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ITALY JOINS UN SECURITY COUNCIL

ANSA - October 16, 2006 Italy was elected to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council on Monday for the sixth time, a record for a European country . Italy, which was an uncontested candidate for one of the five open seats, was elected with 186 votes by the 192-nation UN General Assembly . Italy's two-year term will run from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2008 and caps a diplomatic offensive which began in 2003 . The UN Security Council has 15 seats, five permanent with veto powers (the US, Britain, France, China and Russia), and 10 which serve two-year terms. Elections for the non-permanent seats are staggered, with five new members admitted each year. Belgium and South Africa are, like Italy, uncontested candidates for a seat. The three countries replace Denmark, Greece and Tanzania. The other two non-permanent seats are contested, with Nepal and Indonesia vying to replace Japan in the Asian group, and Guatemala and Venezuela fighting it out for the Latin American seat vacated by Argentina . The winning candidates require a two-thirds majority in the balloting, which is secret . Attention is focused on the Latin American race because of US opposition to Venezuela, whose left-wing President Hugo Chavez is a vocal critic of his American counterpart George W. Bush . Italy has been elected to the Security Council five times before, its last term being in 1995-96 . The new term coincides with a period in which Italy is particularly active on the international scene, taking part in multinational missions from Afghanistan to the Balkans and the Middle East, where next year it will take command of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon . Italy's European Union and Foreign Trade Minister Emma Bonino expressed her satisfaction on Monday . "Italy's seat is very important. It will strengthen the position of Europe within the council," she said, reflecting the strongly pro-European line of Italy's new centre-left government headed by Premier Romano Prodi . "It also comes at a time when Italy is relaunching its commitments at an international level," Bonino added . Speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the UN General Assembly last month, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema stressed that "Italy is everywhere where it is necessary to be, where decisions are made and where solutions are studied" . Referring to Italy's membership of the Security Council, D'Alema said: "we're not planning to go there just to keep a seat warm" . Last week, UN member states picked Ban Ki Moon, the foreign minister of South Korea, to succeed Kofi Annan as UN secretary-general .





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