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India slides as Korea splurges on UN race

New York, Sept. 29: As India’s candidate for the UN secretary-general’s post, Shashi Tharoor, slipped in the race, the process of choosing the next UN chief has been clouded by allegations of vote-purchase by South Korea.

The Times, London, today published a report based on its investigations alleging that South Korea had distributed millions of dollars in inducements to members of the Security Council to vote for its foreign minister Ban Ki-moon.

Ban retained his lead in yesterday’s straw poll in the council and Tharoor remained in second place.

Nine positive votes is considered the viable minimum for a candidate. Tharoor got one less — two down from the last poll — and Ban four more.

The race will move into its next phase on Monday, when the five permanent members will vote for the seven candidates on blue ballot paper.

Following yesterday’s straw poll and the murky findings by The Times, a quiet search has already begun for a new candidate who can win overwhelming support. Intense diplomatic activity has been reported in several Southeast Asian capitals.

The London paper alleged that even a grand piano had changed hands in a South Korean gift to Peru, a non-permanent member of the council.

Seoul paid the entire expenses for the African Union summit held in Gambia in July, it said. South Korea declared that 2006 will be its “Year of Africa”.

Ban travelled to Dar-es-Salaam in May and announced $18 million in aid for Tanzania, also a non-permanent member. Tanzania has officially announced that it will vote for South Korea’s candidate.

Among other South Korean inducements to council members alleged by The Times are: a trebling of its aid budget to Africa to $100 million in the next two years, a new Korea cultural centre in Argentina, a bilateral agreement with Peru, and a $1-billion car factory in Slovakia.

As part of Seoul’s campaign on behalf of Ban, South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun took a business delegation to Athens and signed several agreements on trade, tourism and shipping.

Korea denied it was buying votes. “Allegations against Mr Ban Ki-moon and, moreover, the integrity of the Korean government do not correspond with the facts,” In Joon Chung, the spokesman for the Korean embassy in London, told The Times.

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