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Ban Ki-Moon Formally Elected as Next UN Secretary-General

The U.N. General Assembly has formally approved the nomination of South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon as the world body's next secretary-general. He takes office January 1. The approval came by acclimation.

The Assembly broke into sustained applause when Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa asked delegates to accept Mr. Ban's nomination as Secretary general.

"May I take it that it is the wish of the General Assembly to adopt the draft resolution by acclamation. (applause) It is so decided," he said.

The outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan warmly welcomed Mr. Ban as his successor. Mr. Annan told the packed Assembly hall the often-criticized secret process of selecting the world's diplomat-in-chief had worked, largely because of Mr. Ban's exceptional qualifications.

"Mr. Ban, I think everyone here recognizes the depth of your experience, the breadth of your connections, and your ability to co-operate effectively at the highest levels. As someone who has known and worked with you for several years, I think they will soon discover something more, if they do not see it already: a future secretary-general who is exceptionally attuned to the sensitivities of countries and constituencies in every continent," he said.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Ban returned his successor's compliment, paying tribute to Mr. Annan's leadership. "You, Mr. Secretary-General, you have astutely guided this organization into the 21st century, You have defined an ambitious agenda that has made U.N. truly indispensable to peace, prosperity and human dignity around the world. Our debt to your courage and vision is immeasurable. I resolve to build upon your legacy," he said.

In a moving speech, Mr. Ban recalled his youth, and noted the role the world body played in allowing him to rise to the organization's highest rank.

"My heart is overflowing with gratitude toward my country and people who have sent me here to serve. It has been a long journey from my youth in war-torn and destitute Korea to this rostrum and these awesome responsibility. I could make the journey because the U.N. was with my people in the darkest days. It gave us hope and sustenance, security and dignity. It showed us a better way," he said.

Mr. Ban said he would spend the next couple months studying ways to reform and revitalize an organization that struggled under the weight of administrative scandals at home and sex scandals among its far-flung peacekeeping operations.

He hailed his appointment as evidence of Asia's rise on the world stage, and noted that Asia's hallmark has been modesty of demeanor. But he emphasized that has not meant modesty of vision or goals. He pledged his tenure would be marked by a quiet determination of action to get things done without fanfare.

"We should be more modest in our words, but not in performance. The true measure of success for the U.N. is not how much we promise, but how much we deliver for those who need us most," he said.

The 62-year old Mr. Ban will take the helm of the world body after a distinguished diplomatic career.

He joined the South Korean foreign ministry in 1970, after graduating from the prestigious Seoul National University. He later earned a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University.

He has served in various posts at the United Nations, including a term as South Korea's ambassador, and has played a key role in trying to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. He has been South Korea's foreign minister since January, 2004.

He will be the second Asian to lead the world body. U Thant of Burma served as secretary-general from 1961 to 1971.