Korean pulls ahead in race to succeed Annan

Iran Materials 3 October 2006 13:01 (UTC +04:00)

(KAZINFORM) - (AP) -- South Korea's foreign minister has cemented his position as the near-certain successor to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, being the only one of six candidates to escape a veto in an informal Security Council ballot.

The Security Council was expected to hold a formal vote to pick the eighth secretary-general in the United Nations' 60-year history on October 9, making Ban Ki-moon's appointment almost assured, reports Trend.

The 192-nation General Assembly must approve the council's recommendation, and traditionally does so without protest.

"It is quite clear that from today's straw poll that Minister Ban Ki-moon is the candidate that the Security Council will recommend to the General Assembly," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said.

While the informal poll is nonbinding and the results could change, diplomats and candidates left little doubt that Ban would win.

Soon after the results became known, India's Shashi Tharoor, the U.N. undersecretary-general for public information, announced he was leaving the race even though he placed second to Ban in all four of the informal polls.

"It is clear that he will be our next secretary-general," Tharoor said.

If Ban does indeed win the race, his selection will have been marked by unprecedented speed, consensus and calm. In the past, U.N. chiefs have often been elected as time runs out, after heated negotiations and numerous rounds of voting.

Annan himself was a compromise candidate in 1996 who emerged late and only after the United States blocked Boutros Boutros-Ghali's bid for a second term.

Annan's example also shows how unpredictable the process can be: during informal polling at the time, France consistently vetoed him before changing its vote at the last minute.

In Monday's poll, the 15 council nations checked one of three boxes for each candidate in the secret ballot: "Encourage," "discourage," and "no opinion." For the first time, the five permanent members of the council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- were given blue ballots to show the candidates if they could escape a veto.

According to the results, Ban received 14 votes in favor and a white "no opinion" ballot cast by one of the 10 rotating members of the council. Every other candidate received at least one no vote from a veto-wielding member.