The UN Security Council has officially backed former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to be the next UN chief. Although the choice of Guterres confounded some, UN diplomats flocked to praise him in New York.
Antonio Guterres, Portugese prime minister from 1995 to 2002, is poised to be the next United Nations secretary-general after the Security Council unanimously and formally nominated him for the post on Thursday.
The announcement follows Wednesday's informal Security Council vote, where Guterres received no "discourage" votes from the Council's five veto-wielding members - Russia, France, the UK, the US and China.
"To describe what I feel at the present moment two words are sufficient: gratitude and humility," Guterres said after the vote.
"I was moved when I saw the Security Council able to decide in unity and consensus and to decide in a very quick way," the 67-year-old said. "And I hope this represents a symbolic moment, a moment in which the Security Council enhances its capacity to act in unity and consensus creating the conditions to decide timely in relation to the dramatic problems of out time."
Current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed Guterres as a "superb choice," saying that "his wide knowledge of world affairs and lively intellect will serve him well in leading the UN in a critical period."
Other top UN diplomats praised Guterres, saying his 10-year tenure as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees qualified him for the post.
"He has great United Nations credentials ... and being High Commissioner for Refugees means traveling the world and seeing some of the most gruesome conflicts we have to deal with and then of course he is a high-level politician," said Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko said Guterres must "return leadership to the United Nations" in order to best address conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Africa and the Middle East.
Some UN diplomats were confounded by the success of Guterres' candidacy, and did not expect an outspoken candidate with strong political experience to win the support of the Council's permanent, veto-wielding members.
"Antonio Guterres won this race because he was the best candidate in this race," said Matthew Rycroft, British ambassador to the UN, before the council's meeting on Thursday.
"The role of the UN has never been as important as it is today and for that Mr. Guterres is the right leader," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.
The recommendation from the Security Council will now go to the UN's 193-member General Assembly, which is expected to vote next week on whether or not to appoint him for a five-year term, starting on January 1, 2017.
Ban will step down from the post at the end of 2016 after serving for 10 years as the UN's top diplomat.
rs/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)