New York, June 11: The next president of the UN General Assembly will be a Libyan politician, marking another step for the once-isolated country as it seeks an increasingly larger role in world affairs.
Ali Abdessalam Treki, who has been in charge of his nation`s relationship with the Africa Union, won election Wednesday by acclamation rather than a vote in the General Assembly, the world`s forum for debate among 192 member nations.
The one-year post rotates among nations on a regional basis. Treki, Libya`s minister for AU affairs, will assume the new job when the assembly convenes in mid-September for its annual high-level ministerial debate.
He replaces Miguel d`Escoto Brockmann, a Roman Catholic priest and former Nicaraguan foreign minister during the Sandinista rule of the 1980s, whose tenure has been marked by outspokenness and controversy stemming from his openly leftist views.
It is more fitting to ``welcome back`` Treki than say ``welcome`` to him since he served previously as Libya`s UN ambassador, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Ban noted Treki`s involvement at the AU in addressing one of the UN`s most pressing problems — the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan that has claimed 300,000 lives and has raged for more than six years. The Libyan`s ``leadership will be crucial if the assembly is to respond with unified action`` to new problems and threats, Ban said.
Oil-rich Libya, formerly isolated by its bellicose behavior, has been steadily reaching out to the rest of the world and trying to repairs its image as a pariah state.
The country`s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, whose past includes welcoming Abu Nidal, the Palestinian militant leader best known for the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, is trying to shed his terrorist image as he hangs onto the cloak of a revolutionary.
In February, Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya since he seized power in a coup in 1969, was elected to the one-year post as AU chairman.
That same month, his son, Seif al-Islam visited Washington, where he said Libya wants to open a new chapter in relations with the United States and told The Associated Press that Libya wants to move from the one-man rule of his father to a constitutional democracy.
In the 1990s, the US lifted sanctions against Libya when Gadhafi handed over two suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground. Gadafi also agreed to pay billions of dollars in compensation and renounce his weapons of mass destruction program.
The country has continued to re-emerge on the world scene with its current non-permanent seat on the 15-nation Security Council, where the real power at the UN is concentrated.
But, Libya`s ambassadors have blocked US-proposed remarks on Darfur. The country has also led Arab efforts seeking to open border crossings into Gaza without monitors and to keeping tunnels Hamas has used to smuggle arms.
Treki`s new role as General Assembly president requires him to make the goals of the international community his first priority.
France`s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert praised Treki`s selection, and said France was happy that an African minister will be presiding in the coming year over such major challenges the global financial crisis, economic woes and climate change.
D`Escoto, who once aligned himself with Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union, often has railed against the US and the UN`s domination by its five permanent Security Council members: the US, Russia, China, Britain and France.
At his sermon-like press conferences, he has said the US demonizes Iran`s president and criticized the International Criminal Court for issuing an arrest warrant for Sudan`s leader on war crimes charges in Darfur. He also has compared the conditions imposed by Israel on Palestinians to apartheid.
D`Escoto said Wednesday that Treki will lead ``with the same passion and determination that have inspired my presidency.``