Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Ban says Seoul did not buy him the top UN job


South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, the next UN secretary-general, dismissed as groundless reports that he promised top jobs to key countries and that the Seoul government gave economic aid to win support during his campaign for the top UN post.

"I'm a man of integrity," he said in an interview.

Ban, who will take over from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Jan. 1, said he has been "very much troubled" by news reports that he agreed to give key posts to important Security Council members who could have vetoed his candidacy -- and is "very frustrated by the unfounded stories, groundless stories" about South Korean aid to a number of elected council nations to get their votes.

"I have not discussed anything during my campaign process with any particular country about any specific post," he said in the exclusive interview at South Korea's UN Mission on Saturday, a day after the UN General Assembly approved his appointment by acclamation.

There were widespread reports that Britain wanted assurances it would get back the UN's top political job, undersecretary-general for political affairs, now held by a Nigerian, and France wanted similar assurances it would keep the top UN peacekeeping job. But ambassadors from both countries denied any deals.

As far as South Korea trying to buy votes, Ban said, "my very short answer is no -- there is no such thing and I am very much frustrated and upset about that kind of accusations."

A report in the Times of London earlier this month on South Korea's "aid diplomacy" cited a tripling of its aid budget for African countries to US$100 million in February, when Ban's candidacy was officially announced. Among the recipients, the paper said, were four non-permanent members of the council, Tanzania, Solvakia, Greece and Peru.

Greece's UN Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis said on Wednesday there was no truth to the report: "The Greek government made its decision on the merits of the candidates and the interests of the country."

Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde said the implication that Peru's vote was bought was completely false.

"It is offensive to think that a donated piano to a cultural institution would be a motive to decide a vote," he said in Lima.

All 15 council members have said they voted for Ban because they believed that he was the best candidate.

Ban said that South Korea currently has the 11th largest economy in the world, and since the middle of the 1980s, the government has been giving money to poorer nations in response to UN appeals and to meet UN goals to cut extreme poverty by half, ensure that every child has an elementary school education, and improve basic health care, all by 2015.

"This has nothing to do with my campaign strategy, so there should be no misunderstandings," he said.

Ban, a career diplomat who has served three tours at the UN -- most recently as chief of staff to the president of the General Assembly session -- said he has heard stories about influence peddling and buying votes for the past 20 years.

Ban said he want to find "the competitive edge" from all UN programs and funds to avoid duplication of activities and ensure the best use of the UN's resources to help the most people.

He said he would build on Annan's "very good reform plans" and "try to suggest some good systems to ensure the highest level of professionalism."

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