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S Korea's Ban a Certainty to Win UN Leadership
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South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said yesterday he bore "a heavy sense of responsibility" after an informal ballot that virtually assured he would become the next UN secretary-general.


Ban, 62, will probably be named formally on October 9 in an official vote by the 15-nation UN Security Council after winning four straw polls, including a crucial one on Monday.


After the council's recommendation, the 192-member UN General Assembly is expected to endorse Ban as the eighth secretary-general since 1946, replacing Kofi Annan of Ghana, who ends 10 years in office on December 31.


"It is quite clear from today's vote that Minister Ban Ki-moon is the candidate the Security Council will recommend" to the General Assembly, China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters.


In Monday's Security Council straw poll, Ban got 14 positive votes, including those from all the council's five members with veto rights -- the US, Britain, China, France and Russia. One of the 10 nonpermanent members abstained.


Although the vote was secret, the five permanent members had blue colored ballots while the other 10 had white ones.


Ban is known as a seasoned diplomat, who has so far only given general comments about what is likely to be his new job. Analysts say he faces a tough task of overcoming political divisions between developing and developed countries and of reorganizing the UN's complex bureaucracy.


Ban was appointed foreign minister in January 2004.


"He is the hardest-working person at the ministry," said one South Korean diplomat, "if you don't count his personal aide who has to be at his residence at 5:30 in the morning."


South Korea's campaign to have Ban elected was expensive, with reports of pledges of aid, and extensive traveling to crisscross the globe. In New York, Ban, with fluent but accented English, spoke at numerous forums, although he did not debate with any of his rivals.


Shashi Tharoor of India, 50, who finished second in all four polls, withdrew from the race and told reporters that he had written to Ban to congratulate him. "It is clear that he will be our next secretary-general," Tharoor said.


"It is a great honor and a huge responsibility to be secretary-general, and I wish Mr. Ban every success in that task," said Tharoor, a novelist and the UN undersecretary-general for public information.


"The UN and the world have a stake in his success," Tharoor added.


US Ambassador John Bolton said he expects Ban to concentrate on being the UN's chief administrative officer, but the South Korean has already said he would appoint a deputy to do the day-to-day management and expected to travel frequently.


China had insisted that the next secretary-general come from Asia because of a tradition that rotates the post among regions of the world. The last Asian secretary-general was Myanmar's U Thant, in office from 1961-71.


(China Daily October 4, 2006)

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