By Tom McParland
THE US ambassador opened Security Council discussions on the next UN secretary-general calling the choice of a replacement for Kofi Annan probably the most important decision the world body will make this year.
US Ambassador John Bolton, council president this month, called a meeting of the five veto-wielding permanent members in New York "to get a sense of where the council is".
Mr Annan’s second five-year term ends on December 31 and his successor must be recommended by the council whose permanent members - the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - are divided on the issue.
The current candidates for the job are all Asian, including South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon, Thai deputy premier Surakiart Sathirathai, Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala, an adviser to President Mahinda Rajapakse and former UN undersecretary general for disarmament, and East Timor’s Nobel peace prize-winning foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta.
"We believe, with more than two billion people, Asia can provide the best qualified candidates," said China’s UN ambassador Wang Guangya.
Britain is thought to favour a European candidate. Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski is heavily touted while Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and British leader Tony Blair have also been mentioned.