Latvian Makes Case for UN's Top Post

UNITED NATIONS -- Latvia's president, in an uphill bid for the post of UN secretary-general, said her candidacy should serve as a symbol of women's struggle against the "all boys" club that chooses the world's top diplomat.

"If we are to live in an increasingly fair, just and equal world, we would like to see women assume all possible positions of responsibilities in the world, including that as secretary-general," Vaira Vike-Freiberga said Monday.

Speaking in New York at her first news conference since she announced her candidacy Friday, Vike-Freiberga said she was not deterred by anticipated opposition from Russia and China. China wants an Asian candidate, and Russia has frosty relations with the Baltic states.

Both nations have veto power in the 15-seat UN Security Council that will select a new secretary-general to succeed Kofi Annan, whose term expires Dec. 31. All other candidates are men. The 192-member General Assembly then has to approve the choice.

"If I was a betting person, I would not bet my life savings on it, but you've got to realize that everything is possible," Vike-Freiberga said. "Unlikely things do happen."

Vike-Freiberga, who speaks fluent English, as well as four other languages, noted that eastern and central Europeans have never been eligible for the post of secretary-general.

A former psychology professor who has been in office for seven years, she said women often shied away from senior posts after watching men make deals years in advance.

"I think that too many women, in too many ways, have allowed themselves to be discouraged by the knowledge that there are all-boys clubs operating, that the boys get together, that they make deals," Vike-Freiberga said.

Asked at another news conference whether he supported her candidacy, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was in favor of the position going to central Europe.

Vike-Freiberga was in New York for the annual General Assembly session of presidents, prime and foreign ministers, which began Tuesday, as were all the other candidates.

Most nations say it is Asia's turn for the job. But the United States and Britain have said nationality should not stand in the way of choosing the best candidate.

A third informal straw poll will be held later in the month among the declared candidates. So far South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon has received the most support from Security Council members.