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U.N. Security Council approves Portugal's Antonio Guterres as next secretary-general

U.N. Security Council approves Portugal's Antonio Guterres as next secretary-general
Antonio Guterres, speaking to the news media in Lisbon on Thursday, spent 10 years as the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. (Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP/Getty Images)

Portugal's former prime minister, Antonio Guterres, who was formally approved on Thursday to be the next U.N. secretary-general, said he faces "huge challenges" and hopes to see unity and consensus during his term.

Security Council President Vitaly Churkin, Russia's U.N. ambassador, said Guterres was approved by acclamation for a five-year term during a closed-door meeting on Thursday.

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The Security Council's recommendation now goes to the U.N.'s 193-member General Assembly, which is expected to vote on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's successor next week. Ban's second term ends Dec. 31.

Speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Lisbon, Guterres said that he hoped the consensus vote would turn out to be symbolic, bringing "swift decisions which the troubled world we live in demands."

Guterres topped all six informal polls in the council after receiving high marks from almost every diplomat for his performance in the first-ever question-and-answer sessions for candidates in the General Assembly. He was the only candidate of the 10 in the race to receive no "discourage" votes in Wednesday's poll, which was the first to use colored ballots to distinguish the votes of the five veto-wielding permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

The result disappointed campaigners for a woman or an East European to be the world's top diplomat for the first time.

"Antonio Guterres has won this race because he was the best candidate for the race," Britain's U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said before entering Thursday's meeting. "It was a crowded field; it was a strong field and I'm delighted that seven of the 13 candidates were women, but I and others have always been clear that while now is the right time for a woman that we were going to pick the strongest person."

Guterres, a veteran politician and diplomat, said in an interview during his campaign that if he got the job his aim would be to work with all countries to help solve the myriad problems on the global agenda.

Guterres will almost certainly select a woman as deputy secretary-general, and he said in the interview that one of the things that is "crucial" at the male-dominated United Nations is "to have gender parity."

He said that his 10 years as the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, which ended in December, were "excellent preparation" for a secretary-general who needs to be an honest broker and be seen by countries as independent in order to promote consensus and overcome crises.

"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 said. "There is a clear lack of capacity in the international community to prevent and to solve conflicts."

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