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UN: Macedonian Elected As Next General Assembly President

Srgjan Kerim (file photo) (GNU) UNITED NATIONS, May 25, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim has been elected president of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly. His term begins in September.

Kerim says he will work to support the reform processes initiated by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and continued by current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Kerim is well known within the UN system, where he served as Macedonia's ambassador from 2001 to 2003.

In his acceptance speech on May 24, Kerim said he views the United Nations not only as a political forum but as a place of "networking" for business, educational, and other purposes.

Not Just Politics

Globalization, he said, affects everyone's life in a profound way. He said that, as the next president of the UN General Assembly, he will keep this in mind at all times.

"I believe in a United Nations which [is] an organization not only of intergovernmental character but a network which cooperates closely with business circles, with universities, with media, with NGOs," Kerim said.

Kerim will succeed the current president, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

Kerim noted that although the term of the General Assembly president is for only one year, the work of the president becomes part of processes that often take years to conclude.

One of these processes, he said, is reform of the UN Security Council.

"There is no magic stick of the president or of the secretary-general which can make things go or stop," Kerim argued. "I don't think it's a problem of the organization always, and that it is inherent to the United Nations that they are not efficient by definition, by default. No, it's sometimes the lack of political will of the states. And this is why we have to take care of them and to ask all the states to try to make this effort to come to a solution."

What The President Does

The General Assembly acts as the main forum for UN members to discuss issues of international law and to make decisions regarding the functioning of the organization.

The president oversees the procedural aspects of the General Assembly's work. The president does not vote on General Assembly decisions, but has control over all aspects of discussions and negotiations, including time limits for speakers, closure of the list of speakers, suspension or adjournment of debate, and ruling on points of order.

The president also has an informal role to play by consulting bilaterally with delegations to assess differences in positions, proposing solutions, and building consensus.

Kerim said one of his priorities will be to promote dialogue among nations and cultures and to find common ground between different religions and world views.

"I am also ready to visit religious leaders, to talk to them [about] how to promote this issue, because I think it's not only terrorism," he said. "There are many other areas in the world where we have tensions and frictions just because of that -- because there is a lack of understanding of each other."

His excellent command of English and French, as well as his solid economic background, are said to give him an edge in maneuvering through the UN's complex administrative system.

The president of the General Assembly is elected by a simple majority vote.

The post rotates annually by regions. Kerim was selected by Eastern European nations.