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Annan Says Consensus over Asian for UN Top Post

United Nations members generally agree that Asia should provide the next head for the global body, after a break of three decades, Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Thursday.

The last general secretary from Asia was U. Thant of Burma, now Myanmar, whose decade-long term ended in 1971 and Annan said it was the continent's turn again.

"I think unless there are dramatic changes, most member states see it as Asia's chance," Annan, whose second term as secretary general finishes at the end of next year, told a news conference in New Delhi.

Asia has emerged as an economic powerhouse in recent decades, with India and China among the strongest economies in the world.

The continent already has one declared candidate, Thai foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who has the backing of the 10 member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Annan, speaking at the end of a three-day visit to New Delhi, played down the hopes of his hosts that India could win a right of veto if it won a permanent Security Council seat in a rejigged United Nations.

Annan, who is pushing for wide-ranging reform of the world body, said candidates for new slots should not expect to get a veto power if Security Council was expanded.
"I believe enlargement without veto is a major step forward," 66-year-old Annan told diplomats, foreign policy analysts and other guests at a function.

"Let us not get so focused on the veto."

India, Japan, Germany and Brazil have pledged to support each others' candidacy for permanent seats on the Security Council.

Annan said calls by some UN members for the five current permanent members of the Security Council to lose their coveted veto powers was utopian and not realistic.

Critics say the veto rights of the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia reflect the situation when the UN was formed in 1945, not the reality of the 21st century.

"What is important is to have effective representation to make the council more democratic and ensure voices of all the regions are heard," Annan said.

Annan wants general agreement by September on the reforms he put forward last month, which also seek a commitment by rich countries to increase aid funding and an overhaul of the UN's human rights body.

(Chinadaily.com via agencies April 29, 2005)

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