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UNSG: Lanka withdraws candidate, backs S Korea

Last updated on: September 30, 2006 15:02 IST

Virtually lending its support to Ban Ki-Moon in his bid for the post of United Nations Secretary General, Sri Lanka on Saturday said the decision to withdraw its nominee from the fray will help the South Korean clinch the top post.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, in a statement in Colombo, said its move to withdraw its candidate Jayantha Dhanapala from the fray will help the frontrunner in the race, South Korea's Ban Ki-Moon, become the next UN Secretary General.

"Sri Lanka has decided not to further pursue the candidature of Dhanapala in the interest of ensuring a consensus in electing an Asian candidate," it said in a statement.

Despite a year-long hectic campaign, Dhanapala failed to win over the members of the Security Council and in the last straw poll, he could get only three positive votes with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon emerging as possible winner among the current contestants.

However, diplomats at the UN said Indian nominee Shashi Tharoor, who emerged second, is very much in reckoning despite his discouraging performance in the last straw poll in which he could muster only eight positive votes, one less than the minimum needed in the 15-member Council.

In a statement announcing withdrawal of Dhanapala on Friday, the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN expressed the hope that its action would facilitate the election of the 'emerging most favoured candidate,' which, diplomats said, means support for Ban.

Under the procedure followed by the Council, voting on each candidate is done separately and hence votes from one do not transfer to another. The same procedure is followed in the final polling and if more than two candidates get nine or more votes, it results in a tie and another round of voting is held. In each round, all candidates including those who get less than nine votes are put on the ballot unless anyone decides to withdraw.

With the withdrawal of Dhanapala, the number of contestants came down to six but diplomats held out the possiblity of new candidates being introduced.

The Council will hold another round of straw poll on Monday and it might prove crucial as veto wielding members will be given separate colour ballots and the candidates will know if they have veto against them. After Monday's round of polling, diplomats say they expect more candidates to drop out.

Besides Ban and Tharoor, other candidates in the field are former finance Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, ousted Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Surakiart Santhirathai, Prince Zaid al-Hussein of Jordan and President Vike-Freiberga Latvia.

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