- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2005

The next U.N. chief must be a “hands-on manager” who can implement needed internal reforms and patch up relations with the United States, according to a top Sri Lankan diplomat who is his country’s candidate for the post next year.

Jayantha Dhanapala was ambassador to Washington and held a series of senior posts at the United Nations. He is now a senior adviser to the Sri Lankan president and hopes to succeed Secretary-General Kofi Annan when his second term ends in December 2006.

“It is not sufficient just to have a high profile for this job,” he said in an interview yesterday during a visit to Washington ahead of next week’s U.N. summit in New York.

“The decisions we expect on [U.N.] reform next week will have to be implemented by the next secretary-general. That person will have be a hands-on manager, someone with the technocratic skills to know how the U.N. management works and how the reforms can be achieved.”

Mr. Dhanapala spent a decade at the United Nations, including five years as an undersecretary dealing with disarmament issues.

Under the informal rotation for the top U.N. job, an Asian candidate is widely expected to be named to succeed Mr. Annan, a native of Ghana.

Already, discreet politicking is under way in the region, with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai the most active and visible contender. Mr. Surakiart has already picked up the endorsement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as a number of countries in the region.

Mr. Dhanapala said he has consciously avoided seeking his own endorsements, arguing the region should put forward a number of candidates for the Security Council and the leading U.N. powers to consider.

“It would be only fair to present the world with a choice of candidates,” he said.

He acknowledged the oil-for-food scandal had exposed grave problems with the United Nations’ internal oversight and management functions, and said the secretary-general had to be more than a glorified corporate chief executive officer.

The United Nations “is a complex political organization,” he said. “Its leaders must have not just managerial skills but administrative and political skills as well.”

Mr. Dhanapala said he would work to repair U.N. relations with the United States, which were badly frayed during the Iraq war.

“There is no question there is a symbiotic relationship between the U.N. and the world’s sole superpower,” he said.

“U.S. support for the U.N. is absolutely indispensable, but the U.N. can also be very important to the United States and can serve its national interests in multilateral situations.”

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