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Call for New UN Secretary-General to Be Asian
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The next UN secretary-general should come from Asia, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said yesterday.


"China firmly believes that the next UN secretary-general should come from Asia and Asian countries will maintain their solidarity and coordinate efforts to select a competent, prestigious, and widely accepted secretary-general," the ministry's spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular press conference.


French ambassador to the UN, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said Wednesday that the first "straw polls" for a new secretary-general were due to be held by the UN Security Council by the middle of July.


Sabliere, who is the Security Council president for July, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York that the organization hoped to submit the final candidate to the General Assembly in late September or early October. This will allow the new secretary-general several months to prepare before taking up the post at the beginning of next year.


Jiang said the straw polls were unofficial consultations and aimed at testing Security Council members' general reactions to different candidates.


Kofi Annan's second five-year term ends on December 31.


The UN Charter allows the Security Council to nominate a candidate who must then be approved by the UN General Assembly.


Turning to the Middle East, Jiang said China was deeply concerned over the worsening state of Palestine's humanitarian situation, and urged Israel to lift its Palestine blockade and cease military actions immediately.


She also called on the Palestinians to release the hostage quickly to help create favorable conditions for the settlement of the ongoing military conflict. Jiang said the international community should attempt to ease the tensions and persuade the two sides to get back round the negotiating table to resolve the issues through dialogue and negotiation.


Palestinian militants kidnapped the 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25 during an attack on an Israeli army post near the Gaza border. This sparked the latest crisis between the two sides.


Israel launched the operation "Summer Rain" on June 28 after two days of fruitless international mediation over the release of Corporal Shalit.


In the wake of the raid Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip in the largest incursion into the coastal area since Israel pulled out forces and settlers last summer following a 38-year occupation.


Israel had closed Gaza's borders and sent tanks, troops, gunboats and aircraft to raid the Gaza Strip over the past few days in a bid to press Palestinian militants to free the captured Israeli soldier.


The Palestinian militants have demanded that Israel release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier and set Tuesday as the deadline.


However, Israel has rejected the ultimatum saying it would not give in to blackmail.


Turning to North Korea's recent missile tests Jiang said: "We think the UN Security Council should make a necessary response that will help maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the Northeast Asian region."


North Korea reportedly launched seven missiles on Wednesday morning. That very day the Security Council met for an emergency meeting to discuss the issue. "China participated in the consultations in a responsible way," said Jiang.


China's ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, told reporters before the meeting that any action the Security Council might take depends on the consultations with all council members.


Jiang reiterated China's deep concern over the tensions caused by the missile tests, hoping all the parties concerned will remain calm and exercise restraint and avoid action that can further intensify and complicate the situation. "China is in close contact and consultations with the parties concerned," she said.


China has been playing a constructive role in easing the situation on the Korean Peninsula and maintaining peace and stability in the region, she said. China will continue to push forward the negotiation process of the six-party talks.


"Facts prove that dialogue and consultation are effective ways to solve problems," she said, noting that China will strive to ease tensions through diplomatic efforts.


US assistant secretary of state, Christopher Hill, arrived in Beijing this morning to discuss the missile issue. China's Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and Hill will exchange views on how to promote the six-party talks in light of the current climate, Jiang said.


China is willing to negotiate with the US on maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia, she said.


Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on Wednesday discussed the situation by phone with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "The two sides have exchanged views on the missile test-firing by North Korea," Jiang said. They have agreed to keep in contact on the issue, she added.


Li also talked by phone with Japanese Foreign Minister Aso Taro, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.


The official Korean Central News Agency reported yesterday that a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed they had test-fired the missiles.


On state visits, Jiang said Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will visit China from July 12-16 and Mauritian Foreign Minister Madan Murlidhar Dulloo from July 9- 15.


(Xinhua News Agency July 7, 2006)

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