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Moon shines at UN, Tharoor quits race

By George Joseph/Suman Guha Mozumder
Last updated on: October 03, 2006 11:55 IST
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United Nations Under Secretary General for Communications and India's nominee for the post of the UN Secretary General Shashi Tharoor has withdrawn from the race for the top UN post.

Tharoor conceded defeat after he came second again in the final straw poll on Monday before the formal vote scheduled for October 9 to select the next Secretary General of the United Nations.

His opponent, South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, got 14 votes. He did not get any 'discouraging votes,' but one country did not express any opinion. Tharoor got 10 'encouraging' votes and 3 'discouraging' votes, including that of a permanent member. Two countries did not express any opinion.

After the straw poll, China's Permanent Representative Wang Guangya said, 'It is quite clear from Monday's straw poll that Minister Ban Ki-Moon is the candidate the Security Council will recommend to the General Assembly.'

After this announcement, Tharoor gave his concession speech and said that he had faxed his congratulations to Ban Ki Moon via the Korean permanent mission. He said it had become clear that Ban would be the next secretary general and assured his support for him.

'The United Nations and the world have a stake in his success," he said.

A new candidate can still come forward. But nobody expects such a move. United States Ambassador John Bolton noted that new candidates could still come forward but said he would be surprised if any did before Monday. Once the Security Council decides on the secretary general, the General Assembly has to make the final choice. But it is considered only a formality.

It is not clear which permanent member voted against Tharoor. The five -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- used blue ballots while the other 10 rotating members used white. The straw poll was the fourth since July.

In 1996, US opposed a second term for Egypt's Boutros Boutros-Ghali. It favoured Kofi Annan, but France vetoed his candidature several times. But they changed their stand after the firm support of the US for Annan. Annan's 10-year term ends on December 31.

The other four candidates in the fray got five or less votes. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga got five votes, making her in third place. Earlier, Jayanta Dhanapala of Sri Lanka had withdrawn from the race. Sri Lanka had then decided to back Ban's candidature for the post.

Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, which holds the Security Council presidency for the month of October, said the Security Council is likely to hold a formal vote early next week. He said he was not authorized to disclose the result of the straw poll because of 'a gentlemen's agreement' with the Council.

"I think the sense of the Council is that on the basis of Monday's ballot, the Council is now ready for a formal ballot," he told reporters after the meeting. "We will discuss this matter in Tuesday morning's informal consultations and take a decision on it. The likelihood is that we will be having this formal vote early next week."

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George Joseph/Suman Guha Mozumder