By Bill Varner

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) — Lebanon’s election today to the United Nations Security Council for the first time in 57 years stems from its progress toward political stability and brings a moderate Arab voice to the panel, diplomats said.

“It is a symbol that Lebanon has overcome the civil war and is rebuilding its institutions and its presence abroad,” French Ambassador Gerard Araud said. “Lebanon has always been a bridge between the West and East, and I think that will be its role in the Security Council.”

Lebanon will replace Libya, whose leader last month urged that the Security Council be abolished and power shifted to the General Assembly as the representative of Arab nations in the body’s debates. Lebanon was last elected to the 15-nation body, the UN’s principle policy-making body, in 1952.

Issues likely to come before the council include how to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, allegations of war crimes by both sides during Israel’s military offensive against the Islamic group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and concern that weapons are being smuggled to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in violation of Security Council resolutions.

Other Nations Elected

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon and Nigeria also were elected by the UN General Assembly to two-year terms on the 15- member council. Their candidacies were uncontested within their regional groups. The new members will take seats on Jan. 1 vacated by Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam.

“It was long overdue,” Lebanon’s Ambassador Nawaf Salam said in an interview. “We are on the path to recovery. That makes it more comfortable assuming this role.”

Lebanon’s election comes as Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose pro-Western coalition defeated an alliance of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah and Amal movements and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement in June 7 parliamentary elections, struggles to form a government.

“This is the main concern, so I hope it will be resolved as soon as possible,” Libya’s Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said of Hariri’s bid to form a unity government. “But they are making a lot of progress. It was impossible before. Now it is completely different.”

Civil Strife

Political discord left Lebanon without a fully accredited ambassador at the UN for 18 months before Salam took the post two years ago. Lebanon is emerging from decades of civil strife and the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. The U.S. and Israel list Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist groups.

Salam said that, while it isn’t clear which party will get the position of foreign minister, it won’t be a Hezbollah member and Lebanon’s approach to Security Council issues will be dictated by President Michel Suleiman and Hariri.

“It is not a government in crisis, just a delay in formation because of domestic balances in a pluralistic society, and because of regional interferences,” said Salam, a 55-year- old Harvard Law School graduate.

On Iran, Salam said Lebanon would support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s handling of the issue, while backing the Islamic Republic’s right to peaceful use of nuclear technology. He praised the U.S. resolution on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament adopted last month with President Barack Obama presiding over the Security Council.

Concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Salam said Lebanon would “try to make our presence felt as a true, sincere voice for the respect of international law.”

Palestinian Refugees

Palestinian Authority Ambassador Riyad Mansour, noting that there are about 422,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, said the government in Beirut will be closely aligned with the Palestinian campaign for statehood. He said Lebanon brings the “additional element of really dealing” with Israel because of the refugees and their common border.

“They will not be sympathetic to Israel, but they will not take a leading role,” Hani Sabra, Middle East analyst for the Eurasia Group, a New York-based political-risk analysis firm. “Lebanese politics are so unsettled it would be difficult to see them taking a hard and fast position on a lot of issues.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Varner at the United Nations at