With Washington openly seeking a successor to Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the U.N. chief is appealing to regional sensitivities to rally Third World support for his reappointment.
The strategy threatens to exacerbate tensions between the small but powerful Western bloc and the numerous countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America that feel marginalized within the United Nations.The 15-member Security Council must choose a new secretary-general and forward his name to the 185-member General Assembly for ratification before Boutros-Ghali's term expires Dec. 31.
While no date has been set for a vote that usually is in late October or early November, Arab leaders meeting in Cairo agreed Sunday to support Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian.
Boutros-Ghali hopes to gain a similar endorsement from Africa when leaders of the continent meet July 8-10 in Yaounde, Cameroon, for the Organization of African Unity summit.
It is unthinkable that the Arabs and Africans could overcome opposition from the United States, unquestionably the most influential U.N. member.
But the bitterness generated by a bruising succession fight would undermine efforts to reinvigorate the United Nations at a time when the organization faces its most serious financial and political crisis.
That could complicate U.S. efforts to push its own goals within an organization where decisions are often reached after considerable horse-trading and consensus-building.
In a bid for African support, Boutros-Ghali hinted during an interview published Saturday in Germany that racism may have played a role in Washington's decision to oppose his reappointment, by veto if necessary.
"Every U.N. secretary-general has received two terms," Boutros-Ghali told the General-Anzeiger newspaper of Bonn. "Should I - the first African - not get a second?"