Breaking a deadlock, Venezuela and Guatemala on Wednesday withdrew their candidacies for an open UN Security Council seat from Latin America and chose Panama as a consensus candidate, diplomats said.
"They have agreed that Panama will be the country that will replace them as a candidate for the Security Council," said Ecuador's UN ambassador, Diego Cordovez, who hosted talks between the foreign ministers of Guatemala and Venezuela.
The 35-member Latin American and Caribbean group must still approve the choice after which the UN General Assembly must vote. But the decision by Foreign Ministers Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela will probably face no obstacles.
Guatemala, backed by the United States, led Venezuela by about 25 votes in all but one of the 47 rounds of balloting over five days that began on Oct. 16. But Guatemala fell short of a required two-thirds majority in the 192-member U.N. General Assembly to secure the seat.
The 47th round was conducted on Tuesday and a new vote is scheduled in the assembly next Tuesday.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called the contest a campaign against U.S. dominance over developing nations.
Although Venezuela is a major oil supplier to the United States, ties have deteriorated, particularly since Chavez described Washington as his No. 1 enemy and called President George W. Bush "the devil" in a General Assembly speech in September. Diplomats said that cost him votes.
The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China hold permanent seats on the Security Council, the most powerful UN body. Ten other nations sit on the council for two-year terms, five elected each year.
Guatemala and Venezuela were vying for the Latin American seat that Argentina will vacate on December. Peru stays on the council until the end of 2007 along with the Congo Republic, Ghana, Qatar and Slovakia.
In other regions, South Africa, Indonesia, Italy and Belgium received the necessary votes on October 16 to win two-year terms in the council. They replace Tanzania, Japan, Denmark and Greece.