By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Ban Ki-moon formally asked members of the United Nations on Monday to support his candidacy for a second five-year term as U.N. secretary-general -- a goal he looks almost certain to achieve.
Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, already had assurances of support from the United States and other key members of the U.N. Security Council, diplomats said in March.
Ban's first term ends on December 31. He is unopposed for re-election so far.
"As I approach the end of my term of office as the secretary-general of the United Nations, I am humbly submitting my name for the consideration of the members of the Security Council for a second term," said Ban's letter to Gabon's U.N. Ambassador Nelson Messone, this month's council president.
He told reporters he sent a similar request for support to the 192-nation General Assembly.
In the letter to Messone, Ban said he and the 15-nation council had "found common ground on critical global issues of peace and security -- from Somalia to Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East and far beyond."
"I am proud of all we have done together, even as I am mindful of the formidable challenges ahead," he wrote.
Speaking to reporters at U.N. headquarters, Ban cited his push to make climate change a top concern for governments as one of his major accomplishments since he took the helm of the world body in January 2007.
On his watch, he said, the United Nations "responded quickly and effectively to a series of devastating humanitarian emergencies" in Myanmar, Haiti, Pakistan and elsewhere. Ban said his team also worked to keep attention on the world's poorest people during the global economic crisis.
Officially, U.N. secretaries-general are elected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. In reality, it is the five permanent veto-wielding council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- that decide who gets the job.
In recent months, Ban has met leaders of all five of those countries and many more to confirm their support.
Ban's formal re-election process should be over by the end of June, possibly as early as this week, U.N. diplomats said.
France backed a second term for Ban, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement.
"The U.N., and the entire international community, can rely on him, on his very solid experience and on his authority. Ban Ki-moon has France's full support," he said.
Ban met earlier on Monday with the so-called Asia Group, a cluster of U.N. member states that also includes some nations from the Middle East, to announce and discuss his candidacy for a second term, diplomats said.
Chinese U.N. envoy Li Baodong told reporters the Asia Group endorsed Ban's candidacy, adding he has demonstrated "strong leadership" and shown he is a "person of action."
Ban's understated approach and less-than-perfect English set him apart from his more outspoken predecessor, Kofi Annan, who ran afoul of the administration of then-U.S. President George W. Bush for declaring the 2003 invasion of Iraq "illegal."
Over the past 4-1/2 years, Ban has been accused by human rights groups of putting too much faith in quiet diplomacy. They have also criticized him for not taking powerful countries like China to task for what they say are rampant rights abuses.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by John O'Callaghan)