- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

NEW YORK — Ban Ki-moonwas sworn in yesterday morning as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations, promising to restore confidence in an organization that has been tainted by corruption and ethics violations.

The former foreign minister of South Korea took the oath of the office with his hand on a bound copy of the U.N. Charter, promising “not to seek or accept instructions … from any government or other authority external to the organization.”

He also pledged “to breathe new life and inject renewed confidence into the sometimes weary Secretariat.”

Mr. Ban, 62, will become secretary-general on Jan. 1, 2007, succeeding Kofi Annan.

He inherits an organization that has been demoralized by the oil-for-food scandal, a perceived double standard in disciplining errant senior officials and persistent criticism from U.S. conservatives.

In addition, the organization has been nearly impotent in resolving the killing in Darfur and reducing tensions in the Middle East.

Mr. Ban will have to make swift and demonstrable progress on U.N. management reforms, human rights issues and security enhancement to win over skeptical observers — many of them within the organization or powerful governments.

The next secretary-general said he is reviewing all senior U.N. positions, and plans to make staff appointments starting in January. For the key roll of deputy secretary-general, he said, he is leaning toward female candidates.

Pressed by reporters on how he perceived the organization’s role in the Middle East, Mr. Ban sounded strong support for Israel and frustration on Iraq.

He was asked by an Iranian reporter whether Israel’s perceived acknowledgement of holding nuclear weapons doesn’t destabilize the Middle East.

“The Middle East question is of course the most serious issue with which we must deal,” he said.

Mr. Ban pledged to become personally involved in tense challenges such as Darfur, the Middle East and North Korea.

The General Assembly also yesterday paid tribute to Mr. Annan, 68, with two sustained standing ovations and a half-dozen speeches. He leaves the organization after more than four decades as an international civil servant.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff praised Mr. Annan in a brief ceremony for using his voice and office to promote human rights and development, counterterrorism, conflict prevention and recovery.

“Since early in his first term, Kofi Annan has worked tirelessly to make the U.N. a more efficient and effective organization,” Mr. Wolff said. “He has understood the need for the U.N. to evolve and reform to meet the challenges of today’s world, and to use its resources wisely to better serve its member states and the millions of people who look to the U.N. to help them improve their lives.”

Like a half-dozen speakers before him, Mr. Ban paid tribute to Mr. Annan, who will leave the organization on Dec. 31.

“It is an honor to follow in your revered footsteps,” he said. “Your tenure has been marked by high ideals, noble aspirations and bold initiatives.”

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