Canada frets about winning Security Council seat

Thu Oct 7, 2010 2:37pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government is sounding nervous ahead of a key vote to decide who gets a seat on the United Nations Security Council -- a prize Canada would have once taken for granted but which is now in some doubt.

In a sign of the strain, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon took time out of a routine speech to overseas ambassadors on Wednesday to lash the leader of the main opposition Liberal Party for not supporting Canada's Security Council bid.

The United Nations decides next Tuesday which two from Canada, Germany and Portugal will get a two-year temporary seat on the powerful 15-seat council. Germany looks set to succeed, leaving Canada and Portugal in a race for one position.

Canada competes for a seat once every decade and has always succeeded. Failure would be a blow for a country that has long prided itself as being one of the U.N.'s biggest backers.

Yet, since Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power in 2006, Ottawa has adopted policies that have irritated some countries -- notably in the Middle East and Africa -- that could normally be relied on to vote for Canada.

Harper has in the past shown ambivalence toward the United Nations and diplomats say Canada's effort to win a seat this time started later than usual and expended fewer resources.

Many diplomats predict Canada will win by a narrow margin but stress that this is not guaranteed.

Cannon told the foreign ambassadors that Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff "has shown himself to be unable to put the interests of his country above the interests of his party". Ignatieff questions whether Canada under Harper has done enough to deserve a Security Council seat.   Continued...