Qatar diplomat named next UN assembly president

Last Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 13:36

New York: The UN General Assembly on Wednesday elected as its next president veteran Qatari diplomat Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, who UN diplomats say is unlikely to cause trouble for Western powers.

Nasser, who has been Qatar`s ambassador to the United Nations since 1998, will replace Joseph Deiss of Switzerland. Previously Qatar`s envoy to Canada, Brazil, Cuba and other countries, he will take over the UN job in mid-September.

Nasser told the 192-nation General Assembly after his unanimous election that he would act as a bridge among developed, developing and least-developed nations.

He added he would focus on "building consensus on major global challenges facing the world today”. He said those included armed conflicts, climate change, tackling the financial crisis, poverty and responding to natural disasters.

Nasser was asked by reporters what the General Assembly could do to support the "Arab Spring" of pro-democracy movements that have swept the Middle East and North Africa.

"I hope as an Arab that it will be dealt with through the Arab League," he said.

That would appear to contrast sharply with Deiss, who spoke about the Arab Spring in a speech to the assembly after it re-elected UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday. Deiss praised Ban`s strong support for the pro-democracy drive.

"You (Ban) have said that the `Arab Spring` was a once-in-a-generation opportunity," Deiss said. "It is essential to show our solidarity with people who aspire to greater freedom, democracy and well-being."

No trouble for the West

The post of president of the General Assembly has little real power but a high profile in chairing the annual September gathering of world leaders in New York. The president also represents the assembly on foreign tours.

UN diplomats say Nasser is a competent diplomat who will likely follow in the footsteps of Deiss, who has not ruffled Western feathers the way his two predecessors did.

Deiss followed two men noted for their strong views on the Middle East -- one-time Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel D`Escoto, who held the post from 2008 to 2009, and Ali Treki of Libya, who was assembly president from 2009 to 2010.

D`Escoto made headlines by accusing the United States of "demonizing" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel of practicing apartheid-style racial separation against Palestinians.

Treki maintained a lower profile, but accused Israel last year of "inhuman and totally unacceptable aggression" by storming a Turkish aid ship trying to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whom Libyan rebels have been trying for months to overthrow, had hoped to appoint Treki as his UN envoy but the Libyan diplomat defected to the opposition after leaving the country.

The General Assembly job rotates among geographic areas. This year, it is the turn of the Asia Group, which includes countries in Asia and the Middle East.

Bureau Report



First Published: Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 13:36

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