Wed, Jul 26, 2006 - Page 7 News List

S Korean, Indian rank first in straw UN leadership poll


South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon and UN official Shashi Tharoor received the most endorsements in the UN Security Council's straw poll for the next UN secretary-general, diplomats said on Monday.

In a novel procedure, the 15 Security Council members, in a secret ballot, checked one of three boxes next to each of the four announced candidates: "encourage," "discourage" and "no opinion."

Each of the four announced candidates were informed of their rankings, but the race is far from over. Candidates can come forward until the last minute, and the final vote is not expected until the fall. A "no" vote from one of the five veto-wielding permanent members can sink a candidacy.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the ballots, said Ban received the most favorable votes followed by Tharoor, an Indian novelist and the head of the UN Department of Public Information. Ban received 12 "encouragements," one "discourage" and two "no opinions." Tharoor followed with 10 "encouragements," two "discouragements" and three "no opinions."

The other two, whose countries have nominated them, came in third and fourth place.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai received seven "encouragements," three "discouragements" and five "no opinions." The vote for Sri Lankan, Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN disarmament under secretary-general, was five "encouragements," six "discouragements" and four "no opinions."

"Considering I've entered the race just a month ago and am the only candidate who hasn't visited all 15 capitals, I'm gratified to have received such a broad base of support in the council," Tharoor said in an e-mail.

Response has been tepid so far for the four announced candidates. Some diplomats say the person who will become the eighth secretary-general has likely not yet emerged.

In the past, the ultimate winner emerged late in the process or hardly even campaigned for the job. That is partly because candidates become the object of intense haggling between the five permanent council members.

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