Five countries set to join world's 'top table'

Five countries set to join world's 'top table'
The United Nations Security Council votes on a resolution on the sidelines of the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York.

UNITED NATIONS, United States - Years of campaigning for a seat at the world's "top table" come to a head this week when elections are held to the UN Security Council, which decides on such weighty matters as sanctions, war and peace.

Five seats are up for grabs in the 15-member Council, where the elected countries will join the five permanent powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - for a two-year stint.

For the contenders, a Council seat is the ultimate diplomatic prize, raising a country's profile several notches, boosting influence and providing knockoff benefits in bilateral ties.

Governments spend years lobbying for support with slick campaigns designed to appeal to key constituencies from the 193-nation General Assembly, which will cast ballots on Thursday to fill the five seats.

In this round, three of the five seats are all but decided after regional groups put forward their candidates, even though these countries still need to secure two thirds of the votes from the Assembly.

These will likely go to Angola, chosen by African nations, which will be making its debut at the Council; Venezuela, put forward by Latin American and Caribbean states; and Malaysia, picked by Asian countries.

The three are expected to take up the seats vacated by Argentina, Rwanda and South Korea.

For the remaining two seats, three countries are in the running - Spain, Turkey and New Zealand - in a race that is shaping up as too close to call.

The two elected countries will replace Australia and Luxembourg. The five other seats held by Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria will come up for election next year.

With the possible entry of Turkey and Malaysia, joining Chad and Jordan already on the Council, the top body will for the first time in its history have a record of four Muslim countries at the table.

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