WORLD / America

UN Council has 1st straw poll on Annan successor
Updated: 2006-07-25 08:51

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon and U.N. official Shashi Tharoor received the most endorsements in the U.N. Security Council's straw poll for the next U.N. secretary-general, diplomats said on Monday.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon gestures at a news conference in Seoul July 12, 2006. [Reuters]

In a novel procedure, the 15 council members, in a secret ballot, checked one of three boxes next to each of the four announced candidates: "encourage," "discourage," and "no opinion."

The numbers each of the four announced candidates received were not disclosed and the race is far from over, with other names expected to emerge.

But diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the ballots, said Ban received the most favorable votes followed by Tharoor, an Indian novelist and the head of the U.N. Department of Public Information.

The other two, whose countries have nominated them, came in third and fourth place respectively: Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and a former U.N. disarmament secretary-general, Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka.

"As the various candidates consider what the votes were compared to what they received, there may now be decisions either for additional candidates to enter the race or for one or more candidates in the race to drop out," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters.

"That is obviously a question for the candidates themselves to decide, based on their own assessment of how the vote went," he said. The candidates were informed of their rankings.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the seventh secretary-general in the 61-year-history of the United Nations, ends his 10 years in office on December 31. A secretary-general is elected for a five-year term but can be re-elected.

Monday's ballots made no distinction between permanent members with veto power and the other 10 elected members.

Asian nations have contended that tradition requires rotating the job between regions and that it is their turn for the post. Even U.S. President George W. Bush conceded the next secretary-general would come from Asia. Bolton said the door should be open to candidates from all regions.

Other names floated in U.N. corridors but not nominated include Kemal Dervis, the Turkish chief of the U.N. Development Program; Jordan's Prince Zeid al-Hussein, who is his country's U.N. ambassador; and Goh Chok Tong, former prime minister of Singapore.

In the past, decisions on picking the secretary-general have been made at the last minute after haggling among the five permanent veto-bearing members: the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The United States 10 years ago was instrumental in getting Annan elected after it vetoed his predecessor, Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali.