PUTRAJAYA: Sri Lanka’s candidate for the UN Secretary General post, Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala, is seeking the support of developing nations at this week’s meeting of the 114-nation Non-Aligned Movement. (NAM).

"Clearly the Non-Aligned Movement is a very influential grouping, and therefore their decision would be of great importance," he told AFP in an interview ahead of the ministerial talks which begin today.

"I come from a small country which has always had moderate policies in international affairs and has been successful in achieving consensus building," said the career diplomat who has held senior UN posts and now serves as an adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Current UN chief Kofi Annan who steps down at the end of this year has said he should be replaced by an Asian in line with the convention for regional rotation of the top job.

Asia has not had a UN chief since Myanmar’s U Thant finished his second term in 1971.

Dhanapala is one of three candidates from the region including South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon and Thai Deputy Premier Surakiart Sathirathai.

The United States has said that the best candidate should get the job regardless of where they come from.

Dhanapala said he was confident in his pitch as a candidate with both a wealth of experience within the UN and a commitment to reform.

"I’ve been encouraged by responses of the countries I’ve spoken to," he said.

Dhanapala said that all organisations were at some stage faced with the challenge of reform and renovation to remain relevant in the modern world, and the United Nations was no exception.

"I have seen the UN from the outside, and from within. That combination of being an outsider and an insider, equips me with the capability of implementing the reform more successfully," he said.

"One may step on landmines and find that reforms may backfire unless they understand the UN is a complex inter-governmental body with diverse cultures and diverse ethnic groups. You have to proceed with firmness but also tact."

However, he was tight-lipped when asked how much support he could count on from NAM, whose membership represents two-thirds of the United Nations.

"We’re not keeping a scorecard of who’s for us and who is against us," he said.

"International diplomacy doesn’t operate in that crude manner, we pay the highest respect to governments whom we canvass, we place our credentials and allow them the courtesy of taking decisions at their own time, without pressing to let us know what their views are."

Dhanapala has served as his country’s ambassador to the US and as UN Under-Secretary-General in re-establishing the Department of Disarmament.

Malaysia Sunday, AFP

Source: The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.