Voting to Start on Rivals for UN Post

UNITED NATIONS -- With Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali having stepped aside in the race for the top UN post, the Security Council is expected to begin voting this week on African candidates vying for his job.

Four candidates were officially nominated Friday and at least one more contender is expected to enter the race before the council convenes Monday afternoon.

Its president, Paulo Fulci of Italy, said the 15-seat body hoped to decide Monday when to begin a series of informal votes before official balloting starts. He said the council would discuss the issue again Wednesday.

Any winning candidate has to get at least nine votes and no veto from one of the five permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

But in the byzantine UN procedures, members can vote for more than one candidate and a veto does not necessarily preclude another vote -- and another veto -- on the same candidate. Any candidate approved by the council must be endorsed by the 185-member General Assembly.

On Nov. 19, Washington cast the sole negative vote against Boutros-Ghali for a second five-year term, saying he was slow to initiate reforms for the world body and that he was unpopular in the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress.

The secretary general last Wednesday opened the door for other African candidates by suspending his candidacy "temporarily." He is not expected to enter the race unless there is a deadlock.

But the council, including the United States, said preference would be given to an African in line with a tradition that each continent serves two terms. Boutros-Ghali, a 74-year old Egyptian, ends his five-year term Dec. 31.

The four nominated Friday were: Kofi Annan of Ghana, the UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping; Hamid Algabid of Niger, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Conference; Amara Essy, foreign minister of the Ivory Coast; and Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah of Mauritania, the former UN special envoy for Burundi who is executive secretary of the Washington-based Global Coalition for Africa.

Salim A. Salim of Tanzania, the secretary general of the Organization of African Unity, is expected to enter the race Monday, South African President Nelson Mandela said.

?The United Nations on Monday authorized the start of a long-delayed "oil-for-food" deal with Iraq, enabling Baghdad to make a limited return to the world oil market for the first time since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Under the deal, concluded in May but held up by disputes over implementation, Iraq will be able to sell $2 billion worth of oil over six months to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods to help offset the effects of sanctions in force for the past six years.

Both the oil sales and the purchase of humanitarian supplies are subject to close UN monitoring.

If all goes well, the Security Council may renew the deal when the initial six months expire.

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali gave the final go-ahead in a report to the Security Council. Under an April 1995 council resolution on which the scheme is based, the initial six-month period begins at one minute after midnight in New York.

Mandela, speaking in Cape Town on Sunday also brought into stark relief what some delegates are calling the language war.

He said French President Jacques Chirac told him by telephone that he would veto Salim because he was not fluent in French as well as English and Chirac was not prepared to support any candidate without these qualifications.

Mandela also said he tried in vain to convince U.S. President Bill Clinton to drop his opposition to Boutros-Ghali, who was endorsed by the OAU at its July summit in Yaounde, Cameroon.