No US consensus on Asian as UN chief

There are five Asians in the fray but there is no clear-cut favourite as far as the US is concerned. Have your say

india Updated: Sep 16, 2006 15:29 IST

The United States is looking for a person who shares its values and is committed to UN reforms as the new head of the world organisation, but does not see a consensus building around an Asian.

"There is not a consensus Asian candidate right now and I don't see signs of one emerging, honestly, right now," Kristen Silverberg, US assistant secretary of state for international organisations' affairs, said at a media briefing in Washington on Friday.

"There are five Asian candidates and they all enjoy some support, so we don't expect a consensus," he said. "But if there's an Asian candidate who's the strongest candidate and meets our criteria, then we are obviously prepared to support that person."

While US would be very enthusiastic about a strong Asian candidate who met its criteria, it's a long-standing US policy that it does not sign on to the concept of regional rotation. Silverberg said: "We don't think this automatically rotates between regions."

Washington hasn't endorsed any candidate as yet nor has it spoken publicly about the qualifications of any of the existing candidates, he said but added, "it's our view that we want somebody who is going to be, first, strongly committed to effective and sound management of the United Nations".

Silverberg also parried a question whether it would support South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon who has emerged as the front runner with the backing of all but one of the 15 security council members with a cryptic remark: "Again, we don't address that good, though."

India's Shashi Tharoor, currently UN undersecretary-general for public affairs, came in second in Thursday's straw poll. In third place was Surakiart Sathirathai, the Thai deputy prime minister, followed by Jordan's UN ambassador, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein. In last place was Jayantha Dhanapala, of Sri Lanka.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would discuss the question of a successor to incumbent Kofi Annan with her counterparts, Silverberg said.

"The UN isn't a talk-shop anymore. It's not just a political organisation in New York. It's an organisation that has more than 70,000 peacekeepers deployed. It has development and humanitarian programmes all over the world," he said.

"So we want somebody who's going to be a good manager and committed to continued reform of the United Nations. We also want somebody who's going to share our values - the importance of promoting democracy around the world and a commitment to human rights," he said.

At the same time, US will not insist on a person from a democracy as the secretary-general serves in his or her personal capacity and doesn't represent a national government.

"The important thing is that we have a leader who's going to help make the UN an effective organisation in supporting democracy promotion efforts and in defending human rights," Silverberg said.

First Published: Sep 16, 2006 10:58 IST