Related topics

Stage Set for Diplomatic Battle as U.S. Vetoes Boutros-Ghali Re-Election

November 19, 1996

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Alone among Security Council members, the United States vetoed Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for a second term Tuesday, appealing to African states to offer other candidates to avoid a diplomatic deadlock.

But the 74-year-old Egyptian immediately indicated he would remain a candidate, as U.N. rules permit, and African ambassadors urged the United States to change its mind.

Security Council members have agreed to seek an African for the job, to ensure that the region has a representative for two terms, as is customary. If Boutros-Ghali’s candidacy becomes implausible, attention would focus first on other African nominees.

As expected, the United States cast the lone vote against Boutros-Ghali among the 15 council members, in the opening round of a selection process that could take weeks.

Washington announced last June that it would veto Boutros-Ghali, claiming he has not pursued U.N. reform vigorously enough. U.S. officials said the Republican-controlled Congress was unlikely to pay the $1 billion in U.S. debts to the United Nations unless there is a change in U.N. leadership.

``We have stated over and over again we will give special preference to an African candidate, but it’s important for them to come forward with an African candidate″ other than Boutros-Ghali, said U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright.

There was little indication the Africans were ready to back down, and the United States offered no alternative candidate.

China, which also holds veto power as one of five permanent council members, was expected to reject any candidate unacceptable to the Africans. Other permanent members _ Russia, France and Britain _ were also arrayed against the United States.

The council must agree on a candidate and forward the name to the 185-member General Assembly before Boutros-Ghali’s five-year term expires Dec. 31.

``We are very pleased with the results,″ Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Elaraby said. ``It proved that the whole world was behind Africa and the candidate Africa chose, which is the current secretary-general.″

Ambassador Alfredo Lopes Cabral of Guinea-Bissau noted that candidates in the past have overcome objections by permanent members in initial voting rounds.

The 14-1 vote was unusual in an organization where the United States wields enormous influence. Western diplomats cited several factors, including discontent over Washington’s refusal to pay its bills and the decision to announce opposition to Boutros-Ghali in the U.S. media before advising fellow U.N. members.

U.S. officials are hoping that after an initial show of support, Boutros-Ghali’s allies will seek other candidates or convince him to step aside for the good of the United Nations.

``At the end of the day, the U.N. needs the U.S. more than, with all due respect, it needs to retain its current leadership,″ State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said.

Davies said the United States would like to see attention shift to possible successors ``capable of bringing serious reform to the international structure, an able diplomat.″

During the U.N.’s 50-year history, the council has been deadlocked only once, when the Soviet Union vetoed the re-election of the first secretary-general, Trygve Lie of Norway.

The United States pushed the General Assembly into extending his term for three years. But he resigned two years later because of the lack of Soviet support for the organization.

Boutros-Ghali’s supporters maintain that he has pursued reform, albeit under U.S. pressure. They cite reductions in the U.N. bureaucracy, a zero-growth budget and the appointment of Americans to key U.N. posts.

Supporters claim the Americans resent his independence at a time when the United States is the world’s only superpower. They also accuse the United States of making him a scapegoat for policy failures by the major powers in Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Update hourly