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Latvian, Thai candidate leave U.N. secretary-general race

Latvian, Thai candidate leave U.N. secretary-general race

The Latvian and Thai candidates dropped out of the race to become the next U.N. chief on Thursday, leaving South Korea's foreign minister as the last of seven candidates and the near-certain successor to Kofi Annan.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Frieberga's candidacy was formally withdrawn in a letter to Japan's ambassador to the U.N., the Security Council president for October. In Bangkok, interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said Surakiart Sathirathai, the Thai deputy foreign minister and first person to announce his candidacy, was leaving the race too.
"It is like when we play football," Surayud said. "When we go to the final round and know that we are going to lose, we have to accept it."
That reflected the consensus that South Korean Foreign Minster Ban Ki-Moon will become the eighth secretary-general in the 61-year history of the U.N. His ascendancy to the post was all but assured on Monday, when he demolished the other candidates in an informal poll of the U.N. Security Council.
Ban won 14 favorable votes and one of no opinion, and even more importantly, he got the support of the council's five veto-wielding nations _ Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. All the other candidates had at least one veto from the permanent five, and only one other got 10 positive votes.
Shortly after that poll, the Security Council announced it would hold a formal vote next Monday to nominate the new secretary-general. That nomination would then go before the 192-member General Assembly, which traditionally agrees without debate.
Council diplomats said they had not scheduled the vote sooner because they want to wait a few days to give the remaining five candidates time to withdraw.
By Thursday, they had all done so. India's candidate, U.N. Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor, withdrew moments after the results of the poll were made known. Jordan's U.N. Ambassador Zeid al-Hussein and former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani followed on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala, a former U.N. disarmament chief, withdrew after a poor showing in the third informal poll last week.
Annan steps down on Dec. 31 after two five-year terms.
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Associated Press reporter Rungrawee Pinyorat in Bangkok contributed to this story.