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Blair eyes plum job in UN after PM days

London, June 3: Tony Blair is keeping open the option of a move to New York with his wife Cherie for a top job at a revamped United Nations after he steps down as Prime Minister, British government sources have indicated.

Downing Street refused last night to rule out the possibility of a transatlantic switch for the Blairs, which would allow them to be nearer their eldest, Euan, 22, who starts a masters degree course in international relations at Yale University in September.

Such a move would not only keep Blair, who is only 53, on the world stage after he quits but also offer money-spinning possibilities for the couple on the lecture circuit, and a glamourous new way of life.

A spokesman for Blair was careful not to dismiss the idea, saying merely that he did not want to enter discussions about the Prime Minister’s long-term future.

He added that it was “highly unlikely” that a Briton would be selected as the next secretary-general to succeed Kofi Annan, who ends his term on December 31, as the job had been earmarked for someone from an Asian nation and had never gone to a country in the Permanent Five: Britain, the US, France, Russia and China.

There would also be stiff opposition, including from the Arab representative on the Security Council, to the appointment of the man who, with President George W. Bush, invaded Iraq.

But speculation that Blair may be looking to the long term ' and eyeing another United Nations post ' has grown in diplomatic circles and Whitehall since he outlined his personal blueprint for UN reform in a speech last week at Georgetown University.

As well as floating ideas on how to strengthen the secretary-general’s powers, he suggested creating a new UN environment organisation to deal with challenges such as climate change and a single UN humanitarian organisation for predicting and reacting to crises across the world.

In a section that struck diplomats, he said the world’s multi-national organisations were completely ill-suited to the 21st century. “Increasingly there is a hopeless mismatch between the global challenges we face and the global institutions to face them,” he said.

A former foreign minister said the speech “read very much like a job application”.

Within the UN it is seen as more likely that Blair could hope for ad hoc roles akin to former US President Bill Clinton’s position as special envoy for tsunami relief after the disaster on Boxing Day 2004.

UN officials were made aware of last Friday’s speech in advance but it was not seen in the UN building as an “opening salvo of a campaign”, a source said. China is adamant that the next post should go to an Asian and it is hard to see how the British could bend Beijing their way.

This year Clinton said he believed that Blair would be well-suited to the role of secretary-general.

Another post that may attract Blair, who has promised to give his successor as Labour leader and Prime Minister “ample time” to settle in before the next election, is that of the permanent president of the European Council of EU leaders.

The post was to be created under the EU constitution but has been killed off after No votes in France and the Netherlands. However, there is broad agreement that the position should still come into being to give the EU clearer policy direction and greater clout on the world stage.

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