Jayanath Dhanapala, a veteran diplomat, has been proposed as an official candidate by the Sri Lankan government to succeed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he leaves the prestigious post at the end of his second term next year, reports said Tuesday.
Asian Tribune, an Asian newspaper, reported from London that Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry has asked its diplomatic missions to lobby for its candidate, Jayanath Dhanapala.
A former Under Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs at the UN, Dhanapala is a respected diplomat, the newspaper said.
Dhanapala's formal candidature was announced in the Sri Lankan parliament last December when Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said in reply to a question that the government had indeed tapped Dhanapala for the job.
Dhanapala who had a long and distinguished career in Sri Lanka's diplomatic service later joined the United Nations and is now heading the Colombo government's peace secretariat that is heavily involved in trying to kick start the stalemated talks with the LTTE, the Tamil Tiger rebels.
Dhanapala's name was thrown into the ring as a possible successor to Kofi Annan shortly after the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) endorsed the name of Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai as its candidate.
It is generally recognized that Annan's successor should come from Asia as the Asian continent has not had a UN Secretary-General since Burma's U Thant.
Burma, now known as Myanmar, is a member of ASEAN as is Thailand, one of the organisation's founder members. When Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Kadirgamar confirmed Dhanapala's candidature, he made it a point to underline that the principle of geographical rotation that gives each continent an opportunity to head the UN should apply "both among regions and within regions."
This was to make a case for the South Asian sub-region. Burma, the only Asian country to hold the post is in Southeast Asia, the same region that has now decided to back the Thai foreign minister.
Kadirgamar's plug for South Asia suggests that Sri Lanka will push this line in its campaign besides , of course, replying heavily on Dhanapala's internationally- recognized credentials.
Although there are only two candidates right now, it is possible that more candidates could emerge later. In the end the decision on who replaces Kofi Annan will really be made by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the US, UK, Russia, France and China-- each of whom has a veto power.
If there is a deadlock in the Security Council it is always possible that a compromise candidate will emerge as did Kofi Annan when the US refused to endorse Egypt's Boutros Boutros Ghali for a second term.
Kofi Annan's term ends at the end of December 2006. But diplomatic observers have been suggesting that the Bush administration has been angered by Annan's declaration of the Iraq war as "illegal" and other observations and decisions by him. Irritated by all this Washington is trying to maneuver Annan out before his term ends, the news report said quoting unnamed observers.
The final report of the panel inquiring into the UN's food for oil deal with Saddam Hussain's Iraq might be the excuse that Washington has been waiting for to embarrass the secretary-general and force a premature end to Annan's stewardship, the report added.
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