Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Asian leaders laud Ban's UN appointment

AFP , SEOUL

Asian countries yesterday led the world in greeting South Korea's Ban Ki-moon as the region's first UN head in 35 years and pledged to support efforts to reform the body and seek global peace.

Ban will take over from Ghana's Kofi Annan to become the UN's eighth secretary-general and the first Asian in the post since U Thant of Burma led the organization from 1961 to 1971.

China congratulated 62-year-old Ban, who takes over the post in January, and pledged to actively work with the current South Korean foreign minister.

"It has been 35 years since an Asian has served as the UN secretary general," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"This is the realization of the common aspirations of Asian nations and is a common honor for Asian nations," it said, adding that Beijing would "work to actively support and coordinate" with Ban.

"We are sure that during the term of Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations will continue to play a role in building a long-term peaceful, prosperous and harmonious world," the statement said.

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Aso extended a "hearty welcome" to Ban.

"It is a great pleasure that the new secretary general is a person from South Korea, which has embodied Asia's remarkable development and growth," he said in a statement.

"We expect the new secretary general to exercise his initiative to renovate the UN into one suitable to the 21st century," Aso said.

Singapore said Ban "has a wealth of experience in diplomacy and is a strong and capable leader" and extended congratulations from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) and Foreign Minister George Yeo (楊榮文).

"His steady hand at the helm will stand the United Nations in good stead at a critical phase of its history," the foreign ministry said.

In South Korea the president hailed the choice of its foreign minister as a source of national pride and expressed hope the veteran diplomat would help resolve the North Korean crisis.

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