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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

02 October 2006

U.S. Hails Preliminary Vote for New U.N. Secretary-General

Ban Ki-moon of South Korea set to be formally elected by U.N. Security Council

United Nations -- The United States is "very pleased with the outcome" of a U.N. Security Council vote that puts South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon in position to be formally elected as the eighth secretary-general, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said October 2.

Bolton spoke with journalists about the impending selection after the Security Council held a "straw poll" that gave Ban 14 votes, with no permanent member casting a veto, and a commanding lead over the four other candidates still in the race.

"We have a lot of respect for Foreign Minister Ban," Bolton said.   "We know him well from his service in Washington and here in New York and think very highly of him professionally and personally."

The U.S. ambassador said that, after the vote, he urged the council to "move as soon as possible to a formal vote."  The Security Council is expected to set October 9 for the formal vote. The U.N. General Assembly must approve the Security Council's selection.

Ban has been the chief negotiator in talks over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs and is a former South Korean envoy to the United Nations.  (See The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.)

Although no new candidates have come forward in the past month, Bolton said that the formal vote is being put off for a few days to see if any current candidates decide to withdraw or other candidates come forward.  He said he would be surprised if anyone announced his or candidacy at this point.

Soon after the vote, Shashi Tharoor of India, currently under secretary-general for information and the second-highest vote recipient, withdrew.

The United States has been pressing since the beginning of 2006 to have an orderly selection process that allows time for the council to set qualifications, meet with candidates and elect a secretary-general early enough to allow for a transition period before the new secretary-general assumes office on January 1, 2007.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Kristin Silverberg said in a recent interview that the selection of a successor to Kofi Annan was a main topic of conversation among the heads of state and senior officials attending the opening of the 61st General Assembly. (See related article.)

"Most countries are keenly interested in making sure that there's a good secretary-general who is capable of leading this complicated organization.  It is such an important time in the U.N.'s history," Silverberg said.

The United States has stressed the importance of electing a secretary-general "who's committed to sound management of the organization, someone who will hold it to high ethnical standards and who believes in fiscal discipline and sound management practices, as well as our interest in finding someone who will be a committed partner in the democracy effort," she said.

For more information on U.S. policies, see The United States and the United Nations.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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