Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Sri Lanka’s candidate to lead the United Nations said yesterday that as secretary-general, he would push ahead with reforms to the world organization and take a more proactive stance toward “what is evil and wrong with the world.”

Jayantha Dhanapala told editors and reporters at The Washington Times that whoever replaces Secretary-General Kofi Annan next year would have to address the scandals that have weakened the United Nations’ credibility.

“It is very clear that management is an imperative — we need to have a strong management hand,” said Mr. Dhanapala, who served as the U.N. undersecretary for disarmament from 1998 to 2003.

Mr. Annan’s term expires Dec. 31, and three candidates have taken their campaigns on the road, visiting New York and the capitals of the five permanent Security Council members. The council must agree on a name before the 191-member General Assembly votes on the nominee.

Under an informal rotation system, it is Asia’s turn to lead the world body. But U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton has said the next secretary-general should be chosen for his or her administrative skills, not the location of his or her home country.

Beijing, meanwhile, is pressing hard for the job to go to a candidate from one of the 54 members of the U.N. Asian Group.

“China strongly believes that Asia can provide the next secretary-general,” Ambassador Wang Guangya told The Washington Times yesterday in New York.

Slovakian Ambassador Peter Burian, the only Eastern European voice on the Security Council besides Russia, said “the majority opinion” in the United Nations favors an Asian. “But we feel that the concept of geographical rotation should be secondary to the qualifications.”

Mr. Dhanapala was in Washington meeting with State Department officials, members of Congress and think tanks to convince them of his reformist agenda and bridge-building style.

Although he declined to criticize Mr. Annan’s record since he became secretary-general in 1997, Mr. Dhanapala said that the Iraq oil-for-food scandal had “sapped the morale” of the organization and that divisions over the Iraq war had affected Mr. Annan’s stewardship of the United Nations and its roughly 56,600 employees worldwide.

In an indication of how he would lead, the Sri Lankan candidate noted that Article 99 of the U.N. Charter gives the secretary-general the authority to bring to the attention of the world body any issue that is likely to be a threat to peace and security.

“I think this article needs to be used much more,” Mr. Dhanapala said. “We cannot allow sections of humanity to be preyed upon.”

Balancing the interests of the United States against those of other nations “does not mean turning a [blind] eye to what is wrong and evil in the world,” he said.

Thailand and South Korea also have named candidates — Surakiart Sathirathai and Ban Ki-moon respectively — and several other names have been mentioned, including two candidates from Singapore and Poland’s former president Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this article.

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