- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NEW YORK — South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon wants to put the “united” back into the United Nations.

Mr. Ban, a candidate for U.N. secretary-general and self-described “harmonizer,” said yesterday that if he is selected to succeed Kofi Annan, he would work to narrow the divisions between nations, and heal the rift between member states and the secretariat that is meant to serve their interests.

“Many assert there is a crisis of confidence enveloping the U.N. between large and small powers, rich and poor countries, between member states and the Secretariat, between governments and civil society,” he said at a small meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, calling for “a greater sense of trust and common purpose.”

“For this, each and every player must stop blaming others and start taking responsibility. We must all share the blame. We must all be accountable.”

Mr. Ban, said he particularly was troubled by the inability of governments to grapple with two key items on the U.N. agenda: reforming the organization and defeating terrorism.

He indicated that he supported Mr. Annan’s management-reform proposals, which were endorsed by Washington and major donors but defeated in an angry floor fight by an alliance of developing nations.

Mr. Ban, 62, is the third announced candidate from Asia, although there are at least a half-dozen more names frequently mentioned as possibilities when Mr. Annan leaves office at the end of December.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai racked up early but shallow support among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and several others in the Asian region, but his constant campaigning also has discouraged some nations.

Jayantha Dhanapala is the Sri Lankan government’s former peace negotiator with rebel factions, who also served for five years as the U.N. undersecretary-general for disarmament. His reputation is building, but not so much in the Security Council, which holds primary responsibility for choosing the next secretary-general.

Mr. Ban, who has served as Seoul’s trade minister since 2004, also has significant U.N. experience. He worked in the U.N. office in Seoul 30 years ago, and also has served as a diplomat to the United Nations in New York and Vienna, Austria. He was also chief of staff to the president of the General Assembly in 2001, when South Korea held that office.

The Bush administration has made clear that it does not agree that Asia has the sole right to field the next candidate, and is looking to Eastern Europe and other precincts. U.S. officials have met with each of the candidates, but do not appear to be impressed with the field so far.

On Tuesday, Mr. Annan himself said that under the U.N. tradition to rotate top jobs among the regions, his successor should come from the 54-member Asian region, which, in fact, stretches from Lebanon to Fiji.

“I have no horse in this race, and may the best man win,” he told reporters.

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