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Tufts Grad Eyed For Top UN Post

Tufts Grad Eyed For Top UN PostWhenKofi Annan steps down as Secretary-General in 2006, many thinkThai foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai will be his replacement.NewYork City

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.29.04] Two years remain in Kofi Annan’sterm as United Nations Secretary-General, but the rumors abouthis replacement have already begun to swirl. Among the early favoritesis Thai foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai – a Fletcher-educateddiplomat who could become the first Asian to head the U.N. inmore than three decades.

“Aconfident man with a regal, almost beefy bearing, Surakiart, 46,is a former oil company executive and powerful former financeminister who negotiated intellectual property rights treatieswith Washington and coped with the collapse of the Thai economy,”reported the Washington Times.

For awhilenow, Thailand has been quietly lobbying to establish Sathirathaias a strong candidate to replace Annan when he steps down in 2006.

On Tuesday,the Fletcher graduate received a significant public boost fromthe Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which formally endorsedhim for the Secretary-General post.

“TheUnited Nations is such an important organization. Of course Iam honored by the endorsement,” Sathirathai told the Times.

Though largelysymbolic, the gesture is expected to have a tangible effect.

“Surakiart'sendorsement effectively cuts off the rumored candidacies of anumber of distinguished applicants from the region, includingSingapore's former U.N. ambassador and author Kishore Mahbubani,former Philippine Foreign Minister Domingo Siazon, and formerIndonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas,” reported the Times.

But the Fletchergraduate – described as “leading the horserace”among potential candidates – still has a long road aheadof him, if he hopes to become Annan’s replacement.

“Likemany senior U.N. positions, the position of secretary-generalrotates among the world's major regions,” reported the Times.“That pattern was disrupted when Africa received an extraturn after Egypt's Boutros Boutros-Ghali was denied the traditionalsecond term, but it is commonly agreed that it will be Asia'sturn next.”

But not everyonethinks it’s Asia’s turn.

“Apush by some members of New Europe could bring one of their ownto the fore,” reported the New York Sun, whichalso noted that there has never been a Secretary-General fromNorth America.

And thereare several other prominent Asian diplomats who may challengeSurakairt over the next 24 months.

“Onesuch candidate whose name is whispered around the halls of theworld body is the undersecretary-general for public information,Shashi Tharoor, an Indian-born, British-educated writer with aHollywood flair,” reported the Sun.

Also a Tuftsgraduate, Tharoor has downplayed his chances.

"Thesecretary-general is barely halfway through his second term,”Tharoor told the Sun. “We all have a great dealof work to do to fulfill what remains to be accomplished in thisterm, and we're all concentrating on that. I am certainly focusedon that."

Like Tharoor,Surakairt says he is focused on his diplomatic work, not the behind-the-scenescampaigning.

In a majoraddress to the U.N. General Assembly, the Fletcher graduate calledfor major reforms aimed at keeping the organization from “sinkinginto irrelevance.”

“Itis Thailand’s belief that given today’s internationallandscape, there is greater need than ever to create new layersof regional and subregional building blocks to strengthen theUN multilateral foundation,” Surakiart said. “Forwhat it is and for what it will be, the UN is the creation ofits members. So in demanding more of the UN, we must also demandmore of ourselves.”

 

 

 

 

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