The General Assembly votes Thursday for five new members of the Security Council, and two expected winners -- Bosnia and Lebanon -- will be in the rare position of being subject to scrutiny by the U.N.’s most powerful body while serving their two-year terms.

Unlike most previous elections, there are no contested seats this year.

The five candidates nominated by regional groups are expected to become members of the 15-nation council, the powerhouse of the U.N. with the ability to impose sanctions and dispatch peacekeepers.

In addition to Bosnia and Lebanon, the three other candidates are Nigeria, Gabon and Brazil.

Ten of the council’s 15 seats are filled by regional groups for two-year stretches, and five non-permanent members are elected by the 192-nation General Assembly every year. To win, candidates must get a two-thirds majority of the assembly members voting by secret ballot.

The five other Security Council seats are occupied by its veto-wielding permanent members: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Bosnia has never served on the council and Lebanon has not been a member since 1953-54.

After the break-up of former Yugoslavia, Bosnia was ravaged by Europe’s worst fighting since World War II, with 260,000 people killed and 1.8 million displaced. A NATO-led force deployed in late 1995 to enforce the peace agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio that ended the conflict was replaced in December 2005 by a new European Union peacekeeping force, whose mandate is renewed every year by the Security Council.

While security has improved in Bosnia, ethnic tensions between the country’s Muslims, Croats and Serbs remain high. Revamping the country’s constitution to form a single government with one president {mdash} instead of two mini-states joined in a weak federal system {mdash} is considered essential if Bosnia is to fulfil its ambition of joining the European Union, but Bosnian Serbs are blocking any constitutional change that diminishes their power.

Lebanon has also been on the Security Council agenda for decades -- with a U.N. peacekeeping force deployed in the south near the Israeli border since 1978 and a U.N.-backed tribunal mulling possible indictments in the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

The political situation in Lebanon is also fragile, with the Western-backed majority in parliament and Hezbollah and its allies still deadlocked on forming a new unity government following June 7 elections.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador John Sawers expressed hope that Lebanon and Bosnia’s membership on the council “will help strengthen” their governments.

In the past, countries that are on the Security Council’s agenda have abstained on some issues because of conflicts of interest. Diplomats said this could happen with Kosovo in the case of Bosnia and with Iran in the case of Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s close ties to Tehran.

Gabon is not on the council agenda but it also has political problems. Its Aug. 30 election results giving victory to Ali Bongo, the son of the country’s long-time dictator, have been disputed by opposition candidates who accuse Bongo of fraud.

Gabon was last on the Security Council in 1998-99, Nigeria in 1994-95 and Brazil in 2004-05.

The five countries elected to the council will take their seats on Jan. 1, 2010, replacing Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam. The five countries elected last year -- Austria, Mexico, Japan, Turkey and Uganda -- will remain on the council until Jan. 1, 2011.

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