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Security Council members want secretary-general selection done by Oct. 31, diplomats say

Security Council members want secretary-general selection done by Oct. 31, diplomats say

U.N. Security Council members agree that Secretary-General Kofi Annan's successor should be selected by the end of October, a timetable that would give an advantage to the current front-runner, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, diplomats said.
Further bolstering Ban's chances, diplomats from several key Security Council nations said their governments would not mind if the next U.N. chief comes from among the seven formally declared candidates, among whom Ban enjoys the most support.
In years past, the selection process has dragged well into December, and new candidates emerged late. But diplomats said they wanted to give the new U.N. chief a few months to prepare for the job _ unlike Annan, who was elected two weeks before taking office.
"I think everyone has agreed on that, then we discuss exactly the best timing," France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said.
The council has held two informal polls so far to give the declared candidates a sense of where they stand, and whether more candidates ought to join the field. Ban won both polls _ the latest with 14 members encourging his candidacy and only one discouraging it.
On Wednesday, the council decided to schedule two more straw polls.
In the next vote, set for late Thursday afternoon, candidates will only learn the number of positive and negative votes they get.
Another informal poll, to be held on Monday, will feature colored ballots to indicate whether a candidate is opposed or supported by one of the five veto-wielding members of the council _ Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. A negative vote from one of the permanent members would all but doom the candidate's chances.
Under the U.N. Charter, the Security Council recommends a candidate to the 192-member U.N. General Assembly, which has traditionally approved that person with little debate.
Most nations now generally accept that the next secretary-general should come from Asia because of a tradition that the post rotate by region.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said anyone thinking of joining the race was running out of time.
"If other governments want candidates to come forward, they need to do it," Bolton said. "I think having the differentiated ballot on Monday is a very clear signal we're coming to a decision."
Bolton also said the United States had a clear preference among the current seven candidates. He would not identify that person, but a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "Of the seven, we would lean toward Ban."
Other diplomats said they could find an acceptable candidate among the current field of seven, but refused to give a name.
"We have to deal with the candidates we have, it's not a question of being content or not, it's a question of those candidates being there, and we'll make a choice of those we have on the table," said one U.N. Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because nations are reluctant to discuss their preferences.
The new secretary-general will be the eighth in the 61-year history of the United Nations. Annan, first elected in December 1996, will step down Dec. 31 when his second five-year term expires.
In the previous two informal polls, only U.N. Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor of India and Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai got the minimum nine favorable votes _ though it was unknown whether the veto-wielding members were among those in favor of them.
The others, Jordan's U.N. Ambassador Prince Zeid al Hussein, and U.N. disarmament chief Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, did not fare well.
Thursday's straw poll will be the first for the two newest candidates, former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who joined the race just before the annual U.N. General Assembly debate. While Ghani's chances are unknown, Vike-Freiberga would almost certainly face a veto from both China because she is not Asian and Russia because of its strained relations with Latvia.
Despite Ban's lead, the race is still tricky to predict for several reasons.
First, the Security Council largely determines the rules of the process, so if any of the five permanent members wanted to slow down the process, they could likely find a way to do so.
Second, the informal polls are difficult to read. Council members choose among three choices _ "encourage," "discourage" or "no opinion." That means that they may not necessarily back a candidate they encourage to run. And they can always change their minds.


Updated : 2021-10-22 01:03 GMT+08:00