envoys were exultant about the low vote for Iran. British ambassador John Sawers said Iran had been thrashed. The Iranian delegation did not speak to reporters after exiting the Assembly hall.
Western countries strongly oppose Irans pursuit of uranium enrichment, which they fear is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, something Tehran denies. Many Arab states are also suspicious of Iran. Few had expected Iran to defeat Japan, which has served nine previous terms on the council and is a prime contender for a permanent seat should the worlds nations manage to agree on a way to expand the council.