- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

Annan’s successor

Security Council members soon will begin considering candidates to succeed Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose second and final five-year term expires Dec. 31. His successor is to take office Jan. 1.

All three declared candidates are Asian men, though there is no shortage of undeclared candidates in the wings.

The Bush administration has been reluctant to accept the tradition of geographic rotation for the job. On Friday, U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton made what is probably the administration’s most explicit remark on the subject:

“I would also ask the question that if you think geographical rotation is a principle — which, as I said, I don’t see where it comes from — then what about other kinds of rotation?”

“How about gender rotation? There has never been a female secretary-general in 60 years, so some may say: ‘What about a female secretary-general from Eastern Europe?’ Let us see who’s out there,” Mr. Bolton told an audience at the Centre for Policy Studies in London.

So, readers, who do you think is out there? Make a brief case for candidates male or female, Asian or Eastern European, or others to [email protected]

New Assembly chief

While all thoughts were focused on selection of the next secretary-general, the General Assembly quietly chose its next president, Sheika Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain. Sheika Haya, who was selected by acclaim rather than a vote, succeeds Jan Eliasson, who will pass her the gavel on Sept. 11.

A member of the ruling Al Khalifa family, she has represented the tiny kingdom as ambassador to France and a delegate to UNESCO. Sheika Haya is one of Bahrain’s first female lawyers and an advocate of women’s rights under Shariah law. A trained litigator and arbitrator, she is an adviser to Bahrain’s Royal Court. She also is in private practice.

She will be the third woman in 61 years to preside over the General Assembly and the first since 1969, when a Liberian woman held the gavel.

Sheika Haya made clear last week that she will not allow women’s issues to be lost amid the horse-trading in the selection of the next secretary-general and the power plays over U.N. management reforms.

About women, she said: “Their suffering drives me to work with you to find suitable solutions to alleviate their pain and uphold the principles of the U.N. Charter, which emphasizes full respect for human rights.”

Mr. Eliasson, of Sweden, introduced her to the world body on Thursday and asked for its cooperation during the three-month transition.

The 61st session of the General Assembly will open Sept. 12 with the election of officers to key committees.

A panel discussion on international migration and development will take place Sept. 14 and 15, and a review of aid to the least developing countries will take place Sept. 18 and 19.

The general debate, which often attracts heads of state, including President Bush, will open Sept. 19 and close 10 days later.

Like all major U.N. posts, the General Assembly presidency rotates among member countries. This year it was Asia’s turn, a coincidence that has nothing to do with choosing Kofi Annan’s successor. The largest regional group, Asia spans much of the Arab world, as well as the Indian subcontinent, the Far East and the Pacific islands.

Hariri report

A report Saturday on the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister, endorsed Beirut’s request to extend the U.N. investigation into the slaying. The report was delivered to Secretary-General Kofi Annan by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, head of the U.N. investigation; the panel’s mandate was to expire this week. As it did in March, the commission cited improved cooperation from Syria, widely blamed for the killing.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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