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Tharoor wows African leaders

He kicked off his campaign roadshow with a charm offensive at African Union summit in Banjul.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2006 15:36 IST

Shashi Tharoor kicked off his campaign roadshow with a charm offensive at the recently concluded African Union summit at Banjul in Gambia.

In his speech at a special session of the ministerial executive council of the 53-nation AU summit, Tharoor promised to focus on African issues in the future, if elected.

Tharoor, who is currently UN Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, alluded to India's traditional relationship with Africa to underline his sincerity in solving problems of the continent if he is elected to world body's top post.

"He presented his candidature at this august gathering in the framework of India's traditionally close relations with African countries and his impeccable credentials," a statement by the Indian delegation to the AU summit said on Tuesday.

In his address, Tharoor, who was a special invitee at the state banquet hosted by the Gambia President Yahya Jammeh, spelt out his vision for the UN and emphasized that "both continuity and change were important" for the rejuvenation of the world body. He recalled Mahatma Gandhi's exhortation that those who want change should become a part of it.

"Tharoor's address was received with overwhelming acclamation," the statement added.

"African leaders responded to Tharoor's candidature in highly supportive terms, underlining the warmth and friendship characterizing the relations between India and African countries," the statement added.

"They appreciated that Tharoor had chosen the AU Summit to launch his campaign after his candidature was officially announced by government of India," the statement stressed.

Two other candidates from Asia for the post of the UNGA -- Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea Ban Ki-Moon and Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Surakiart Sathirathai -- were also present with very large delegations and spent several days in Banjul.

Tharoor, an author of 8 books and innumerable newspaper articles, spoke in both English and French and his bilingual flair was appreciated by the African leaders who often erupted into applause as the diplomat-novelist waxed lyrical about India-Africa ties and how the vast UN resources could be harnessed for the development of the continent if he was elected to the office.

Shashi Tripathi, secretary (West) in the ministry of external affairs, led the Indian delegation to the AU summit.

"He candidly referred to the hotspots in Africa and the kind of solutions that were necessary and how the UN could further facilitate these matters," a press release from the Indian embassy in Ethiopia said on Tuesday.

Tharoor also met the leaders of other influential African countries at the summit like Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania and foreign ministers of a score of African countries to convince them about his personal commitment to the socio-economic rejuvenation of Africa.

Special meetings were held with the African members of the UN Security Council -- Ghana, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo.