March 20, 2010
I am infected by the peace virus, says President Lula as he seeks UN job
Dom Phillips in São Paulo, James Bone in New York
President Lula Da Silva of Brazil, who joked recently that he was “infected by the peace virus”, is considering an attempt at becoming the next UN Secretary-General.
Diplomats say that Mr Lula Da Silva, who must leave office in January, may seek the world’s top diplomatic post when Ban Ki Moon’s first term expires at the end of 2011. The idea is understood to have been first floated by President Sarkozy at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September.
Veja, a Brazilian magazine, reported that “more than one person” had sounded out Mr Lula Da Silva out for the job.
Asked by The Times, Marco Aurélio Garcia, the President’s top foreign policy adviser, declined to rule out the possibility: “He has a great interest in international questions, in the process of integration in South America,” Mr Garcia said. “He has a real passion for Africa. He really wants to do something to help Africa.” But first, Mr Garcia joked, Mr Lula Da Silva wanted to see Brazil beat England in the World Cup and then take a month’s holiday.
Political insiders in Brasilia say the charismatic former shoe-shine boy and trade union leader, who has been President since 2002, would like to succeed Mr Ban.
“Everyone in his inner circle is talking about this ... He wouldn’t object,” said Igor Gielow, managing editor of the Brasilia bureau of Folha de São Paulo, the country’s biggest newspaper.
Brazil elects a new president in October, with Mr Lula Da Silva — who still has a 73 per cent approval rating after two terms — due to stand down three months later.
His folksy, personal style and ability to be friends with all sides — China and the US, Iran and Israel — have elevated his international profile. His latest foray into international affairs came this week with a maverick peace mission to the Middle East. Addressing President Peres and Israeli businessmen, Mr Lula said: “The peace virus has been within me since I was in my mother’s womb.”
He has, however, taken positions that offend Britain and the US — either of which could veto his appointment. He upset Washington by hosting Iran’s President Ahmadinejad in November and by speaking against sanctions. He has also sided with Argentina in the Falklands tussle.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, is said to have found his world peace ambitions almost laughably naive.
Diplomats expect Mr Ban, a cautious former South Korean Foreign Minister, to seek and win a second five-year term. Even if he does not run, Asian countries are likely to insist it is still Asia’s turn.