UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia said a successor to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should be an Asian and threw cold water on U.S. suggestions that the next top U.N. diplomat could come from any region in the world.
"We prefer to follow the traditional way of tackling the issue, of handling the matter of election of new secretary general," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Andrei Denisov said on Thursday. He added that it was Asia's turn for job.
Denisov also disagreed with U.S. Ambassador John Bolton's proposal that the selection process be completed by midyear, saying it might sideline Annan, who completes 10 years in office on Dec. 31.
"We don't consider Mr. Annan as somebody considering retirement, "Denisov told a news conference. "He is active and working effectively and must work until the end of his term."
"Some items of the (U.N.) reform agenda have been delayed, like enlargement of the Security Council," Denisov said.
"We are fed up with aggravations by starting discussions on a secretary-general right now. It will only bring a mess to the reform process," he added.
Some envoys have suggested a job description but Denisov said that too was unnecessary. Past office holders have been drawn from the diplomatic corps or, in Annan's case, from the U.N. bureaucracy.
The U.N. Charter states that a secretary-general is to be appointed by the General Assembly at the recommendation of the 15-nation Security Council, which means Russia as well as the United States, Britain, France and China have veto power.
In the past, the five permanent council members have waited until the last moment to make a choice, blackballing each other's candidate to see who is left standing.
This year Bolton has made clear that "we are looking for candidates to declare themselves from all over the world so we can have the broadest possible field to follow up on."
Bolton has also said that Eastern Europeans should be eligible for the post since they had not held the job before.
But Denisov said only that he had not heard "practical proposals" from the eastern Europeans.
But he said that "those who support the Asian option would like to have one candidate supported by all (of) Asia."
Asians who have expressed interest in the job include Jayantha Dhanapala, advisor to the president of Sri Lanka and a former U.N. undersecretary-general for disarmament; South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon and Surakiart Sathirathai, the deputy prime minister of Thailand.
The only Asian to have been U.N. secretary-general was U Thant of Burma, now Myanmar, who served from 1961 until 1971.
But there are no candidates from such nations as China, India, Pakistan or Japan for a variety of political reasons.
From eastern Europe, the names mentioned most frequently are former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
Vike-Freiberga, Dhanapala and Ban appeared on the same stage at last month's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with the audience assuming all were candidates.
The Latvian president has not spoken about the post but one senior council envoy commented that "she's probably interested but knows Russia would not approve."
Annan, a U.N. career diplomat from Ghana won the Nobel Peace Prize and was easily elected to a second five-year term.
But after the $64 billion Iraq oil-for-food scandal and the current struggle to reform the organization, Bolton said the United States was looking for a strong administrator outside of the U.N. system "who has strong management experience."
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