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South Korean Seen as Shoo-In for UN Top Job


South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon has won an informal U.N. Security Council poll, virtually ensuring that he will be the world body's next secretary-general.

South Korean foreign minister Ban emerged Monday as the almost certain choice to become the eighth U.N. Secretary-General.

In an informal straw poll of the Security Council, Ban was the only one of six candidates who did not receive a disqualifying vote from one of the five permanent veto-wielding members.

As he emerged from the secret balloting session, America's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States was pleased with the choice.

"To the United Sates government he's well-known, highly-respected; I know him personally, I have since he served in the South Korean mission, in the embassy in Washington in the early 1990s when we collaborated on the successful motion to have both North and South Korea to join the United Nations," he said. "He's had extensive experience in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, he's a foreign minister of a treaty ally of the United States, so we know him and respect him."

The 62-year old South Korean foreign minister is known as a low-key but effective diplomat. China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Ban was the most qualified of the candidates available.

"He's experienced. He's low-key but very firm and he's decisive, but sometimes Asians show that quality in a different way," commented Wang. "So I do hope he will be a good candidate for secretary-general."

Indian author and U.N. Undersecretary-General for Public Information Shashi Tharoor finished second in all four informal straw polls. After the results became public, he conceded defeat.

"I've just written to Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon to express my warmest congratulations on the outcome of today's poll in the Security Council," he said. "It is clear that he will be our next secretary-general. It is a great honor and a great responsibility to be secretary-general, and I wish Mr. Ban every success in that task."

A formal vote of the Council will be held October 9. The nomination must then be approved by the 192-member General Assembly.

The new secretary-general will take office January 1, when Kofi Annan steps down after 10 years in the U.N.'s top job.