The UN General Assembly is voting to elect five countries to fill non-permanent seats on the Security Council, the political body that oversees world peace and security. Germany is up against Portugal and Canada.
Germany is up against Canada and Portugal
The 192-member General Assembly convened in New York on Tuesday to select five countries to serve two-year terms that begin on January 1, 2011.
The race for two of the seats on the United Nations Security Council was expected to be tight, with Germany, Portugal and Canada all vying for two non-permanent seats in the Western Europe and others category.
South Africa, India, and Colombia are running for the African, Asian and Latin American seats, respectively, and are almost certain to be elected on the first ballot, since their candidacies are unopposed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Development Summit in New York last month, campaigned personally for a seat on the Security Council.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, also at the summit, expressed confidence that his country would be named to the world body.
"Germany is renowned around the world for its reliability, for its active pursuit of freedom and global development," Westerwelle told the General Assembly and a host of world leaders at the summit.
Westerwelle is confident that Germany will be chosen
He also referred in his speech to Germany's status as the third largest financial contributor to the United Nations, in addition to insisting that Berlin would continue to strive for peace as part of the Security Council.
"To be a member of the Security Council would mean a very important opportunity for Germany. It would mean that we could play an active role in establishing peace and disarmament around the world. For, in the end, we must prevent countries around the world - among them even terrorist nations - from acquiring nuclear weapons."
Germany's ambassador to the UN, Peter Wittig, said ahead of Tuesday's vote that the country had been "working on the campaign for years," adding that it would be "a significant contribution to Germany's position in the world."
"Canada and Portugal are very strong candidates and they are close allies and friends. Secret votes are always unpredictable, but we are convinced that we have a very good chance," Wittig added.
5 + (5 + 5) = 15
The Security Council is composed of five permanent members who wield veto power: the United States, China, France, Russia and Britain.
Ten other non-permanent members are selected to the body for two-year terms, with five replaced each year. The five categories represent the African, Asian, Latin-American, and Western European and other geographical regions.
This vote is expected to be more interesting than those previous years
Diplomats see the 2011 race as more interesting than in previous years because of the presence of India, Brazil and possibly Germany (if elected on Tuesday), countries that have demanded permanent veto seats in the past.
Permanent seat Germany's ultimate goal
If elected to a non-permanent role on Tuesday, Germany says it will push to expand the 15-member council, which would greatly enhance its chances to become a permanent veto member.
The General Assembly began discussion in the 1980s to reform and enlarge the Security Council from the current 15 to 21 or 26 members in order to reflect UN membership's demands for representation.
At the moment, the composition of the Security Council still reflects the distribution of political power as it stood at the end of the Second World War.
Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold