18 Oct 2008

Iran "thrashed" in UN election as Japan joins security council

8:59 am on 18 October 2008

The United Nations General Assembly elected Japan to a seat on the Security Council for 2009-10, rejecting a bid by Iran.

Turkey, Austria, Mexico and Uganda were also elected while Iceland lost out.

As expected, heavyweight Japan defeated Iran, which is under Security Council sanctions because its nuclear programme, for an Asian seat. Japan had 158 votes from the 192-member assembly and Iran only 32.

US and British envoys were exultant about the low vote for Iran. British Ambassador Sir John Sawers said Iran had been "thrashed."

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 narrow margin.

No kangaroos in Austria

One country confused the small Alpine nation with Australia.

UN diplomats said the most likely explanation for the mystery vote is that someone confused the two countries because of their similar spellings.

But, they said, the possibility could not be ruled out that it was an innocent joke or an attempt to annoy the Austrians.

So many people confuse Australia and Austria that tourist shops across the mountainous European state sell T-shirts sporting the slogan "there are no kangaroos in Austria."

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 United Nations with the ability to impose sanctions and dispatch peacekeepers.

The permanent members, which have veto power, are the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.