New UN chief releases his first appointments

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United Nations, Jan 1: South Korean Ban Ki-moon, who becomes UN Secretary-General today, announced his first two appointments after weeks of speculation and mystery about his intentions.

Vijay Nambiar of India, a special adviser to Ban's predecessor, Kofi Annan, will be his chief of staff and Michele Montas, an award-winning Haitian broadcaster, will head the spokesman's division, replacing Stephane Dujarric of France, a UN statement said yesterday.

U.N. sources said Alicia Barcena of Mexico was expected to be named undersecretary-general for administration and management, a post previously held by the United States, which now wants political affairs or peacekeeping.

Ban's big decisions are yet to come, including the naming of a deputy secretary-general and how to please Security Council powers insisting on top appointments. Russia will remain in charge of U.N. European operations in Geneva and China is to get the undersecretary-general post for economic and social affairs, diplomats reported.

However, the Western powers are lobbying Ban for the political affairs department, now held by Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari, and peacekeeping, sought by Britain, France and the United States.

Peacekeeping now is being run by Frenchman Jean-Marie Guehenno, who may stay on in his post for at least several months.

Some officials have suggested splitting the peacekeeping department in two, a move its staff believes would be operationally unfeasible, in order to have enough posts for the United States, Britain and France.

Nambiar, a professor and former deputy national security adviser to the Indian government, is a former ambassador to the United Nations, Pakistan, China, Malaysia and Afghanistan.

Barcena, Annan's chief of staff since June, has been involved in environmental affairs in Latin America and holds a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University.

Montas, a journalist, was the wife of murdered Haitian radio broadcaster Jean Dominique and featured in the 2004 Jonathan Demme documentary, ''The Agronomist.'' Montas kept alive the radio station they ran until threats against her life and her staff made it impossible.

She left for the United States in 2003. She has had posts in the UN public information department for the past few years, including spokeswoman for the General Assembly in 2004.

With strong support from the United States and China, Ban Ki-moon, 62, was chosen secretary-general over six rivals by the 15-nation Security Council, a decision confirmed by the 192-nation General Assembly in October. Ban, 62, South Korea's former foreign minister, will be the first Asian secretary-general head in 35 years.

Annan, 68, intends to leave New York for Geneva today and take a long rest with his Swedish wife, Nane, and then organize a foundation for African agriculture.


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