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U.S. Pledges Boutros-Ghali Veto As U.N. Searches For New Chief

By John M. Goshko
The Washington Post
UNITED NATIONS

With the United States still insisting it will veto a new five-year term for Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Security Council this week starts combing the ranks of world statesmen in search of the man or woman who will lead the United Nations into the next century.

While the choice is supposed to be made before the end of this month, no one has any idea who it will be. Except for Boutros-Ghali himself, no serious candidates have formally put their names forward.

Boutros-Ghali still has many supporters, so there could be a deadlock. That might leave the world body unable to choose a chief executive before the next scheduled term begins on Jan. 1.

Boutros-Ghali has the backing of most U.N. members, including the African states that consider him the representative of their continent, and under normal conditions he would be re-elected without challenge. However, the secretary general effectively is chosen by the 15-nation Security Council, and the United States, as one of its five permanent members, has the power to veto any candidate.

Many foreign governments believed the U.S. threat to veto Boutros-Ghali was an election ploy by President Clinton to neutralize Republican criticism. Now, with the election over, some of Boutros-Ghali's supporters still talk of a compromise that would allow him to remain for an abbreviated two- or three-year term. But senior U.S. officials here and in Washington reiterate that the administration's position is unyielding.

The process of picking a secretary general is expected to begin Tuesday when an informal Security Council luncheon discusses procedures for the council to receive nominations, vote on them, and forward its choice to the General Assembly for ratification. The hope is that the process will move into high gear by next week.

In deference to the sensibilities of the African countries, no member state is willing to put forward a candidate as long as Boutros-Ghali remains in the race. And he has said he will not consider withdrawing until there is a formal vote and the United States is forced to veto him.

If he then withdraws, there is clear majority support for choosing another African as his successor. Diplomatic analysts say the United States probably would accept the argument that Africa is entitled to the job for another five years, although U.S. officials say that is not necessarily the case.