Cuba, others cause trouble in U.N. re-election: envoys

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 16, 2011 9:33 PM

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council Thursday delayed by a day its vote to recommend Ban Ki-moon for a second term as U.N. chief after Cuba and other Latin American countries declined to endorse him, envoys said.

"Cuba's causing difficulties with GRULAC (Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries), but it's just procedural," a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"Ban's going to win, though it's unclear whether GRULAC will endorse him as a bloc," the diplomat added.

Cuba's U.N. mission issued a statement denying Havana was the reason the process had been held up, adding, "Nor has it been opposed to this re-election."

A spokesman for Cuba's mission declined to comment when asked whether the statement meant his mission would now vote in favor of a GRULAC endorsement of the U.N. chief.

A senior U.N. official confirmed that Cuba was not alone and that other Latin American countries including Mexico, Guatemala and Paraguay had raised concerns. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said Mexico suggested there should be more than one candidate for the top U.N. job.

Diplomats said the Security Council vote on whether to recommend the former South Korean foreign minister for a second five-year term as U.N. secretary-general starting in January 2012 had been postponed until Friday at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT)

It was not immediately clear what specific reason Cuba might have for not supporting a GRULAC endorsement of Ban, but Western diplomats say Havana sees the secretary-general as under U.S. influence.

BRAZIL SUPPORTS BAN'S RE-ELECTION

Diplomats said there was an inconclusive GRULAC meeting on Thursday afternoon and another one scheduled before Friday's council meeting to see if the bloc could agree to endorse Ban.

If GRULAC was unable to back Ban, who is so far the only candidate for the post, it would have no impact on the voting process. But it might be embarrassing for the U.N. chief, who diplomats say would like to have the official support of all 192 member states and all regional groups.

Ban, who was visiting Brazil Thursday, did not comment directly on the delay, telling reporters in Brasilia, "I expect that member states will take positive consideration for my humble desire to serve this great organization."

Brazilian diplomats said late Thursday the country would support Ban's re-election bid.

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.

All five permanent council members have said they support Ban's re-election.

The General Assembly is expected to formally approve Ban's second term Tuesday.

Ban has been touring Latin America this week to meet with regional leaders. He has not visited Cuba.

(Additional reporting by Raymond Colitt in Brasilia, Editing by Peter Cooney)