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UN Security Council Backs South Korean For New Secretary-General

By Warren Hoge


Ban Ki-moon, the foreign minister of South Korea, on Monday virtually assured his selection as the next secretary-general of the United Nations, winning overwhelming support in a final informal poll of the Security Council.

The council scheduled a formal vote for next Monday to make its verdict official, which should lead to Ban’s being elevated to the position of the world’s most important international civil servant on Jan. 1.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan SM ’72 is to step down Dec. 31 after two five-year terms, and under U.N. procedures, the 15-member Security Council selects one name and sends it to the 192-member General Assembly for appointment.

Ban nailed down his selection by winning his fourth straight informal poll, this one with a different colored ballot for the five veto-bearing members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — to show whether any of them were opposed.

In a contest in which the ambassadors had the options of voting “encourage,” “discourage” or “no opinion,” Ban won 14 positive votes, no negatives and one “no opinion,” from one of the 10 rotating members.

There were objections from permanent members — signaling potential vetoes — against all five of the other active candidates. (One had withdrawn.)

Ban will inherit the leadership of a global organization with 9,000 workers, a $5 billion annual budget and tasks ranging from education, health care and emergency assistance to areas hit by natural disaster, to peacekeeping in nations emerging from conflicts.

He will also take over at a moment when the United Nations has been shaken by management lapses and scandals, and faces continuing demands to overhaul its procedures. At the same time, it is a moment when the United Nations finds itself back at the center of many of the world’s most intractable problems in places like Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, Kosovo and North Korea.

Ban has said he would devote particular attention to efforts to broker a settlement in the Middle East.

Ban, 62, is a soft-spoken man who in six months of campaigning around the world has had to learn the Western art of self-promotion after early audiences complained they found his laid-back presentation unimpressive.

Ban is familiar with the United Nations, where he served as first secretary at the South Korean mission from 1974 to 1978 and was chief assistant to Han Seung-soo, president of the General Assembly in 2001. He has also served as director of the U.N. division at the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

His selection will carry great resonance in South Korea, a country created by the United Nations in 1948 and defended by U.N.-authorized troops in the Korean War.

In his lifetime, South Korea has been a model for development, transformed from a war-torn, impoverished country into one of the world’s wealthiest.

As a foreign service officer for three decades, Ban has been a top official in the Korean Embassy in New Delhi and ambassador to Austria.