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South Korea, Indian top straw poll for UN top post

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 (Reuters) South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon and Indian UN official Shashi Tharoor received most endorsements in a Security Council straw poll for the next UN secretary-general, diplomats said today.

The 15 council members, in their second secret ballot, checked one of three boxes next to each of the four announced candidates: ''encourage,'' ''discourage,'' and ''no opinion.'' But the ballots did not distinguish between the five permanent council members with veto power and the other 10 nonpermanent nations, which would determine whether a candidate had a chance. This may occur in another poll, tentatively set for September 28.

Ban received 14 ''encouragements,'' and one ''discourage.'' Tharoor, a novelist and head of the UN Department of Information, followed with 10 ''encouragements,'' 3 ''discouragements'' and 2 ''no opinions.'' In third place was Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who received 9 votes in favor, 3 discouragements and 3 no opinions.

He was followed by Jordan's ambassador to the United Nations, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, a new entry to the race, who received 6 encouragements, 4 discouragements and 5 no opinions. In fifth place was Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, a former head of the UN disarmament department, who received 3 encouragements, 5 discouragements and 7 no opinions.

The results were similar to the first straw poll in July, in the race to succeed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan of Ghana, whose 10 years in office end on December 31.

According to UN tradition, the next secretary-general should come from Asia. Jordan is considered part of the Asian regional group at the United Nations.

One object of the straw poll is to encourage candidates to withdraw. For example Sathirathai of Thailand is the candidate of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), thereby blocking that group from nominating anyone else.

However, contrary to expectations, Sathirathai did better in this poll than in the one held in July, and will probably stay in the race.

Still, Edward Luck, a Columbia University professor and expert on the United Nations, said ASEAN should consider its position. ''Otherwise they may lose by default,'' he said.

Annan is the seventh secretary-general in the 61-year-history of the United Nations. A secretary-general is selected for a five-year term but can be re-elected.

The Security Council selects a secretary-general, who then has to be confirmed by the 192-member UN General Assembly.


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