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High post for Indian at UN in flux

Washington, Feb. 23: Vijay Nambiar, Indiaís deputy national security adviser, is to be appointed adviser to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

When he assumes charge of his new post on April 1, Nambiar will handle one of the most sensitive jobs in the UNís present critical phase.

Annanís term ends on December 31 and there is no agreement yet on his successor.

Nambiar is being appointed on a one-year contract and will, therefore, play a role in the transition from Annan to a new UN chief.

His role has been enhanced because Annanís deputy, Louise Frechette, resigned in December. She has been asked to stay at her post until April, when Nambiar will arrive in New York.

Nambiarís appointment fills a void left by several high-profile departures from the UN recently. These include Pakistani Iqbal Reza, who was Annanís chief of staff, and Singapore Indian Dileep Nair, who was head of the UN office of internal oversight services.

Former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi also left his post as adviser to Annan recently. Brahimi has handled a string of sensitive assignments on behalf of successive UN chiefs in Afghanistan, Haiti, South Africa, Nigeria and Sudan.

Since their departures, there has been no significant Third World diplomat in Annanís decision-making circle.

The senior-most Indian at the UN is Shashi Tharoor, under-secretary-general for communications and public information. He was executive assistant to the secretary-general till 2001, when he left the job to head his own department.

Nambiarís choice is, therefore, seen as a recognition not only for India, but for all developing countries in the UN at a time when Asia is claiming its due in the world body.

It is also an acknowledgement that Asiaís claim in the negotiations to find a successor to Annan cannot be ignored, though Asian nations have so far failed to offer a common name.

Nambiar brings to the secretary-generalís inner circle the rare experience of six postings as Indian ambassador: these include critical stations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Algeria.

Before becoming national security adviser, Nambiar was Indiaís permanent representative to the UN in New York.

He was there at a time when the UN faced the most critical challenge in its history, an effort by the Bush administration to bend the world body to its will in invading Iraq.

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