- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

NEW YORK — The Security Council is poised to select South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon as the next U.N. secretary-general as soon as Monday, after his fourth consecutive strong showing in a straw poll yesterday.

Fourteen council members yesterday endorsed his candidacy in principle, while one unnamed nation offered “no opinion.”

The vote is likely to take place Monday, council diplomats said yesterday.

“We have a lot of respect for Foreign Minister Ban,” said U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton after yesterday afternoon’s poll. “We know him well from his service in Washington and think very highly of him professionally and personally.”

“I can say the United States is very pleased with the outcome of the vote,” Mr. Bolton added.

The poll yesterday was the fifth in the council and the first to reveal which of the five permanent members cast “discourage” votes — a situation that could turn into a veto.

After the poll, U.N. communications chief Shashi Tharoor, who placed second, dropped out of the race.

“It is clear that he will be our next secretary-general,” Mr. Tharoor told reporters. “It is a great honor, and I wish Mr. Ban every success in that task.”

Mr. Tharoor received 10 “encourage” votes yesterday, but one of the three negative votes was cast by a permanent member.

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga placed third with five encouragements, but two of the six negative votes were cast by permanent members — most probably China and Russia.

Former Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani won four “encourage” votes each.

The first and last candidates to declare their intentions were opposed by permanent members. Jordanian newcomer Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al Hussein won two favorable votes yesterday. Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala withdrew over the weekend.

While ambassadors were inside with their paper ballots — white for elected members, blue for permanent — reporters and envoys gathered in the corridor outside, talking and making informal wagers.

When diplomats emerged from the chambers, they were gently besieged as the news of the tally filtered out.

“I believe among the five-six Asian candidates, each had advantages,” said Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya. But Mr. Ban, he said, has experience.

“He is low-key but firm, and he is decisive,” Mr. Wang told reporters. “Sometimes the Asians show their qualities in a different way. I do hope he will be a good candidate for the job of the secretary-general.”

Mr. Ban, who is in Seoul this week, was informed of the results by Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, president of the council for October.

South Korea’s minister of foreign affairs and trade since 2004, Mr. Ban, 62, appears to be more of a consensus candidate than a passionate first choice. He speaks French and English as well as Korean, and is well-known to most of the key foreign ministries on the council and in the United Nations.

In a recent interview with reporters and editors of The Washington Times, Mr. Ban vowed that reforming the almost 61-year-old organization would be one of his priorities.

“The U.N. needs to be changed, to be more effective in taking on these challenges and agendas,” he said.

“The U.N. Secretariat must be changed and reformed. It needs to be reborn, so that it is more effective, more efficient and more relevant. It must regain the trust of the major stakeholders,” he added.

“Unfortunately, the U.N. has been somewhat discredited by scandals and the nonprofessional performance of its peacekeepers and other employees. The highest priority is to change the culture under which the Secretariat staff has been operating. The staff must be made more professional and more accountable,” Mr. Ban said.

• David Sands contributed to this report from Washington

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