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Power of the veto re-emerges in battle for top U.N. post

December 11, 1996

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ After the United States rejected a second term for the U.N. secretary-general, another powerful Security Council member may block the leading contender from taking Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s place.

The 15-member council was meeting again today to continue the search for a replacement for Boutros-Ghali, whose quest for a second term was vetoed by the United States on Nov. 19.

On Tuesday, the council took unofficial votes on four candidates nominated after Boutros-Ghali agreed to step aside to let other African candidates vie for the post.

During the second round of balloting, U.N. Undersecretary-General Kofi Annan of Ghana, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, won 10 votes, one more than required for election.

But of the four negative votes, one came from a permanent security council member. The five permanent members _ the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia _ have veto power over the selection.

The vote was secret, and the names of the countries did not appear on the ballots. But the permanent members used red ballots to identify them.

Council diplomats said they agreed not to disclose how they voted. But the permanent member that voted against Annan was widely believed to be France.

French President Jacques Chirac has said his government wants a French-speaking secretary-general and strongly supports Boutros-Ghali despite U.S. opposition.

Although Annan speaks French, he was educated in the United States and comes from an English-speaking African country.

The three other candidates _ Amara Essy, the Ivory Coast foreign minister; former Niger Prime Minister Hamid Algabid; and former special U.N. envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah of Mauritania _ come from countries where French is widely spoken.

Under U.N. rules, a candidate must win nine of the 15 council votes without receiving a veto from a permanent member. Boutros-Ghali won the 14 other votes when he was vetoed by the United States.

Other than Annan, none of the candidates won the necessary nine votes. Essy won seven votes with four against; Algabid won five votes with five against; and Ould Abdallah finished with three votes for and five against. All three candidates had two permanent members voting against them.

Members were free to abstain on individual candidates. Diplomats speculated that the United States and Britain cast the negative votes against the three candidates.

A U.S. official said the council decided to hold secret, unofficial votes in part so that members could change their position without embarrassment. Therefore, he pointed out it was premature to say that Annan or any other candidate was certain to be vetoed in an official vote.

After the U.S. veto of Boutros-Ghali, the council agreed to give preference to Africans so that Africa can have a second term in the top U.N. post, following tradition.

In principle, Boutros-Ghali could revive his candidacy if the council deadlocks.

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