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Ex-Portuguese PM set to be new UN chief

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UNITED NATIONS: Antonio Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, is poised to become the next United Nations secretary general, as none of the five veto-wielding permanent members voted against him in a secret ballot on Wednesday.

In a rare show of unity, all 15 ambassadors of the Security Council emerged from the sixth in a series of straw polls to announce that they had agreed on Mr Guterres, who was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a decade, and that they would confirm the choice in a formal vote on Thursday.

As the UN’s refugee chief, Mr Guterres made impassioned appeals to the conscience of the international community over the worst refugee crisis since the World War Two, and he vowed to carry on being a spokesman for the “downtrodden” if he became the UN secretary general.

“Today after our sixth straw poll we have a clear favourite and his name is Antonio Guterres,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters with his 14 council colleagues standing behind him.

“We have decided to go to a formal vote tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, and we hope it can be done by acclamation.”

The announcement came as a big shock to the East European countries who were sure this time one of theirs would be picked to lead the world body.

Besides, there were vociferous calls to elect a woman to lead the 193-member states body for the first time in 71 years.

Many observers had expected the selection process to go on late into October as the major powers struggled to promote their favourite candidates.

Mr Guterres said during one debate, “I am totally committed because of what I felt as head of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years.”

The contest to replace Ban Ki-moon as secretary general began in April with public hearings in the UN General Assembly.

 

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