Syria Elected to UN Security Council
For the first time in more than 30 years, Syria, a country listed by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism, was elected Monday to the Security Council as a non-permanent member for a two-year term.
Syria, elected by members of the General Assembly in a secret ballot, was the sole candidate for the one Asian group seat that becomes vacant on December 31.
The Security Council, the only UN body that can approve the use of force, is made up of 10 non-permanent members, with no veto power, and five permanent members with veto power.
Syria won 160 votes on the General Assembly which has 189 voting members.
The United States said the election of Syria would not change US policy towards Damascus.
"The United States will continue to express our concerns regarding terrorism with the Syrian government," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement.
"The United States will also continue to expect Syria to meet its obligation to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, to fulfill all Security Council resolutions and to contribute to international peace and security, responsibilities that are only increased by its membership on the Security Council," he said.
But Syria's new role does not sit well with some members of the US Congress and leading Jewish organizations.
In a statement made public last week, Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos said Syria's election to the Security Council "would be an outrage, making a mockery of the Council's recent counter-terrorism resolutions."
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League called Syria's election "both ironic and sad."
"With Syria now sitting on its highest body, the UN's commitment to fighting terrorism must be questioned," Foxman stressed.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said the election "undermines the credibility of the Security Council and the United Nations."
Although Washington maintains diplomatic relations with Damascus, it has long accused Syria of sponsoring terrorism with its support for Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and other groups opposed to the Middle East peace process.
"The United States expects to work constructively with the newly elected Security Council members, who will join the Council on January 1, 2002," Boucher said, noting that Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea and Mexico also won seats.
The outgoing non-permanent members of the Security council are Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine.
Following the vote, Syria said it would work for world peace from within the organisation and rejected accusations of terrorism.
"This success shows that the international community rejects the Israeli terrorism allegations against Syria. It confirms the invalidity of these allegations," said an official spokesman, quoted by the official SANA news agency.
He said that Syria would "cooperate for peace with member countries of the Security Council and other states."
The five countries were elected to two-year temporary positions on the council.
The council is made up of 10 non-permanent members, with no veto power, and five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- with veto power -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)