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Tharoor not 'disheartened', asks nations not to be influenced

By Ajay Kaul in New Delhi
October 01, 2006 20:59 IST
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A day ahead of the last "straw poll" for the UN Secretary General's post, Indian nominee Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said "independent countries" should not be influenced by any considerations amidst reports that South Korea has offered inducements to gain backing for its candidate.

Tharoor, who has been a runner up in the last three straw polls, is "not disheartened" and said he was making all out
efforts to emerge victorious as "we have a strong case in terms of qualification".

He told PTI on phone from New York that he was talking to all the countries that would take part in the vote and hoped they would "give full consideration to our message".

Monday's poll is "going to be quite determinant, I think. We have to see whether countries are prepared to make this
into a horse race or whether to go ahead with the person who is leading," the determined UN Under Secretary General for Communications said.

"At this stage, we are doing everything we can," he said. 

Tharoor continues to stand at second position after South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon in three straw polls. His task got tougher on Sunday after he failed in the third straw poll to get the requisite nine votes needed for selection for the top post.

On reports that South Korea had been trying to induce countries to support Ban Ki-Moon, Tharoor offered no direct
comment but said, "I would like to believe that independent countries would not be influenced by any considerations other than their own national foreign policy priorities."

In its aggressive campaign on behalf of Ban, South Korea has offered "inducements ranging from tens of millions of
pounds of extra funding for African countries to lucrative trade agreements in Europe -- and even the gift of a grand
piano to Peru", The Times newspaper of London has reported.

"I am running on the basis of my own credentials for office and not on the basis of anybody else's campaign," Tharoor said with regard to the allegations against the South Korean candidate.

At the moment, he said, "...the effort is on to try and make sure that we have spoken to all the countries who are voting
in the Security Council to ensure that they have given full consideration to our message".

"We are going ahead with full force simply because we believe we have a strong case in terms of qualifications for
the post," maintained the well-known author who has served with the UN for over two decades.

He, however, said the "decision is a political one and we cannot predict how countries will vote".

Emphasising that he was doing his best, he said, "We have not given up but we have to acknowledge the reality that there is one candidate who is well ahead of the rest. We just have to see whether that remains the case after Monday's vote or not."

On his failure to overtake Ban Ki-Moon, Tharoor said, "I am disappointed at the outcome of the last straw poll but not
disheartened. It is disappointing but not discouraging."

To a question, Tharoor said the Indian government has done whatever it could. "I have no complaints."

On the withdrawal from the race by Sri Lanka's candidate, he said he was not very surprised by the decision of "the good friend" as he came distantly last in the last straw polls.

"I have been consistently second and feel absolutely no need to consider that option at this stage," he said, but indicated his surprise at others continuing in the race despite consistently standing third, fourth, fifth and sixth.

Tharoor lost two positive votes in the third straw poll and could get only eight against the 10 he had received in the
earlier straw polls.

Ban, a close ally of the US administration, too lost one vote which shifted to "no opinion" but still had 13 positive
votes, five more than Tharoor. Thus he increased his lead over Tharoor by one vote compared to the last straw poll.

It is unclear whether one negative vote against Ban was by a veto wielding permanent member but most diplomats
speculated that it was perhaps a non permanent member from Asia.

A candidate needs a minimum of nine votes with no veto in the 15-member Security Council to be recommended to the 192-member General Assembly that formally elects the Secretary General. But under the Charter, the Assembly can vote only on the candidate recommended by the Council. 

The position should become clear on Monday when permanent members will be given different colour ballots. Except Ban and Tharoor, who maintained his second position, the other five candidates seem to be out of the reckoning. But things could change quickly and all calculations upset should Ban attract a veto.

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Ajay Kaul in New Delhi
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