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Latvian president to run for UN secretary general

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060916/ts_afp/latviaun Latvian president to run for UN secretary general 1 hour, 32 minutes ago RIGA (AFP) - Latvian President
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 16, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060916/ts_afp/latviaun

      Latvian president to run for UN secretary general

      1 hour, 32 minutes ago

      RIGA (AFP) - Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga
      announced that she will run for the post of
      United Nations Secretary General, becoming the first
      woman and sole European candidate in the race to
      replace Kofi Annan.

      "Upon the invitation of the governments of Latvia,
      Estonia and Lithuania, I wish to announce my candidacy
      for the position of Secretary General of the United
      Nations," Vike-Freiberga told reporters in Riga
      Saturday.

      "I have made this decision with full responsibility.
      Today, the UN is at a crossroads and faces two
      choices: to address the challenges of the 21st century
      through the combined efforts of all member states, and
      create effective mechanisms for taking action, or to
      lose its influence in the international community,"
      she said.

      Vike-Freiberga is the first woman and the sixth
      candidate to be nominated as the possible successor to
      Annan, whose mandate expires at the end of the year.

      She is also the only nominee from Europe, running
      against candidates who are predominantly from Asia.

      By unwritten convention, the position of secretary
      general rotates by geographical region, with the next
      incumbent expected to be drawn from Asia.

      But the United States and certain Western countries
      have said they want the post to go to the best
      qualified candidate, regardless of geographic origins.
      Vike-Freiberga was named last year by Annan as one of
      five envoys on a panel tasked with promoting plans for
      sweeping reforms of the United Nations.

      Diplomats have said that Washington would back a
      candidate from a former communist bloc country in
      eastern or central Europe, a region which has never
      been represented in what is widely considered the most
      influential role in the United Nations.

      But militating against her chances of being elected is
      the fact that permanent Security Council members China
      and Russia are unlikely to back her candidacy.

      The UN secretary general is appointed by the General
      Assembly on the recommendation of the Security
      Council.

      The five, veto-empowered permanent members of the
      Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and
      the United States -- are key in deciding who is chosen
      for the post.

      China has said repeatedly that Annan's replacement
      should be Asian, and Russia is believed unlikely to
      give its backing to a nominee from a former Soviet
      Republic -- and, in particular, to Latvia, which
      Moscow has accused of violating the rights of minority
      Russians living in the Baltic state.

      If Vike-Freiberga were elected, she would become the
      first woman secretary general of the United Nations.

      "With my formal decision to run for the post of UN
      Secretary General, I wish to encourage women all over
      the world to continue their efforts to challenge
      prejudices and stereotypes. Half of humankind has
      never been represented at the helm of the UN. It is
      time to change this practice, which fails to reflect
      the structure of the world population," Vike-Freiberga
      said Saturday.

      Vike-Freiberga, 68, grew up in French Morocco, after
      her family fled the advance of Soviet forces into
      Latvia in 1944, acquiring French languages skills for
      which she was later praised by French
      President Jacques Chirac.

      She was an unknown quantity when first elected
      president of Latvia in 1999, having spent much of the
      Soviet-era in exile in Canada, where she became a
      psychology professor at McGill University in Montreal.

      She gained prominence during her first four-year term,
      working tirelessly to secure Latvia's entry to the EU
      and especially to NATO. Latvia joined both the
      European bloc and the transatlantic military alliance
      in 2004.

      A polyglot, fluent in English, French, German and her
      native Latvian, Vike-Freiberga will be running against
      South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, UN Deputy
      Secretary General Shashi Tharoor of India, Thai Deputy
      Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, Jordanian Prince
      Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, and Sri Lankan diplomat
      Jayantha Dhanapala.
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