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Russian Envoy Says Next UN Chief Should Be Eastern European Woman

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova (left) and European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva are both candidates to become the next UN secretary-general.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova (left) and European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva are both candidates to become the next UN secretary-general.

Russia's United Nations Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow would like to see a woman and an Eastern European take the top UN job after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaves next year.

"We do believe that it's the turn of Eastern Europe to provide the next secretary-general. We would very much like to see a woman," he said on October 3, as two Eastern European women campaigned for the post.

By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions of the world. Officials from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Western Europe have all held the world's top diplomatic post.

Churkin, who holds the UN Security Council's rotating presidency this month, did not indicate which candidate he supports but said that after taking a straw poll on October 5 that the council will move to a formal vote within a few days.

"Then things will become clear as to: Do we have a candidate who we are prepared to recommend to the General Assembly...Or do we need to start from scratch?" he said.

Under the UN Charter, the secretary-general is elected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. In practice, this has meant that the five permanent council members with veto power -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France -- have the final say.

Bulgaria last week nominated a diplomat and former World Bank vice president, Kristalina Georgieva. She campaigned for the job on October 3, telling the UN General Assembly: "Our problem in the world today is that goodness is quiet. Hate is very loud. You can hear it everywhere. Should I be selected to be secretary-general, my job would be to amplify the voice of goodness."

Since Geogieva's late entry into the race, two other East European candidates who fared poorly in straw polls have dropped out: Croatia's former Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Igor Luksic.

Both of those candidate endorsed Georgieva, along with the governments of Hungary and Latvia.

However, one other candidate previously nominated by Bulgaria, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova, has stayed in the race despite making a poor showing in straw polls against the front-runner for the job: former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.

Bokova is considered more pro-Russian than Georgieva, who currently is vice president of the European Commission.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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