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Outgoing US Agriculture Secretary to Head UNICEF

Outgoing Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman is to become head of the United Nations Children's Fund. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made the announcement as he returned from a trip to countries hit by the Asian tsunami.

Secretary-General Annan told reporters he plans to nominate Ann Veneman to succeed Carol Bellamy, a former New York City council president, who has headed UNICEF for the past 10 years.

"It is correct that Ms. Anne Veneman is my candidate for the UNICEF position," he said. "I will be submitting a recommendation to the Board very shortly."

Ms. Veneman, a 55-year-old lawyer, grew up on a farm in the western state of California. She was the first woman to hold the post of agriculture secretary. She had previously served in the administrations of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Mr. Annan interviewed Ms. Veneman last month during a visit to Washington.

The U.N. children's agency was founded in 1946 to help impoverished youth after World War II. It has more than 7,000 employees in 158 countries worldwide. Its main mission is to protect the rights of children, promote the education of girls, and to help youngsters overcome violence, disease, and discrimination.

UNICEF is primarily funded by the United States, and the U.S. president traditionally recommends a nominee to the secretary general.

The outgoing UNICEF chief, Ms. Bellamy, is a Democrat. She was chosen by President Bill Clinton in 1995, after serving as director of the Peace Corps. Her second five-year term as UNICEF director expires at the end of April.