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Latvian Prez joins race for post of UN Secy Gen

By Dharam Shourie in United Nations
September 16, 2006 14:03 IST
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Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has joined the race for the post of the next United Nations Secretary General, taking the number of contestants to six, including Indian nominee Shashi Tharoor.

68-year-old Vike-Freiberga is the first women and first non-Asian to be formally nominated for the post. She was nominated by the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, asserting that she has shown the capacity to inspire a nation and hence is suitable for the post.

They sent an official letter to UN Security Council President Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis of Greece to put her in the race, Council diplomats said.

Her name would be in the next straw poll on September 28. Diplomats expected the final decision to be taken some time in October. They also indicated the possibility of another straw poll after the September 28 exercise as a few more candidates might come in.

If elected, Vike-Freiberga would be the first woman Secretary General in the 60-year history of the world body.

Recently, there had been demands that the Council consider a woman for the post to highlight that it is not a male preserve.

The Baltic states also said that Vike-Freiberga "has proved the capacity of a woman to lead and inspire a nation", adding, "it would be a tangible demonstration of the principle of gender equality, so tirelessly defended by the United Nations over the last 60 years."

Diplomats said that one of the major hurdles the Latvian president faces is that she is not from Asia and most Security Council members would like a person from that region to head the organisation.

This is considered to be Asia's turn on the principle of rotation among regions. The last Secretary General from Asia was U Thant of Myanmar, who retired in 1971 after competing two terms.

But diplomats also said that no one can be sure what would happen when the five permanent members start bargaining over the candidates. The five are the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China and they have veto power. Hence concurrence of the five is essential for a candidate to be elected to the post.

While generally accepting the principle of rotation, the United States has also repeatedly said it wants the best possible candidate. Some other members have also made similar statements.

Besides Tharoor and Vike-Freiberga, the candidates are South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, Jordanian Prince Zeid al-Hussein and Sri Lanka's Jayantha Jayapala.

In the straw poll held by the Council on September 14, Ban had got 14 out of 15 positive votes and one member had no opinion. Tharoor had ten positive votes, three negative and two no opinions. Sathirathai had nine positive votes, three negative and three no opinion.

In case of Prince Hussein, six members cast positive votes, four negative and five had no opinion. Danapala managed only three positive vote and had five negative votes against him and seven expressed no opinion.

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Dharam Shourie in United Nations
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