Chung Sung-jun  /  Getty Images
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon seen here on Wednesday in a parliamentary committee meeting in Seoul, South Korea, is the frontrunner in the race to succeed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
updated 10/4/2006 9:16:31 AM ET 2006-10-04T13:16:31

South Korea’s foreign minister, the clear favorite to become the next U.N. secretary-general, vowed Tuesday to pursue crucial reforms of the world body if elected and to seek a peaceful resolution to North Korea’s nuclear standoff.

Ban Ki-moon, 62, cemented his position to succeed Kofi Annan after an informal poll Monday by the 15 U.N. Security Council members showed 14, including the five veto-wielding members, voted in favor of Ban. He received one “no opinion” ballot cast by one of the 10 rotating members.

Ban was the only one to escape a veto, while each of the five other candidates received at least one “no” vote from the five permanent members of the council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

“I am deeply grateful for the trust and support the Security Council nations have shown to me. For me, personally, it is a great honor,” Ban told South Korean reporters Tuesday. He also said he felt “a great responsibility since the U.N. has many roles to play for peace and security of the international community as well as human rights protection and development.”

U.N. Security Council diplomats offered near universal approval Tuesday for Ban’s candidacy — breaking with the traditional practice of guarding their governments’ preferences.

Security Council support
China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said it was “quite clear” that the Security Council will recommend Ban to the General Assembly for approval. A formal Security Council vote is set for next Monday.

Russia considers Ban “a highly qualified professional who can successfully carry out the duties of U.N. secretary-general,” its Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement Tuesday.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Aso said it would be “good” for Ban to become the next U.N. chief because Japan wants an Asian to take the post next.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said Ban’s “all-round experience, what he’s offering has been judged by everybody to be the best contribution that we could see coming from those candidates.”

“For the U.K., we look forward very much to working with him,” Jones-Parry said.

U.N. Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor of India, the biggest threat to Ban’s campaign for the top U.N. post, dropped out of the race after Monday’s informal poll — the fourth of its kind — showed Ban was the clear winner.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun congratulated Ban on Tuesday “for the good results,” Roh’s office said. During a five-minute telephone conversation, Roh encouraged Ban to “do his best throughout the remaining procedures.”

Reform pledge
In Seoul, Ban said that if elected he would push for reform of the United Nations, which has been criticized for its ineffectiveness in dealing with global issues.

“There have been many changes around the world during the past 60 years ... various threats that we have not experienced in the past,” Ban said. “So it is true that there have been doubts and criticism over whether the U.N. has responded appropriately and effectively.”

“The U.N. has a great task to exercise a more positive, efficient and effective leadership to manage well the challenges and tasks of the 21st century through reform,” he said. “If I become the secretary-general, I will exert greatest efforts for this through close cooperation with the U.N. member countries.”

He also pledged to help resolve the international standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program, saying he would use his expertise in dealing with the communist nation “to give a boost to issues concerning peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.”

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