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UN head Ban Ki-moon bids farewell after 10 years

The outgoing UN secretary-general said it had been a "privilege" to lead the organization in its quest to tamp down conflict and end suffering. Ban has hinted that he may now run for president in his native South Korea.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in an emotional and jovial mood on the last day of his term Friday, as he bid farewell to colleagues and staff.

Leaving the UN's headquarters in New York City for the final time, the native South Korean joked that he felt "like Cinderella - tomorrow at midnight, everything changes."

Flanked by the presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council, Ban thanked UN staff members for their hard work and commitment. In his parting message, he said they should remain focused on advancing the organization's development, and continue addressing issues ranging from climate change to gender empowerment.

"Keep the focus on people - on people's rights and people's dignity," Ban said. "To keep dreaming, to keep believing and to keep working hard until we achieve progress."

Ban spent two five-year terms in the UN's top post. His successor, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, will take over on Sunday. Guterres will adopt many of the key milestones fostered by Ban, including a global agreement on combating climate change and new UN goals to battle poverty and inequality.

However, he will also inherit a host of monumental tasks and complex crises including Syria, South Sudan and a divided Security Council.

Antonio Guterres (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Lane)

Many UN diplomats think Guterres (left) may be able to overcome the body's many crippling divisions

Life after the UN

Ban's first act after leaving international diplomacy will be to ring in the new year in Times Square, launching the traditional New Year's Eve ball drop. "Tomorrow night, on the eve of the new year, I will be in Times Square for the ball drop - millions of people will be watching as I lose my job!" Ban joked with a broad smile.

However, his time away from diplomacy may be short-lived, with some speculating that he will run for the presidency of his native South Korea. The country currently finds itself engulfed in a political crisis. South Korea's parliament voted to impeach sitting president Park Geun-hye after prosecutors accused her and a former confidant of illegally extracting money from firms.

dm/cmk (AP, AFP)

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