Council backs former Portugal PM to be next UN chief

UNITED NATIONS • The UN Security Council has unanimously backed Mr Antonio Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal who was the United Nations' refugee chief for a decade, to be the next secretary-general.

During a closed-door meeting yesterday, the 15 council members adopted a resolution formally presenting Mr Guterres as their choice to be the world's diplomat-in-chief to the General Assembly. Diplomats at the session said applause rang out following adoption of the measure recommending Mr Guterres for a five-year term from Jan 1.

The 67-year-old socialist politician, who will be the first former head of government to become UN chief, has pledged to revamp the global diplomatic body to boost its peacemaking efforts and promote human rights.

A vote by the assembly's 193 member states to endorse the successor to Mr Ban Ki Moon is expected next week, probably on Thursday.

The unanimous backing for Mr Guterres followed an informal vote on Wednesday during which 13 of the 15 members supported his candidacy and none of the five veto-holding powers blocked him.

Speaking in Rome, Mr Ban hailed Mr Guterres as a "superb choice", saying "his wide knowledge of world affairs and lively intellect will serve him well in leading the UN in a critical period".

The choice of Mr Guterres confounded some UN diplomats who did not expect such an outspoken candidate with strong political experience to win support from the permanent council members: Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States.

Mr Guterres will be confronted with a long list of pressing world crises when he takes over the world body in January, from the war in Syria to the refugee crisis. "The role of the UN has never been as important as it is today, and for that, Mr Guterres is the right leader," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2016, with the headline 'Council backs former Portugal PM to be next UN chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe