UN staff prepare to collect votes in ballot boxes at the United Nations for a vote in the General Assembly to elect five countries to serve two-year terms on the UN's most powerful body starting January 1. Picture: TIMOTHY A CLARY

New York -

The UN General Assembly's 193 member states are set to vote on Thursday to fill five seats on the UN Security Council, and bids by three countries - Venezuela, Angola and Malaysia - are almost certain to go through.

Venezuela is the most controversial among them. Its declaration that it intended to run a second time for a seat on the council caused concern in Washington, which blocked its first attempt in 2006 when Hugo Chavez was president.

The United States torpedoed the attempts by gathering support behind Guatemala, Venezuela's regional rival.

After 47 rounds of voting in the General Assembly the two countries agreed to withdraw, paving the way for Panama, which easily won the seat.

However, in Thursday's election Venezuela is the only candidate for the single seat allocated to Latin America and the Caribbean, making the socialist government unopposed in its region.

Also, despite President Nicolas Maduro's close ties with Russia, Iran and his steadfast support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats at the UN said the US would not stand in way of Caracas' council bid.

Victories are also virtually assured for Malaysia and Angola, as those countries are the only candidates for seats allocated to Asia and Africa.

However, all three states require steadfast lobbying because in order to win they must garner votes from two-thirds of all general assembly members present on Thursday.

New Zealand, Spain and Turkey are competing for the remaining two seats that are allocated to the Western group of nations. Foreign ministers of the three states flew to New York this week for a last-minute lobbying.

Foreign diplomats at the UN have said that the three states have almost equal support among the UN member states, which has forced their top diplomats to personally run the behind-the-scene campaigns to secure a seat.

The Security Council is composed of five permanent members with veto power - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - and 10 non-permanent members that are elected for two-year terms for seats allocated by region.

States that want a seat work for years to be elected, as being on the Security Council gives non-veto wielding countries a strong voice in international peace and security matters.

The five winners in Thursday's elections will replace Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, South Korea and Rwanda on January 1 and will serve until the end of 2016. - Sapa-dpa