SKorean elected new UN chief

The 62-year-old career diplomat will take over from Ghanaian UN chief Kofi Annan in January.

He becomes the world body’s eighth secretary general and the first Asian UN chief since U Thant of Burma led the organisation from 1961 to 1971.

“I am deeply honoured to become the second Asian to lead the Organisation,” Mr Ban told the General Assembly after his nomination.

“The true measure of success for the UN is not how much we promise, but how much we deliver for those who need us most,” he said, adding “The UN is needed now more than ever before.”

Mr Ban, a mild-mannered figure, has played key roles both as South Korea’s foreign minister and earlier as Seoul’s ambassador to the United Nations in trying to resolve the long-standing North Korean nuclear crisis.

Priorities

He outlined fighting poverty, HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation and protecting human rights as among the priorities of his tenure along with containing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism.

The appointment comes as the United Nations body is under increasing pressure to reform, notably from its biggest financial backer and host the United States, but Mr Ban hinted that reforms would only come at an appropriate time.

“We reform not to please others, but because we value what this organisation stands for. We reform because we believe in its future,” he said.

His election coincides with a major international crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program. He sombrely welcomed his nomination by the Security Council saying “This should be a moment of joy. But instead, I stand here with a very heavy heart.”

Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan congratulated his successor, hailing him as “a man with a truly global mind” with “exceptional qualifications.

And he repeated the greeting made more than 50 years ago by the first UN Secretary General, Norway’s Trygve Lie, to his Swedish successor, Dag Hammarskjold “You are about to take over the most impossible job on Earth.”

“While that may be true, I would add: this is also the best possible job on Earth,” Mr Annan said.