UN chooses ex-prime minister of Portugal as new leader


(JTA) — The choice for next secretary-general of the United Nations said he wants to be an “honest broker” and a “bridge builder.”

Antonio Guterres, a former prime minister of Portgual, was approved unanimously by the Security Council on Thursday after several straw polls in recent days. The General Assembly, made up of 193 nations, is expected to approve the choice in its vote next week.

Until December, Guterres served 10 years as the UN high commissioner for refugees. He said the experience prepared him for his new post.

Guterres, 67, told The Associated Press before the closed door Security Council vote that he wants to be “an honest broker, a bridge builder and someone who tries to create conditions for consensus.”

He said a new “diplomacy for peace” using discreet diplomatic contacts and shuttling among key players in conflicts is needed.

“I think we are living in a world where we see a multiplication of new conflicts, and you see an enormous difficulty in solving the conflicts,” Guterres told AP. “There is a clear lack of capacity in the international community to prevent and to solve conflicts.”

Israel’s UN envoy welcomed the choice of Guterres, who would succeed Ban Ki-moon of South Korea.

“The State of Israel hopes, and expects, that the UN under his leadership will act in the spirit of its founding principles as a fair body able to differentiate between good and evil and will end its obsession with Israel,” Danny Danon said in a statement. “I hope that this change in leadership will bring an end to the organization’s hostility towards the Jewish state.”

Guterres, a socialist who served as prime minister from 1995 to 2002, would begin his five-year term on Jan. 1. He would be the first former head of government to lead the United Nations, the French news agency AFP reported.


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