Speculation grows in race to succeed Kofi Annan

Monday, August 14, 2006

South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki Moon and UN undersecretary Shashi Tharoor of India are the early leaders in the race to succeed United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan who retires at the end of this year.

In late July the 15 members of the Security Council conducted a secret straw poll on who should succeed Annan. Monday's edition of the the Guardian newspaper reports the leaked results which have Ban leading with 12 "encourages", 1 "discourage" and 2 "no opinions" ahead of Tharoor's 10 "encourages", 2 "discourages" and 3 "no opinions". The other two official candidates thus far are Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and former U.N. disarmament chief Jayantha Dhanapala from Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore is also a possible contender, according to the Guardian but has not officially declared his interest.

Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand dismissed a report, Monday, that she was lobbying for the position calling it "a piece of fiction". The New Zealand Herald reported in its weekend edition that Clark had sought support for her possible candidacy from British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a recent visit to London.

Coincidentally, Ban was in Auckland Monday seeking New Zealand's support for his bid. New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters met with Ban but made no public comment on his country's position on the contest.

Traditionally, the position of Secretary-General rotates among the continents suggesting that Annan's successor will likely be an Asian, the first since U Thant filled the post from 1961 to 1971.