UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a leading Portuguese legal expert, Miguel de Serpa Soares, as the new U.N. legal chief.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky announced the appointment Wednesday saying Serpa Soares "brings with him wide-ranging experience in the legal sector, including a deep understanding of international political sensitivities and innovative negotiation approaches."

He will replace Patricia O'Brien of Ireland as undersecretary-general for legal affairs.

Born in Angola, Serpa Soares is currently director general of the Department of Legal Affairs in Portugal's Foreign Ministry and a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.

He served as legal adviser to Portugal's representative to the European Union from 1999-2008, and before that in legal posts at the Council of Europe and on the U.N. General Assembly's legal committee.