Former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores has withdrawn his candidacy to head the Organization of America States, just days ahead of the scheduled vote.

Mr. Flores' decision to step aside Friday leaves two candidates in Monday's election -- Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.

Officials from 34 nations will meet in Washington to choose a new secretary-general. Mr. Flores said he wanted to avoid splitting regional votes with Mexico's candidate, Mr. Derbez.

The United States, which endorsed Mr. Flores' candidacy, says it respects his decision. A State Department official says Washington will consult with its OAS partners to elect the best possible candidate.

The post became vacant in October, when former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez resigned to face corruption charges at home.