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Tharoor exudes confidence

india Updated: Jun 29, 2006 19:35 IST

Shashi Tharoor, India's candidate for the post of UN secretary general, Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and expressed confidence about his "reasonable prospects" for winning the race for the UN's top job.

"Obviously we will not be in the race if we didn't believe there were reasonable prospects for success," Tharoor told reporters outside Manmohan Singh's 7 Race Course Road official residence Monday night.

He said this in response to a question on whether the US and other P-5 members will support India's official candidate.

Tharoor, dressed in a dapper blue suit, appeared in a buoyant mood after his "pleasant and constructive discussions" lasting over half an hour with Manmohan Singh and described himself as "India's national offering to the world".

"We discussed the way forward and steps needed to advance our credentials," the 50-year-old author-diplomat said.

He thanked the prime minister for his decision to nominate him as India's official candidate for the world body's top job.

A seasoned UN bureaucrat, Tharoor unveiled India's strategy for getting the world body's top job that included getting support of a significant majority of 15 members of the Security Council and not to attract the veto of the five permanent members of the council - the US, Britain, France, China and Russia.

"Fifteen members of the Security Council are crucial. It is crucial for a candidate to attract support of a significant majority and not to attract veto of any permanent members," he said in response to a question.

The electoral college for the election of secretary-general consists of the five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Tharoor, UN undersecretary general for communication and public information who has worked with the organisation for 28 years, also expressed his optimism about the P-5 backing his candidature at a meeting with some editors over lunch Monday.

When asked whether he saw any pitfalls on the way to becoming the UN secretary general, he replied: "No race is guaranteed in its outcome. I welcome an opportunity for each candidate to be judged by his own merits."

Tharoor, an international columnist and author of several books, also sought to downplay the possibilities of countries like China and Pakistan playing spoiler.

"It is not for me to articulate other countries' policies. There is no country I have difficulty working with," he replied to a question.

"The world needs as broad choice as possible. We should not look at any country's policy in a negative light."

"I want to meet as broad spectrum of the leadership as possible. The idea is to leave Delhi as India's national offering to the world," said Tharoor.

He also met Communist Party of India-Marxist leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury and discussed a range of global issues, including UN reforms.

Tharoor will meet Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani on Tuesday morning.

Tharoor flew in here Sunday, only days after the external affairs ministry announced it would support the undersecretary general as a candidate to replace Kofi Annan whose term expires at the end of the year.

He said he was "encouraged" by the response he has got. Indian officials said they endorsed his candidature only after sounding out major powers, none of who had explicitly opposed his nomination.

The issue of Pakistan putting up its own candidate for the UN top job was also discussed between Tharoor and other senior diplomats, including KC Singh, additional secretary in the external affairs ministry.

Tharoor has a reasonable chance of winning the UN top job as it is widely agreed that it is the turn of an Asian candidate at the UN high table.

There are three other Asian contenders - Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirthai and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon - in the fray.

New Delhi has sought to dispel the impression that by announcing Tharoor's candidature, it was giving up its bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

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