Ronaldo Sardenberg, Brazil's UN ambassador, said on Tuesday Latin American and Caribbean nations had agreed to hold off voting until Thursday for a meeting to assess the current situation.

 

There were 21 rounds of voting on Monday and Tuesday for an open Latin American seat next year. Guatemala, backed by the US, ended the second day with 102 votes and Venezuela had 77.

 

Voting continues until a nation reaches the required two-thirds vote in the 192-nation General Assembly or another compromise candidate emerges.

 

Venezuela and Guatemala are vying for a seat soon to be vacated by Argentina. Peru stays on the Security Council until the end of 2007 along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Qatar and Slovakia.

 

Battle

 

The race has become a battle of influence between the US and Venezuela. Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, has tried to form an alliance in Asia, Africa and the Middle East to challenge Washington's interests.

 

"Venezuela does not surrender," Chavez said in a speech Tuesday night.

 

"I say it here to the whole world, Venezuela will continue waging this battle."

 

Failure to get on to the UN Security Council would represent a set-back for Chavez's ambitions for a bigger international profile.

 

"Venezuela is not stepping down," Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas, its UN ambassador, said.

 

"The only way we will agree to a consensus is if President Bush or Ambassador John Bolton publicly agrees to stop pressuring all countries, stop their extortion aimed at getting Guatemala elected."

 

In response, Bolton said: "We have made our position clear in a very low-key way. It is motivated by our concern over Venezuela's behaviour. That is another example of it."

 

Unity

 

Chile is one of the Latin American countries seeking a new candidate.

 

"Chile continues to think that it is necessary to have a consensus candidate, a candidate of unity," said Heraldo Munoz, its UN ambassador.

 

"Many ambassadors of Latin America and the Caribbean will be consulting and see whether a new scenario could develop."

 

Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League UN observer, said: "Neither side seems able to break this deadlock. The way out of this is for the Caribbean and Latin American group to come together and find a solution."