UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday proposed that Jordan's U.N. ambassador, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, replace Navi Pillay as the United Nations' human rights chief based in Geneva, the world body's press office said.
The nomination will now go to the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly for approval. Several U.N. diplomats said there was unlikely to be any resistance to the appointment given that Prince Zeid is generally popular and has established a solid reputation as a human rights advocate.
Prince Zeid, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Cambridge University, has previously served as Jordan's ambassador to the United States and Mexico. He was also a political affairs officer in UNPROFOR, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan conflict.
Last year Prince Zeid was among the U.N. envoys who called for a boycott of a U.N. meeting on international justice the United States and others described as "inflammatory" and a forum to merely complain about the treatment of Serbs in war crimes tribunals. The session was organised by a Serbian politician who chaired the General Assembly at the time.
If approved as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid will replace Pillay, a South African jurist who in 2012 was given an abbreviated second term of only two years due to criticism the United States, which disliked her criticism of Israel, U.N. diplomats said at the time.
In 2012, Syria also made clear it was not a fan of Pillay, whom the Syrian delegation described as "hostile" towards the government of President Bashar al-Assad because of its approach to the country's civil war, now in its fourth year.
Pillay has accused the Syrian government of war crimes and called for the conflict to be referred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Last month Russia and China vetoed a French-drafted resolution that would have brought the Syrian conflict to the ICC.
The Jordanian diplomat who will replace Prince Zeid as Amman's U.N. ambassador is Dina Kawar, who will become the sixth female to head a delegation on the U.N. Security Council. Jordan will be on the 15-nation council through the end of 2015.
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bernard Orr)