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OAS Deadlocked in Ballot for New Secretary-General

Delegates at the Organization of American States have failed to elect a new secretary-general after five secret ballots and put-off the next round of voting until May 2. The votes were evenly split between the candidates from Chile and Mexico.

Delegates at the Organization of American States held five separate votes in an effort to choose a new Secretary-General for the 34-nation group. But each time neither candidate obtained the requisite number of 18 votes.

Chile's Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza received 17 votes and Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez received 17.

Delegates then agreed to reconvene on May 2 to try again in the hope a new candidate will come forward to help break the deadlock. Officials from Mexico and Chile say their candidates will continue to seek the OAS top post.

The office of secretary-general has been vacant since last October, when Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the former Costa Rican president, resigned shortly after taking office to face corruption charges at home. He had been the first diplomat from Central America in the post in 60 years.

El Salvador's Foreign Minister Francisco Lainez says control of the organization's top job shouldn't be seen as a struggle between Central and South America.

He says some South American nations voted for the Mexican candidate,while some Caribbean nations voted for Chile's. He says the democratic process allows each member nation to support what it feels is most important for the hemisphere.

Monday's balloting was secret, but afterwards U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega said Washington is supporting Mexico's candidate. "I see no reason the United States would not continue its support for Minister Derbez," he said.

Mr. Derbez is an economist and former employee of the World Bank, while Mr. Insulza has worked as a lawyer and served in the government of Socialist President Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in 1973.

The main task of the OAS in recent years has been to support democracy in the Western Hemisphere. All its 34 members, except Haiti, have an elected government. Cuba was kicked out of the organization in 1962.