The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tharoor off to a good beginning
- UN aspirant comes second in straw poll

New York, July 25: Shashi Tharoor, India’s candidate for the post of UN secretary-general, who entered the race two years after some of his rivals, scored an impressive second place in the Security Council’s first straw poll for the job yesterday.

Tharoor was only two votes behind South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki Moon: Ban received 12 endorsements from council members and Tharoor 10.

“Considering I have entered the race just a month ago and am the only candidate who hasn’t visited all 15 capitals (of council members), I am gratified to have received such a broad base of support in the council,” Tharoor told The Telegraph in a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur.

“I believe this result marks a good beginning on which I hope to build in subsequent ballots,” he said.

Three of the four declared candidates to succeed Kofi Annan on January 1, 2007, are in Kuala Lumpur, where the Asean Ministerial Meeting is taking place this week.

Tharoor travels later today to Singapore, where a highly placed source categorically told this paper that the city state’s former Prime Minister and senior minister, Goh Chok Tong, will not be a candidate for the top UN job in September, when the next straw poll is held.

Yesterday’s straw poll was held in utmost secrecy with the president of the Security Council, France’s UN ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, insisting that all Security Council members use the same pen to tick their preferences to ensure the confidentiality of their votes.

But typically for the UN, the voting figures leaked within minutes of the conclusion of the straw poll.

Sabliere had devised a system of voting, which required the Security Council’s 15 members to choose their preference for each candidate under three categories: “encourage”, “discourage” or “no opinion”.

Two anonymous members voted to discourage Tharoor from pursuing his candidacy and three others had no opinion. One member voted to discourage front-runner Ban and two others had no opinion.

It is widely expected that Sri Lankan Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN undersecretary-general for disarmament, who came last in yesterday’s exercise will now drop out of the race.

At the same time, Tharoor’s strong showing has created unease in Pakistan, where urgent consultations are under way to nominate a candidate to neutralise the Indian nominee. Pakistani sources at the UN said the candidate is likely to be Maleeha Lodhi, Islamabad’s high commissioner in London.

Although Asean foreign ministers will issue a statement in Kuala Lumpur reiterating their support for the third-ranking candidate, Thai deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, his sputtering campaign received yet another setback yesterday.

The Asian Human Rights Commission accused Bangkok of “pursuing a policy of extra-judicial killings” with its emergency decree in Thailand’s southern provinces and demanded that the top UN job should be denied to Sathirathai who has responsibility for such human rights violations.

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