Venezuela gains support from Belarus in bid for U.N. seat

The Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that Belarus was among a growing list of countries supporting his government in its "anti-imperialist" bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking to a group of officials from the ex-Soviet republic, Chavez also said that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko would shortly be visiting Venezuela.

"We thank the Belarus government for the firm support it has given for our candidacy," Chavez said, adding that Venezuela's candidacy was "the candidacy of all honorable peoples in the world, of those who fight for equality and liberty, it is the anti-imperialist candidacy."

The U.S. government, which has long been at odds with Chavez's administration, has sought to block Venezuela's quest for a regional, non-permanent seat on the Security Council and is backing Guatemala instead.

Chavez in his televised speech sent a "warm greeting" to Lukashenko - a man known in Europe and Washington as "Europe's last dictator" - as he hailed what he called Venezuela's deepening relations with Belarus.

"Belarus is a free country, Venezuela is a free country, and that puts us in sight of the U.S. empire's ill-fated objectives," said Chavez.

Chavez did not specify when Lukashenko, who also shares his anti-U.S. views, would come to Venezuela, only saying that preparations were underway for the visit by his "friend and brother."

Venezuela is lobbying for one of 10 temporary seats on the 15-member Security Council held for two-year terms by members from regional blocs. If Latin American and Caribbean countries fail to reach a consensus by Oct. 16, the issue will be decided by a secret vote in the 192-member General Assembly.

In recent weeks, Chavez has announced that he has secured the backing of China, Malaysia, Syria and Russia, as well as other Arab, African and Western Hemisphere governments.